HOUSTON – For the second time in 10 days, the Houston Rockets gave the Golden State Warriors every inch of fighting they had in them. And for about three quarters, it seemed to carry the Warriors.
But then in the fourth, Stephen Curry burst out. He scored 21 of his 40 points in the final frame and gave Golden State enough juice to pick up the 122-108 victory. And it all started with Kevin Porter Jr.s trash over Curry.
“It’s a nice game within the game,” Curry said. “It’s not the first time and it will not be the last time. I started to take it to another level. You always have it, but you definitely bring a different level of competitiveness when you have fun things like that. I take it’s all fun, but sometimes you have to have a little impetus. “
Curry was held to 10 points in the first half and had hit just one 3-pointer. His splash brother, Klay Thompson, had also made just one try. Andrew Wiggins – who finished with 17 points – did everything he could to keep the Warriors afloat, but he needed help.
In the third quarter, while Curry was breathing and waiting for the ball to come in, Porter adjusted Curry’s position – both with her hands on her knees – with his face right over Curry’s shoulder.
And the trash talk followed. But it was all one-sided. Curry never said a word back to Porter.
“I highly encourage it,” said Warriors head coach Steve Kerr of players who kneel with Curry.
“I do not think he is there to be honest,” said Juan Toscano-Anderson. “He finds it comical. I mean, he’s great. He will do what he does. … What do you say? Steph will Steph.”
Porter understood that as much as anyone, as after the match, the third-year guard went to the two-time MVP and asked him for advice.
“I went to him and I asked him for some tips,” Porter said, according to the Houston Chronicle. “As an MVP, at first unanimous, that’s one I can learn. He’s been doing this for so long. People get comfortable with what he’s capable of. It’s not really a surprise. But to see him play like that is definitely something to to learn “
Curry went 7-of-10 from the floor in the fourth, including 4-of-7 out of 3. His 21 points that period are the most he has scored in a fourth quarter in the regular season. The only time he scored more in the fourth in his career is when he scored 23 points in the final period of Game 6 of the 2019 Western Conference final. That game was also against the Rockets.
“We’ve seen Steph do that a million times,” Kerr said. “It had to happen, even if it was a few weeks ago. Not surprising, but it’s fun to see how he shook freely and played a game like he did.”
As Kerr pointed out, Curry’s night was a breakout performance from a turbulent January month. However, there has never been a single level of care.
Earlier in the day, Curry and Kerr had a conversation about Curry’s recent shooting numbers. Kerr told Curry that he has never worked with another player with whom he doubts to discuss shot selection.
There’s an understanding among everyone on the Warriors that shooting Curry himself will work, and there is not much more to do other than wait.
Monday’s game in Houston is an example of why.
“You always feel like the next shot will start the atmosphere like that,” Curry said. “Of course it’s no secret how I’ve been shooting the ball lately. But the confidence is always like that, it only takes one to get up like that in the fourth quarter.”
Curry’s confidence has always been high, and it has remained high during this decline, as he approaches every game with the belief that his game and the work he puts in will ultimately show. He calls it the “great even-keeled approach”.
He never doubted he would find his shot, whatever. But Porter’s trash accelerated the process.
“I’m not responding, but it’s a bit of an adrenaline rush,” Curry said. “What gas that needs in the tank to get you out of a low point, I’ll take.”