Hours before the game began, fans of Davidson and Stephen Curry filled the front rows in sections 113, 114, 115 and 116. In 113 they filled the first nine rows. Fans crowded the rails above the Time Warner Cable Arena tunnel through which Curry would walk.
Curry is the defending NBA MVP. He leads the NBA in scoring. Curry’s Golden State Warriors have opened the season with 20 straight victories. Their 20th came Wednesday; they beat the Charlotte Hornets 116-99.
Curry grew up in Charlotte and played high school ball in Charlotte and college ball at Davidson and his father is Dell Curry, the Charlotte Hornets’ all-time leading scorer. Dell Curry provides commentary for the Hornets’ network and was honored at halftime.
Dell Curry is an introvert who does not require attention. So what he says counts. In his halftime presentation, he was genuine and gracious. And after the game he said this about his older son: “It’s a joy to watch him play. It’s a joy for the league and the fans.”
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Stephen Curry is a joy to watch warm up. When he walked onto the court at 5:30 p.m. he dribbled two balls, bounced them hard, went between his legs, and took a break to huddle with former Davidson linebacker Braxton Winston.
Curry shot from this angle and that one, and he shot from more than 30 feet. He often missed. He missed three straight from the right corner. Then he hit six in a row. If that concluded his work for the evening, his fans likely would have been satisfied.
Kemba Walker played tough defense on Curry in the first half. Curry took seven shots from the field, scored 12 points and added five assists and four turnovers. He leads the league with an average of 31.6 points so for him the numbers were pedestrian. The Warriors led by only 9.
The great ones don’t have to be great for 48 minutes. One great quarter can crush an opponent and win a game.
In the third quarter Curry took 11 field goal attempts and made 10. He took five from 3-point range and made five. He took three free throws and made three. In 12 minutes he scored 28 points.
Curry did what he wanted to whom he wanted when he wanted. If there was a scramble for the ball he found it or his teammates found him.
He did miss a 13-foot jump shot. For a few seconds he was a mere human.
Then, on consecutive possessions, he hit a layup, hit from 24 feet and hit a layup. Then he got serious. In the final 113 seconds of the quarter Curry hit from: 25 feet, 30 feet, 1 foot, 29 feet and 30 feet. Of course he works hard. But he makes hitting pull-up jumpers from 30 feet look as easy as shaking hands.
After three quarters the Warriors pushed their lead from 9 to 21. After three quarters Curry, who would not play in the fourth quarter, had 40 points. That’s the fourth time this season he’s scored 40 in three quarters. The rest of the NBA has done it once.
He did this in front of Carolina Panthers’ Josh Norman, Cam Newton, Charles Johnson, Jonathan Stewart and Thomas Davis. When the game ended he pulled off his No. 30 jersey and handed it to Davis.
“This means a lot,” Curry said about the Panthers’ presence. “We’re two undefeated teams trying to do big things this year.”
LeBron James goes over opponents for breathtaking power dunks. What Curry does hurts more, like paper cuts that never end.
He’s 6-3 and 190 pounds and still looks skinny. LeBron is built like a superior being. Curry is built like a guy.
But if you pick Curry up at the outermost tip of his shooting range he’ll blow by you the way a 4.2 40-yard-dash receiver does to a cornerback in press coverage.
Opponents try to knock him around. Their best chance is when Curry is when Curry plays defense. His defense has improved markedly.
On offense, you can’t knock him around unless you catch him. He’s adept at moving with or without the ball and because of his range commands so much space that there’s little a defender can do.
Curry is as good a guy as people that know him contend. But on the court he is going to get you and he is going to entertain fans as he does.
Before the game, Curry encountered Hornets’ coach Steve Clifford in an arena hallway.
“How you doing?” Curry asked.
“Good,” Clifford said.
Clifford thought that.
“Not so good,” he said. “You’re here.”