Stephen Curry continues to find new ways to raise the bar.
One game he’ll hit a three on one leg. In the next game, he’ll whip a no-look pass between two defenders that generates an easy bucket. His ever-evolving skills have elevated him to the league’s upper echelon of stars.
In Sunday afternoons 97-87 overtime victory over the San Antonio Spurs, the most impressive stat Curry produced wasn’t his point total. It wasn’t the assist total either.
What stood out the most was the 39 minutes of action Curry was able to contribute on essentially one good leg.
We talk about the greatness of LeBron James and Kevin Durant, and we often site their physical blessings as one of the reasons for their dominance. James is 6’8” and weighs 250 pounds. Basically, he’s a tank.
Durant checks in at 6’9" and 235 pounds with Inspector Gadget arms.
The way those two are built, it’s almost unfair.
For Curry, it's the exact opposite. He’s a marvel as well, but it's not because of his physical tools. He’s a marvel because of what he does in spite of his physical makeup.
At 6’3”, 185 pounds, you wouldn’t be able to pick him out of lineup. Fortunately for Curry, he’s able to get every last bit out of his frail-looking physique. Unfortunately for Curry, that physique might be more than just frail looking.
For the second time these playoffs—and for what seems like the millionth time in his career—Curry tweaked his bothersome left ankle at the tail end of Game 3.
He was listed as a game-time decision for Game 4, presumably to be used sparingly. In what essentially was a must-win situation, Curry and Mark Jackson found that there would be a lot of need for Curry’s presence, something they were prepared for before the game.
Via NBA.com’s Hang Time Blog, Curry addressed the possibility of his playing the day before the game:
“If I can give the team anything, I will play. I feel like if I can get to a point where I’m not hobbling and I can cut how I want to. It doesn’t have to be 100 percent, as long as I can be confident that it won’t do any further damage. I have a feeling I’ll be at that point tomorrow, no problem."
It definitely wasn’t at 100 percent. But it didn’t matter. Curry still went out there for 39 minutes and contributed 22 points, six rebounds and four assists.
The emotional boost he gave to his teammates by being out there was evident. Harrison Barnes grew up, taking on a larger part of the offense than ever before and putting in 26 points, many of which were at crucial junctures.
Jarrett Jack was a rock late in the game, hitting jumper after jumper to lead the Warriors back. Ultimately, he tied the game and sent it into the overtime.
It was truly a gutsy, gritty performance from Curry, one that reinforces everything that has been said of him these playoffs: He is now a bona fide star. Even on one leg, he was able to rally his team.
He’ll never look like James or Durant, but his contributions thus far have rivaled them. And in just his third season, there is more room for improvement.
Unfortunately for Curry, not being built like those two has cost him immensely thus far in his career. If his frail body continues to wilt under the rigors of the NBA schedule, we might not ever see him unlock his full potential.
Regardless of that, the Warriors know exactly what they have in Curry: a warrior of the highest degree. Be it on one ankle or two, this squad will go only as far as the leagues most inconspicuous-looking superstar can take them.