Steph Curry could be out for much of the remainder of the Warriors playoff run. And you know what, they may start playing even better.
After a fairly quiet first half January 23 in Oakland against the Sacramento Kings, Klay Thompson came out of the locker room and hit a three to start off the third quarter.
Then three more.
Then three more after that.
Then another—and another.
All told in the third quarter. he was a perfect 9-for-9 from beyond the arc and 4-4 inside it.
In fewer than 10 minutes, Thompson scored 37, an N.B.A. record for a single quarter, and finished the game with 52—then tied for the most points in the 2015-’16 season with Mo Williams (till Kobe came along and missed all the shots but still puked up 60 for his career farewell.)
Klay Thompson post game interview pic.twitter.com/BHQwkljEKE
— Rudy Gobert (@rudygobert27) January 24, 2015
And yet when Thompson stepped up to the mic for the postgame soundbite before ducking into the locker room to enjoy a Dasani shower—the first question was, invariably, about Curry—who one day earlier had received the most All-Star votes in the NBA.
— Harrison Barnes (@hbarnes) January 24, 2015
The reaction was not atypical. Over the last two seasons as the comet Curry has taken off and captivated the world, it is Thompson and the rest of the Warriors who have gone from being known as the tightest unit in the N.B.A.—maybe all of professional sport—to a generous supporting cast running up and down every night chasing immortality…and trying to keep up with the Immortal One.
Here's dad Mychal Thompson watching his son Klay drop an NBA record 37 points in one quarter on the LAL team plane: pic.twitter.com/ebnR9N4h3R
— Mike Trudell (@MikeTrudell) January 24, 2015
Indeed, the narrative has morphed. The Warriors as few as 18 months ago were known as a team on the rise that passes well, shoots even better, plays team defense with the best and, well, sometimes has a turnover problem—hey nobody’s perfect. Now, all of a sudden they’re tearing up record books like junk mail. Klay Thompson is Scottie Pippen, Draymond Green is Dennis Rodman, Andrew Bogut is Luc Longley and well, Steve Kerr is still Steve Kerr.
And Curry is Michael Jordan—for the Under Armour generation.
Until very recently, Curry’s first four years in the league, including 2011-’12 where he played only 26 games due to ankle injury—have been forgotten. Wiped clean.
That was until Sunday, when Curry—who’d missed games 2 and 3 of the first-round playoff against Houston nursing a bad ankle—twisted his knee as the first half came to a close.
His teammates, unsure whether the sprain was a season-ender, came out of the locker room not looking bemused or lost without Curry on the court, but quite capable and comfortable, thank you.
The game was knotted at 56, and Thompson hit from long range, Green started rebounding like he did when he was trying to push David Lee out of the lineup his rookie year, Shaun Livingston could have defended the Alamo single-handedly and Harrison Barnes seemed to wake from a season-long coma.
To paraphase Keanu, “Whoa.”
Those who’ve followed the Warriors down the stretch to 73 wins saw something that second half in Houston they haven’t seen in a long, long time.
They saw a team.
They saw defense and urgency and timely shots—they saw a demoralizing of the Rockets with a 41-20 quarter.
Nobody, least of all the N.B.A., wants to see Curry sidelined for what should be the championship run icing to one of the more memorable single seasons from any player in league history.
At the same time, the Warriors—the rest of the Warriors—are getting a chance to showcase just how deep and fundamentally sound they are. And that might be a good thing. Curry’s place in history is all but secured.
Now it’s time for Klay and the Gang to make their case.