Stephen Curry: Ranking the Sharpshooter's 5 Best Performances
Stephen Curry's five-year career for the Golden State Warriors has been a terrific one. But as a rookie primarily heralded as a deadly outside shooter, questions over his lack of strength and experience as a point guard loomed over Curry.
However, he quickly proved he belonged in the NBA, despite nagging injuries that prevented him from playing consistently healthy seasons. The sharpshooter dazzled with his ridiculous range, underrated quickness and craftiness around the rim.
Now, half a decade into his career, Curry is one of the best point guards in the NBA.
And more recently, it can be argued that he is among the best players. After being snubbed from the 2012-13 All-Star team, Curry attacked the second half of the season with a vengeance. He poured in 40-point performances, constant double-doubles and fueled a postseason stint that nobody saw coming.
Through his first four years, Curry made 147 more three-pointers than anyone in NBA history. The former Davidson Wildcat had officially broken through.
However, he has done so in the most unusual of ways. Curry's style of play has differed from the generational evolution of the position, which is now being played by lightning-quick players with endless athleticism.
He has developed his own mold.
Curry's production comes off his ability to shoot from anywhere in the gym, whether off the dribble or catch. He doesn't use extreme explosiveness but rather uncanny shiftiness to escape defenders. Curry finishes with elegant precision around the rim by using floaters and crafty layups instead of jaw-dropping dunks.
His complete, unique scoring repertoire mixed with improved passing skills has fueled him to NBA stardom.
Let's take a look into his greatest performances as a professional.
Earlier this season against the Philadelphia 76ers, Curry turned in his second triple-double of his five-year career. His statline read: 18 points, 13 assists, 10 rebounds and five steals. This isn't one of the most eye-popping triple-doubles in terms of sheer statistics, but there is a plausible reason for that.
Curry only played 29 minutes.
That is a considerable six minutes less than his season average. In this bout against the early Cinderella of the NBA season, Curry found his teammates early and often while showcasing his distinct scoring skills.
He displayed his fair share of typical step-back jumpers, ankle-breaking crossovers and floaters around the hoop. But it was his unselfishness and willingness to crash the boards that lead to his well-rounded night. Additionally, Curry recorded five steals in the contest.
This season, the Warriors point guard has used the double-teams and constant attention that opposing defenses supply him to create scoring opportunities for teammates. His assist output per game is almost two higher than his average in any other season.
When you combine the deadliest three-point shooter in the NBA with great vision and accurate passing, you have an unguardable specimen at the point guard position.
Curry fits that mold.
This 38-point, nine-assist performance by Curry exemplifies his versatility on the offensive end of the floor.
As the Warriors trailed the Los Angeles Clippers for the majority of this game, Golden State's star point guard furiously tried galvanizing his team back. Curry's jump shot was pinpoint, as he made dribble pull-ups from mid-range, sunk spot-up threes and drained fast-break pull-ups from deep three-point range.
In one play displayed in the highlights, he even pulled up for three on a 3-on-1 fast break. Not surprisingly, he turned that into a four-point play after he was fouled.
Curry's vast collection of moves and capabilities with both hands was evident in this game. As double-teams approached him, he utilized his vision to escape high-duress situations.
What separates Curry from other great shooters is his ability to shoot wherever on the floor, either off the dribble or catch, and his expertise at making contested shots with little room to shoot. He is equally effective both in transition and half-court sets.
The former Davidson Wildcat drained nine total three pointers in this 2013 contest against the Clippers. He makes the difficult look effortless, as was displayed in this shooting clinic.
5. Game 2 Against Denver Nuggets in 2013 Playoffs
Curry officially showcased his talents on a national stage in the 2013 NBA Playoffs. With the pressure magnified and the margin for error lessened, Curry stepped up.
In this first round contest against the Denver Nuggets, Curry recorded a double-double en route to leading the Warriors to an important road win. He recorded 30 points, 13 assists and five rebounds in 42 minutes of play.
While the 30 points itself wasn't completely remarkable, the way in which Curry reached that total was. Nearly every shot he took was contested. Whether it was a pull-up shot in front of two defenders or a contested fadeaway on the baseline, or a crafty finish around the rim, almost every field goal he made was guarded tightly.
