Steph Curry hits game-winner to preserve Warriors perfect preseason
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Late in the third quarter, the Warriors were down by as many as 18 points. In the preseason, such a deficit might prompt coaches to clear the bench and declare a loss. The Warriors, however, have bigger goals than just making it through the preseason; a large deficit provided an opportunity for this new-look team to mount its first comeback together.
The Warriors’ 116-115 victory over the Sacramento Kings ended on a high note. Steph Curry shook off De’Aaron Fox to create just enough space for a game-winning 3-pointer with 11 seconds remaining on an inbound pass from Chris Paul.
“We all want to win,” Curry told NBC Sports Bay Area. “That’s the bottom line.”
The swish sent the Chase Center crowd into a frenzy usually reserved for important basketball, but the comeback victory meant something to the team as well. Golden State is now 4-0 in the preseason, including a blowout win and a narrow road win over the Lakers, as well as overtime and comeback victories over the Kings.
“It’s been great for us,” said head coach Steve Kerr. “Last game went into overtime, and it was a close game in Los Angeles.” Three straight games in which some guys had to feel crunch time and execute during those moments in order to come through, those are really great experiences.”
Curry has made it a point to shake the funk that plagued this team last season since training camp began. During the summer, he organized mini-camps and team dinners from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.
“We all have such confidence in our ability to put it all together,” Curry told NBC Sports Bay Area. “We didn’t want training camp to be the first time everyone saw each other – it’s like when everyone has a ‘Hello, my name is’ name tag on.” We didn’t want it to be like a training camp.”
Kerr and the coaching staff are delving deeper into the teaching aspect of practice in order to get veterans and young players on the same page. While the offense can appear clumsy at times, and many of the turnover and fouling issues that plagued Golden State last season have persisted, it’s possible that the team’s stronger will to win can help it overcome the mistakes.
That will compensate for Wednesday’s numerous blunders (21 fouls, 22 turnovers). Curry hit four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, including the game-winning shot, for a 30-point night on 8-for-12 shooting from distance.
When the season begins and Draymond Green returns from injury, much has been made of whether Paul will start or sit. Before Wednesday’s game, Kerr stated that the Warriors hoped Paul would be more himself and that he was “trying to fit in” during his first two preseason games. Despite playing an unfamiliar role, he appeared to be more at ease on Wednesday.
Paul came off the bench for the first time, but his final minutes with the starting lineup, which also included Andrew Wiggins, Klay Thompson, and Dario Saric, fueled the ferocious fourth-quarter comeback.
Curry began his big fourth quarter with Paul looking for him off-ball, bringing the Warriors within one point with 18 seconds remaining in the game. Saric was fouled but failed to convert both of his free throws. Kevin Huerter made his first free throw to give the Kings a two-point lead, but Curry recovered the loose rebound from his second just inbounds – a Kings challenge was unsuccessful – to give the Warriors the ball back and set up his big three.
Paul had nine assists and thirteen points.
Paul’s chemistry with former Suns teammate Saric was palpable as the two danced into a few pick-and-pop plays. Paul assisted on two first-half baskets by Saric, who finished the half with 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field and a 3-pointer from beyond the arc. Saric finished with 14 points on 6-for-10 shooting from the field.
Curry has described Paul as a fellow basketball junkie, noting that the pair bonded while watching other teams’ preseason games. In Phoenix, Saric learned to trust his intuition.
“He understands basketball maybe the best in the league,” Saric was quoted as saying. “He’s watching every game, every play, and every defense…I enjoy playing with him because he is not selfish and will make the right play at the right time.”
Trayce Jackson-Davis started in place of an ailing Kevon Looney, who missed Wednesday’s game, and recorded his first double-double, scoring 13 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Andrew Wiggins came alive in the second quarter, getting to the rim and stringing together a few jump shots to score nine of his ten points in the first half. He finished with 16 points on 7-for-10 shooting from the field.
Curry, Klay Thompson, Wiggins, and Paul all played at least 30 minutes.
“We had targeted this game as one where we can get our main guys up in the 30-minute range,” Kerr told the media. “We wanted to ramp it up and get our conditioning level up with this game.” Guys did a great job down the stretch; it was fun having Chris Paul down the stretch organizing us, and it was fun watching Steph do what he does.”