Stephen Curry got mad. And then the NBA’s co-scoring leader did more than get even: He went on a spree that lifted the Golden State Warriors far beyond the reach of the mistake-prone Clippers and padded their league-best record to a thoroughly earned 18-2.
After two seasons of missing the playoffs, the Warriors are back atop the West — and they’re getting healthier and fiercer by the minute. That was bad news Sunday for the Clippers, who contributed to their own demise by committing 25 turnovers that turned into 31 points in a 105-90 matinee loss at Staples Center.
The Warriors’ lead, which was two at the half and 75-68 after three quarters, stood at 79-70 early in the fourth quarter when Curry was shoved out of bounds. Curry protested loudly — and with good reason — when he didn’t hear a referee’s whistle, and he was hit with a technical foul.
“It was as upset as I've seen Steph in a long time, and it was as upset as I've been in a long time too," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "It's kind of a miracle that I didn't get a technical. But it seemed to get him going. So, whatever it takes, I guess."
A few minutes later, an angry Curry became an unstoppable Curry.
He helped turn a 12-point lead into a 21-point chasm by hitting three straight three-point shots, adding a flourish to the last one by signaling a mock “T.” He scored 13 of his game-high 33 points in the fourth quarter, the eighth time he has scored 30 or more this season and the Warriors’ seventh victory in a row.
Curry channeled his anger in the best possible way, and his teammates followed his lead.
“It’s just focus and intention. We understand how we play. Obviously, it’s nice when I can get going, especially from three," Curry said. "We had a couple sets we were trying to take advantage of the way they were guarding us. Obviously we got to make shots, but it's predicated on how we played in general and knowing that we can create success. And we got to it pretty quickly after [the non-call]."
He hit seven of 13 three-point attempts, among them his 100th three-pointer of the season in his 19th game. That broke his own record for fewest games to make 100 threes, having taken 20 games to get there in 2015-16 and again in 2018-19. He also had six assists, six steals, five rebounds and a starring role in countless social media memes that celebrated the angry reaction that led to his technical.
“I kind of laugh afterward because I know what it is. It’s competition, it’s intensity, it’s desire, because I want it so bad,” Curry said. “You get into certain situations where it’s like a playoff type of atmosphere. It’s a grind-it-out type of mode and whatever it takes to get going. Once the spark is lit and I let the emotions fly, however long that lasts. As soon as there’s an intentional moment or a voice in your head like, ‘Let’s play basketball’.
“I’d love to control that moment, because if you don’t, it spirals into doing something other than what you’re supposed to be doing out there and overdo it. So, let it out and play basketball.”
The Clippers, though one of the NBA’s top defensive teams, had no answer for Curry.
“It’s hard sometimes,” guard Eric Bledsoe said. “We were just talking about it. Sometimes you think you got him covered and he’ll get a ball up and have a wide-open layup and turn it down just to look for him for a three. And by the time you turn your head, you think he’s going to lay the ball up, he’s on the other side of the court shooting a three, so it’s tough playing him. He draws so much attention.”
Curry wasn’t the only insurmountable problem for the Clippers, who fell to 11-9 and play host to New Orleans on Monday as they go deeper in a sequence of five games in seven nights.
Reggie Jackson, who had scored at least 21 points in each of his three previous games, got into foul trouble early and missed all five of his shots, finishing with no points. Paul George led the Clippers with 30 points but turned the ball over eight times and was minus-9 in the plus/minus category.
“Give them credit defensively. They’re No. 1 for a reason. They’re a tough defensive team,” George said. “But a lot of it was just careless, mishandled, you know, I had a couple where it just fumbled, just bobbled the ball around. It was just one of those nights where we were just poor as ball-handlers.”
The Clippers can’t afford many more of those nights. Or, as was the case Sunday, days like that.
“I think we’re still good,” George said. “We still, again, tonight we was in position defensively — well, because of our defense — to win this game tonight. But, you know, I think we can continue to just learn from teams like Golden State with their player movement.”
On Sunday they learned that an angry Curry is bad news for them and for the rest of the Western Conference.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.