Curry also used his penetration in the lane to find open shooters. His 13 assists are the most he has recorded in a playoff game.
Curry’s well-rounded showing in this playoff showdown helped tie the series at one game apiece.
However, this performance was only a precursor of the greatness he displayed later in the playoffs.
4. First Career Triple-Double
Curry put the NBA on notice of his unique skills in this 2010 contest against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Not only did he record his first ever triple-double, but he also set a Warriors record for three-pointers in a quarter with five and accumulated 36 points, which was a career high.
Not bad for a rookie.
Curry gashed the Clippers defense, drilling three-pointers and dishing out easy baskets to cutting teammates. Primarily regarded as a pure scorer, Curry exhibited his multi-faceted skill set. Along with his 36 points on 50 percent shooting, the rookie passed for 13 assists to go with 10 rebounds. He also had three steals.
Curry capped off the triple-double in memorable fashion. In the waning seconds of the game, a fortuitous bounce off of a missed shot went right to Curry, where he secured his 10th rebound and celebrated with his teammates.
While Curry's first few years in the league were plagued by injuries, he showed glimpses of a future star. In this regular season bout, he filled the stat sheet and gave the Warriors a reason to believe that he was their soon-to-be franchise player.
Three years later, it's safe to say he has done just that.
3. 47-Point Outburst in Staples Center
Curry turned in yet another improbable shooting performance in this matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers. He poured in 47 points on 17-of-31 shooting and shot 9-of-15 from the three-point line. He was also perfect from the charity stripe, making all four of his free throw attempts.
Just another day at the office.
However, while Curry's 46-point performance in the Staples Center again awed viewers from a scoring standpoint, it was his complete collection of skills that were equally as impressive.
He dazzled with behind-the-back passes for assists, mixed with creative dribbling moves at a change-of-pace tempo. His vast overall improvement was evident. Curry accumulated nine assists, six rebounds, three steals and only one turnover in 44 minutes.
This was also Curry's second most efficient game of his season.
His rare ability to pass and dribble with both hands, while posing the threat to pull up to shoot from anywhere proved to be unguardable.
2. 44-Point Performance in Round 2 of 2013 Playoffs
The Warriors upset the Denver Nuggets in Round 1 of the 2013 NBA Playoffs largely due to the playmaking and shooting of Stephen Curry.
In Round 2, he amped it up even more.
In this Game 1 performance against the San Antonio Spurs, Curry went for a staggering 44 points and 11 assists. He drained six threes.
As the highlights show, Curry scored in a multitude of ways. His lightning-quick release allowed for him to get shots off with even the smallest bit of separation. He showed his versatility with right- and left-handed runners in the lane, mixed with mid-range dribble pull-ups. Just as he displayed all season, Curry freed up his teammates with penetration and supplied them with open looks.
This remarkable performance nearly fueled the Warriors to a surprising one-game lead. However, they came up just short, as Manu Ginobili sunk the game-winner as time expired.
But one can't mistake Curry's brilliance.
1. Career-High 54 Points in Madison Square Garden
Curry’s 54-point outburst in the iconic Madison Square Garden came only one day after a 38-point performance against the Indiana Pacers.
And as he quickly proved, his rhythm never ceased.
Curry wasted no time in this regular season contest against the New York Knicks, draining three-pointers off the dribble, freeing himself by utilizing screens and showcasing his craftiness with floaters in the lane. His shiftiness combined with skill were on total display.
In the final three quarters, the sharpshooter recorded 50 of his 54 points. Curry drained a whopping 11 three-pointers, while only attempting 13. He also sunk all seven of his free-throw attempts.
For a scorer relying mostly on outside shooting, that is as close to perfection as we may ever see.
It is also worth noting the other areas of his game that he excelled in. Curry dished out seven assists, grabbed six rebounds and had three steals.
The assortment of eye-popping statistics that Curry accumulated on this day combine to form perhaps the most staggering stat of all: his overall efficiency. Curry’s ended at 56.
This late February performance was truly unprecedented by the greatest shooter in the game today.
And probably unmatchable, as well.