There is this zone we have all heard of – the place where Golden State guard Stephen Curry sometimes resided for weeks at a time while at Davidson and still reaches pretty often in the NBA.
But who knew that, inside the zone itself, there was a tiny VIP section?
Curry didn’t – not until he dropped 54 points Wednesday night on the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden and found himself in a place he had never been before. It was the most points anyone in the NBA has scored this season.
“It was surreal,” Curry said by phone Thursday from Boston, where the Warriors will play Friday night. “I’ve never been to quite that place before – not at Davidson, not at Charlotte Christian. Not ever.”
Curry wasn’t invited inside the velvet ropes of the “zone-inside-the-zone” until the final three quarters. During the first quarter, Curry had a modest four points.
But then in the second, it happened. He hit one shot after another, helping Golden State keep pace with the Knicks even though starting big men David Lee and Andrew Bogut were out.
“On my last 3 of the second quarter,” Curry said, “Jarrett Jack drove down the middle and passed it back. I was floating to the right at the top of the key. Kind of off-balance. Shot it and it didn’t look like it was going in. I had to backpedal at 100 mph to keep from falling down. And then it went in and I said, ‘This might be a good night.’ ”
Curry scored 23 in that quarter, then 11 in the third and 16 more in the fourth. He made an astounding 11 of 13 3-point attempts and 18 of 28 shots overall. He also led his team in assists (seven) and steals (three) and tied for team honors with six rebounds. He was the first NBA player to score more than 50 and hit more than 10 3s in the same game.
The Knicks still won 109-105. But they were awed by Curry, too – Carmelo Anthony said there was nothing that could be done to stop him – and the sports buzz all of Thursday hummed around Curry. His younger brother Seth Curry at Duke texted him, saying he kept trying to think of something witty to say but had been rendered speechless.
“Seth finally just wrote, ‘Well done, sir,’ ” Stephen said.
That the performance came at the latest incarnation of New York’s Madison Square Garden – one of the most famous venues in the world – made it even bigger. Score 50 at, say, Sacramento and it’s not the same. Score 57 against the Bobcats in Charlotte – as Deron Williams did a season ago – and it’s not the same.
Score 50 at the “Gah-den” – where Kobe, LeBron, MJ (the famous “double-nickel” 55-point game) and Wilt (six times!) are among the handful of opponents who have gone for 50 against the Knicks – and you are a shooting star.
Of course, Curry has been a shooting star for much of his career, most famously during Davidson’s run to the NCAA’s 2008 Elite Eight. But he never scored 50 at Davidson, nor had he ever scored 50 in any organized game.
Curry had scored 38 Tuesday night against Indiana, so he is rocking. Whether this continues in Boston, though, is questionable.
“I’m not going to guarantee 50, that’s for sure,” said Curry, who averages 21.9 points and 6.5 assists and deserved his first NBA All-Star berth this season but didn’t get it. “But I’m going to be very aggressive.”
Curry has not had any issues with the recurring ankle injury that haunted parts of his first three NBA seasons. He is a new father. Golden State looks to be headed toward the playoffs for what would be only the second time in two decades.
Throw a 54-point performance on top of all that and you know Curry truly has reached a zone of his own – a mountaintop peak that will not last forever but should be admired for its extraordinary height.