Stephen Curry vs. LeBron James. Two of the best players in the NBA will face each other again this Tuesday in the Western Conference semifinals. The Warriors will host in San Francisco the first game of a series that feels like something of déjà vu, since Curry’s and James’ teams faced each other in four consecutive finals between 2015 and 2018 (three of them went to the Californians and one went to Cleveland). That said, the meeting will rather be marked by the recital the Golden State point guard gave on Sunday to eliminate the Sacramento Kings (120-100). Curry scored 50 points and broke the scoring record for a seventh game. His performance provided his team with oxygen for them to continue on the path to defend the title they achieved last year against the Celtics. The next hurdle is the legendary Lakers.
“It gave me chills. No. 30, he’s different, man,” power forward Andrew Wiggins said Sunday of Curry’s performance. With a half-century points, the point guard unseated Kevin Durant as the highest scorer in a series-clinching game. Durant, a former teammate of the Warriors, did it in 2021 wearing the Nets jersey in the East semifinals against the Bucks. Before them, Sam Jones did it for the Celtics in 1963 (47) and Hawks legend Dominique Wilkins in 1988 (47).
Curry averaged 33 points in the series against the Kings, who qualified for the playoffs for the first time in 16 years. In his quietest game, the star scored 28. His historic performance on Sunday, which included seven of 18 three-pointers, began to brew after a night of frustration. The Warriors blew a chance at home to eliminate Sacramento on Friday in Game 6, which they lost 118-99. Curry was upset with his team’s sluggish performance and was unable to sleep. Minutes before 04.00, he crossed text messages with Draymond Green, another mainstay of the team that has dominated the conference since 2015. Green was also sleepless at the prospect of elimination.
Golden State coach Steve Kerr set up a tech session on Saturday on the ninth floor of the Chase Center, where some video of Sacramento’s offense was to be shown. The highlight of that afternoon wasn’t the footage, though. Curry stood up and spoke to his teammates. “You know I don’t talk a lot, but I have something to say,” No. 30 started, and everyone fell silent to hear him, according to The Athletic.
Curry motivated his teammates by telling them they had enough to win, that he had confidence in them. He assured them of victory if they all committed to leaving their feelings at home. He wanted faith and commitment from them, witnesses to that private session said. “He has the same edge as some of the other greats. The Mamba mentality and all that crap. Steph has it. Maybe his ways are different, but we know he’s a killer. Everybody knows that,” said Jordan Poole.
When Game 7 began, there was no sign of that leader who couldn’t sleep because of nerves. Curry missed, a rare occurrence for him, two free throws in the second quarter. But he played the entire game with a smile on his face. When the referees blew the final whistle, it was another night for the ages. “Attitude can manifest a lot of things,” No. 30 announced to the press. “The smile was intentional. I’m just trying to live in the present,” he added.
Curry will have to lead a series against LeBron James. The two stars have played 22 playoff games. The Golden State native has won 15. History starts from scratch for two legends seeking their fifth championship ring.
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