‘Just phenomenal’: Steph Curry’s big night saves Warriors from defeat


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SAN FRANCISCO — Golden State Warriors star guard Stephen Curry has won two MVPs and three NBA championships, but those who have watched him closely for years believe he continues to play the best basketball of his life during a year in which his team is struggling to hold on to a play-in spot in the Western Conference.

The latest example came during Tuesday night’s 122-121 come-from-behind win over the Milwaukee Bucks in which Curry dropped 41 points and carried his struggling team — loser of seven of its past eight — across the finish line.

“I thought he was just phenomenal,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “I mean, Jrue Holiday‘s one of the best defensive guards in the league, and I thought Jrue did a great job on Steph all night just pressing him, using his strength and physicality. And Steph still goes out there and gets 41. Pretty impressive game. Amazing.”

Curry shot 14-for-21 from the field, grabbed six rebounds, dished out four assists and played 38 minutes — coming in at the 8:09 mark in the fourth quarter, a couple of minutes earlier than his usual stretch.

“He’s playing with a ton of confidence,” Kerr said. “But it’s hard to say more than ever before because he’s always, ever since the day I got here, I’ve never seen him not play with confidence. I think the biggest thing for me watching him is he just looks stronger, physically stronger than ever. … I just think his body, his mind, everything is, it has really sort of peaked this season.

“It just feels like his awareness level, his understanding of the defenses he’s seeing, combined with the physical strength that allows him to get through a guy like Jrue Holiday tonight, or Brook Lopez at the rim, his strength is really impressive.”

It was an assessment Curry agreed with.

“Absolutely,” Curry said. “Just trying to keep pressing forward, keep finding ways to get better. That’s the confidence and the mentality. And this has been a frustrating season overall, just with the inconsistencies and what our record is, but working through all of that and embracing the challenge has brought out, honestly, a new love for the game.”

Curry, who is playing through a painful tailbone injury, knows how much his presence means to the rest of the young group. He understands he can set the tone for his teammates to follow, with Tuesday’s performance offering up another reminder of just how much the group will rally around Curry.

“I think we all should just kind of stop and appreciate what he’s doing right now,” Warriors guard Kent Bazemore said. [After] missing a majority of last season and coming in with so many uncertainties, ‘Is he going to be himself?’ All these questions around him, all that noise, but for him to go and turn on, still have that self-belief enough, it inspires and uplifts everyone.”

Whether the Warriors can build off this kind of performance remains to be seen, given the inconsistencies they’ve struggled with all year, but for a group that was feeling as down on itself as it has been all season after losing four straight, the win — combined with the fact Curry continues to dominate games when he’s on the floor — gives the organization hope it can close the season on a higher note.

“Steph is Steph,” Warriors rookie center James Wiseman said. “I just look at his focus and how he approaches the games. That’s what makes him great, the focus and being a leader. He goes out there and gets buckets and has fun. Steph is definitely one of the best point guards in history. Just his focus and just how he’s so intense and how he concentrates on the game, it’s very inspiring for me and younger players. He’s just great.”

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