What the NBA world witnessed Saturday night in the Golden State Warriors’ 121-118 overtime victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder was the single greatest shooting performance in NBA regular-season history. There have clearly been greater scoring performances than Stephen Curry’s meager 46 — Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 and Kobe Bryant’s 81 for starters. But those were built on the backs of free throws and volume.
Factoring the stage, the setting, the intensity, the situation of the game, the attention and defense constantly thrown at Curry through the course of the game, coupled with the absolute absurdity of the difficulty of the shots themselves, and the fact that Curry set an NBA record for 3-pointers in a season and tied an NBA record for most 3-pointers in a single game?
That was the single greatest shooting performance we’ve seen in the regular season. Klay Thompson’s 52-point explosion last season gave him an effective field goal percentage (which factors 3-point makes) of 87.5, higher than Curry’s 83 on Saturday. But that was vs. the Kings. Bryant’s 81 was vs. a mediocre Raptors team. This was against the Thunder, on the road, vs. a desperate team at full strength on national television with OKC trying to prove it can actually challenge the Warriors in the playoffs.
Statistically, you can take any number of other performances throughout history. But in context? This was greatness. Watching it? This was greatness.
Curry’s final shot to top his record-tying 12-of-16 3-point performance was this 38.4-foot shot, which won the game for the Warriors, sending them to 53 victories for the season.
Meanwhile, Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr occasionally gets asked to compare his current superstar to his former teammate and basketball demigod Michael Jordan. He draws a distinction, but it’s more related to personality than efficacy.
In Miami on Wednesday, Kerr said, “These guys are really competitive, more so than you’d think. I mean, you knew it with Jordan, because he played with an anger. Steph plays with joy, so maybe you don’t see it as much. Steph inside is a killer. Really he is.” (Excerpts from CBS, NBA and ESPN)