Allow me to reintroduce myself: Steph Curry drops a career high 62 points, silencing critics

Steph Curry, is a 3x NBA Champion, greatest shooter in league history, and single handedly changed the sport of basketball.

Or as the Curry dissenters say, No. 30 is not a legend but an overrated shooter who’s been exposed by the Warriors roster coming back to earth these past two seasons.

The Warriors’ struggles during their first five games this season and his own struggles from 3-point distance were being cited as proof he was overrated. Getting blown out by Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers on Friday was proof his MVPs and three championships were hype.

The narrative that this season, how Curry handled life once again without Klay Thompson, his ability to drag the newly formed, struggling Warriors into the playoffs, would determine his true greatness, is absurd. That was the new goal post for Curry set by his critics who refuse his greatness.

Curry heard your slander, and he had enough of it. Curry dropped a career high 62 points in the Warriors 137-122 victory against the Blazers.

The diversity of how Curry put together his best-scoring night in 12 NBA seasons was almost a direct rebuke to those who would have him relegated to the Bob Cousy wing of the Hall. “He’s good, for sure, but he’s benefitted from being on great teams.”

Better believe No. 30 heard it. But he isn’t in the business of taking. He will leave that to the pundits. Curry has and will continue to let his game do the talking.

Curry came out last night with a chip on his shoulder, aggression that we have not seen from him since pre KD Warriors. Perhaps it was just to get the Warriors’ first win this season against a playoff-level opponent and get back to .500. Or maybe he had something for all the talk. Regardless of the reason, there was no doubt Curry was locked in on a mission. And when he is locked in the league can do nothing but sit back and watch.

Teammate Draymond Green sensed this intensity and focus from Curry early on.

“Steph has the tendency at times to fuck around with the basketball,” Green said. “There was no fucking around. He came out and everything was shot or attack.”

Green said he watched his teammate’s eyes and saw Curry wasn’t looking for anyone. And he was fine with that predator approach by Curry. And why wouldn’t you be? The greatest shooter of all time looking for his shot is a win win in theory. And last night it was a massive win.

He didn’t just get hot from 3. He attacked the Blazers defense relentlessly, coming off high screens and charging downhill toward the rim, weaving around defenders and getting to spots on the floor.

Curry scored 38 of his points inside the arc — he was 10-of-15 from 2-point range and made 18-of-19 free throw attempts, which were career highs in both attempts and makes from the line — and used penetration and midrange shots to manufacture a rhythm.

Green has seen almost all of Curry’s huge games, including his previous career high of 54 set at Madison Square Garden in February 2013. Green said Sunday ranked right up there with Curry’s top performances because of all the talk.

“Steph is a very resilient guy,” Green said. “He’s quietly one of the most competitive guys I’ve ever been around. Because he doesn’t say anything, people take it that he’s not the competitor that he is. But as you can see — he saw something. He’s very resilient. Been through a bunch of things throughout the course of his career. Battle-tested.”

There are no valid diminishments of his accomplishments. Sure, debate away about where he ranks. That’s what rankings are for, the enjoyment of fans. But any idea Curry isn’t an all-time great, doesn’t belong in the pantheon of the most elite, is an unworthy discourse.

“There was nothing needed to be said before tonight,” Curry said, “and there is nothing needed to be said afterward.”

If Sunday was an indication, Curry is still going to make his point, anyway. It is not a coincidence this career night happened against Lillard.

The Curry versus Lillard debate has been raging since last season when Lillard was hitting another level and Curry was on the shelf. Great Lillard performances were reasons for social media to revisit top point guard honors. Curry and the Warriors weren’t in the NBA bubble last summer and fall, but Lillard’s dominance kept him relevant in it. These two Hall of Fame-bound point guards will be forever linked for their unprecedented shooting range.

The head-to-head is lopsided in the playoffs. The style of play is different. The supporting casts have been different. And Curry’s peak, the efficiency he reached, is simply unmatched.

But this is Lillard’s window to reign. He has the better team. He is at the peak of his powers while Curry is staring downhill.

