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Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr watched Michael Jordan drop in so many impossible shots over the years that he had to chuckle when asked whether Stephen Curry made a behind-the-head circus shot late in the first quarter of Tuesday night’s 114-91 win over the San Antonio Spurs reminded him of what the Chicago Bulls legend used to do on a regular basis.
“That play was sort of Jordan-esque,” Kerr said. “I saw [Jordan] make that move many times. Go to the rim and get fouled and just kind of flick it backwards. He didn’t always make it, but he liked doing that shot. That was an incredible example of body control, and touch, and feel. What an amazing shot.”
In a career filled with unbelievable plays, Curry’s whirling shot through three Spurs in the lane was one of the most interesting in recent memory. With 2:01 left in the first quarter, he took a pass above the three-point line from Draymond Green and dribbled down towards the rim past Spurs swingman DeMar DeRozan and veteran Rudy Gay who was coming from his right side to try and cut him off. Once he got closer to the rim, Curry jumped up into Spurs guard Lonnie Walker, thought about throwing a pass out to Warriors guard Kent Bazemore in the corner, but changed his mind once he heard the whistle.
Curry flipped the ball over his head with his right hand. The Spurs defenders were left in awe trying to figure out how Curry had contorted his body in the air to finish such a play.
“It was a fun one,” Curry admitted after the game. “I don’t know the ranking but it was up there for sure. I had to improvise. I don’t really even know how to explain it, I just had a good flow once I got the contact and heard the whistle. Just get it up on the glass however you can. All the wild and acrobatic shots you practice or tried, the instincts take over, so that was pretty cool.”
The play left teammates and coaches in amazement — a reminder that Curry is playing on a different level at this point in his career.
“Man, I’d have to go back in the vault for that one,” Green said with a smile, when asked to rank the play amongst Curry’s all-time moments. “That was nice. Get the foul and kind of just flip it up there. I don’t know if he did this [claps arms together], but it was very close to an MJ little flip. It was nice. So that was a good one for sure.”
The move even seemed to surprise Curry himself — but he brushed off any comparisons to Jordan and the high-flying acrobatics he put on display during his career.
“There was nothing high-flying or above the rim about that,” Curry said. “So at least I’ll get on the [Steve Smith] Smittys’ ‘under the rim’ list. I’ll take that recognition, but yeah, I did switch hands, that’s the only comparison.”
Even as Curry tried to downplay his latest accomplishment, his teammates couldn’t believe what they had just seen.
“If you’re watching me on the bench I’m like, “Oh my God, this is crazy!” Warriors forward Juan Toscano-Anderson said. “I’m a stan, though. I think he’s the best player in the world right now. Baze [Kent Bazemore] said it the other day, [Curry’s] just unreal. And the fact that I get to watch him up close, I get to watch everything he’s doing, is just — it’s cool to watch. I don’t take this for granted. I don’t think we’ll ever see somebody, I don’t want to say ever, but for a very long time we won’t see somebody like Steph Curry.”
Curry’s highlight-reel shot came on the last night of one of the most impressive road trips he’s had in recent memory. During the Warriors four-game swing through Dallas and San Antonio, Curry combined for 149 points in four games and went 25-for-50 from beyond the arc. After a slow start to the season, Curry has embraced the challenge of leading an undermanned team back to the postseason, a challenge that became even more difficult in Texas because the Warriors were playing without big men James Wiseman (wrist) and Kevon Looney (ankle).
“I’m blessed to be healthy after last year,” Curry said. “And obviously the way the season started all the kind of commentary, chatter and all that, I worked my butt off over the offseason, with the rehab and I’m just happy to be playing night after night … I feel strong, I feel in rhythm, I feel in ultimate control of my game. My shots are falling. And it all comes with, not only my own confidence, but the growing confidence of our team, in terms of how we’re trying to play. Win or lose, that familiarity and that comfort is coming game after game so that’s important. I definitely feel the strongest I’ve ever been. I’ve got a lot of energy, feeding off my guys and just trying to make plays. It’s a good vibe right now.”
Curry is playing so well that Kerr reiterated what he said last week, that he believes the 32-year-old is playing the best basketball of his career.
“I think that’s part of Steph’s brilliance is that he just constantly amazes you to the point where you almost take it for granted,” Kerr said. “I do think, and maybe it’s circumstantial given the injuries and the fact that he’s playing with a different group of guys — this is the best I’ve ever seen him just from a confidence and a strength standpoint. And that’s saying something, obviously, a two-time MVP, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him look better.”
It’s a sentiment that Green agreed with saying that he also believes his longtime teammate is playing “the best basketball of his career.” After all the frustration from parts of the fan base in recent days regarding whether or not Kerr and the Warriors would allow Curry to play a few more minutes past the original 34-minute mark the team had set for him to average throughout the season, a win and Curry’s unbelievable play provided a welcome dose of happiness for a group that has struggled to find consistency all year.
Kerr couldn’t help but smile one more time when asked if he considered holding Curry and Green out of Tuesday’s game after saying after Monday’s loss that he wouldn’t sacrifice Curry’s minutes just to “chase wins” this season.
“We considered it,” Kerr said. “But I had heard so much from our fanbase the last couple of days, I just decided, ‘you know what? I should really put them back in to keep everybody happy.'”