Watching Lillard play no doubt has made Warriors fans long for the old showdowns between the star from Oakland and the one who starred in Oakland. It used to be Lillard throwing haymakers trying to take down the big, bad Warriors, and Curry seemed to always respond in kind. Remember when Lillard dropped 40 points and 10 assists in Game 3 of the 2016 Western Conference semifinals, making the Warriors nervous enough to bring Curry back from injury for Game 4? Lillard had 36 and 10 in Game 4. He took 30 shots and was 5-of-18 from 3. But Curry was too much off the bench: 40 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, with a record 17 in overtime to take back control of the series.

This recent two game series between the two teams made it clear the roles have been reversed.

Portland has the team stuffed with offensive talent. Lillard was still captivating, but the Warriors weren’t throwing haymakers. They were trapped, as they had been, in an offense that felt like an episode of “Survivor” when nobody could start a fire. They couldn’t shoot but didn’t seem to know it. They needed to pass more but didn’t seem good at it. They were running a scheme that, through motion and ball movement, is designed to spread the wealth. But the Warriors’ $600 stimulus check of an offense wasn’t getting it done.

Then Sunday, Curry made it clear he and Lillard still have battles to wage.

Curry started throwing the haymakers. He reminded everyone why the Warriors always have a puncher’s chance. This was supposed to be a revisiting of the 2015-16 season, when everything hung on Curry’s greatness, when he shot and shook and shimmied the Warriors to new heights. Even if it was unreasonable to match that season, the expectation was a version of it, or at least an aggressive attempt at it.

That Curry finally showed up on Sunday.

Steve Kerr figured it was a matter of time before this guy would show up.

“I had a feeling it was coming pretty quickly because he’s looked great from the start of camp physically,” Kerr said Sunday night, “but he’s barely played basketball in the last year and a half. It was just a matter of rhythm and getting his legs underneath him and finding his offensive groove. You could see it coming.”

The patience of Kerr and Curry feels antithetical to the circumstance. Most of the fan base had been begging to throw out the Warriors’ championship ways and become the Blazers and Rockets and Lakers, teams where the system orbits around their best players. Patience has always paid off for this coach and this player. The long game typically works out for Kerr, whose scheme of inclusion is an investment that tends to pay dividends at optimal times. And if Curry is fresh at the right time, and Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre Jr. are clicking later in the season, Kerr will again look like a genius of foresight. After all, “Strength in Numbers was how they beat Lillard and Portland in three playoff series over the years. Depth, diversity of attack, fresh stars at the end of games.

But Sunday was a night for Curry to showcase his powers.

One big performance has a way of changing the whole narrative and outlook on a season. Remember, Curry was struggling. But after putting up 62, he’s averaging 32.3 points on 45.8 percent shooting (36.1 percent from 3) with 6.2 assists and 4.7 rebounds. And the Warriors are 3-3, respectably in the thick of things. Things immediately feel right again, and the conversation of exposing Curry feels like week old news.

It was fair to ask if he can even be that guy anymore without considerable talent around him. Contrary to popular belief, Curry always was that guy. Anyone who watched the Warriors before 2015, before Thompson was an All-Star and Green was a star at all, remembers a time when Curry carried the Warriors to the playoffs, when he couldn’t come off the court without everything falling apart, when an ankle sprain threatened their whole season, when the other players had to step up their game because playing with Curry meant that the opportunity was there.

The first five games, on an unspaced floor under the weight of smothering layered defenses, he’s never looked more like a thin 6-foot-3 guard. He looked like just a regular NBA player, not the super human he’s been to a whole generation of NBA fans.

“If you think of most of the guys who are considered the best players in the league, they are physical freaks of nature,” Kerr said, taking a poke at explaining the Curry criticism. “Steph is 6-3, 180 pounds, whatever he is. So he has to carry a game with skill. He can’t carry a game with athleticism. That would be the only thing I can think of. … It’s much harder to carry a team single-handedly by making 35-footers every time. … If you’re not 6-8 and 250, you can’t really dominate a game in other ways. That’s probably my best guess for the criticism.”

It was enough to make people doubt him, again. It was enough to make people relitigate his accolades, again.

And it was enough to make Curry reintroduce himself as the most lethal marksman the league has ever seen.

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