February 26, 2024

Warriors waste Steph Curry’s 60-point night, fade in overtime in Atlanta

ATLANTA — If Steph Curry could’ve scripted Saturday night’s ending, he would’ve finished with 54 points, not 60.

On the final possession of regulation, Klay Thompson picked off Curry’s defender, Dejounte Murray, giving Curry a winding path around Jalen Johnson into a short floater at the buzzer. If he banks it in, the Golden State Warriors win.

That miss was about the only thing gnawing at Curry regarding his performance. There was little else he didn’t do. Curry had 30 points entering the fourth and then scored 22 in those 12 minutes, including an 11-point surge in crunchtime that had them up 4 points with 1 minute, 46 seconds left and an 11-footer that put them up 2 with 14 seconds left.

But a Murray short jumper tied it, and Curry missed at the buzzer. Atlanta rattled off an 11-0 run to open overtime, and all an 8-point Curry response could do was make it a more reasonable loss and a round number on his total. Curry’s final line: 60 points on 22-of-38 shooting. The final score: Hawks 141, Warriors 134.

Does that make Curry’s performance a total waste?

“You can describe it however you want,” Curry said.

He did note that his legendary 54-point game in Madison Square Garden came in a loss. He had a 57-pointer in defeat to the Dallas Mavericks during that desperate 2021 climb to the Play-In Tournament, back when his offensive burden might’ve been even greater. So there are candidates for the biggest wasted Curry performance ever. Saturday might top the list.

Depleted depth is partially to blame. Moses Moody had another hard workout Saturday in Atlanta but still wasn’t ready to return. Gary Payton II and Chris Paul are further away. This was a night they could’ve used at least one of them.

Andrew Wiggins collided with Clint Capela late in the first half and landed awkwardly on his left foot. The team initially deemed it an injured ankle but clarified postgame that it was a sprained foot. Wiggins iced it at his locker well after the buzzer. He had a light limp but no walking boot or crutches. The X-ray was negative. He said he felt it wasn’t serious but would know more in the morning.

Without Wiggins, there was even more pressure on the rising Jonathan Kuminga to corral the tricky Trae Young. But Kuminga fouled out with 1:06 left. The Warriors were grumbling postgame about his fifth and sixth fouls. Kuminga was whistled for grazing Young’s shoulder on his fifth foul, and there was a bump and Young dive in the corner for his sixth.

“The JK foul out was really important, and it was kind of head-scratching,” coach Steve Kerr said. “I just didn’t see a foul.”

Without Moody, Payton, Paul, Kuminga and Wiggins, the Warriors went to Brandin Podziemski and two-way guard Lester Quinones in overtime next to Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green. Gui Santos also received 15 minutes total with Dario Saric out.

Kuminga finished with only 16 points, snapping his streak of 20-plus at eight games. This was a night the Warriors could’ve used an efficient Thompson. He delivered the opposite. Thompson went 4-of-19 shooting, missing a few of his 3s horribly. He misfired on several big shots in the fourth quarter and a pair in overtime as the Hawks stretched the lead.

This was the eighth consecutive game Thompson missed more shots than he made, coming directly after what felt like a surge. Through 44 games, he’s down to 41.5 percent overall and 37.4 percent from 3, both career lows. When asked whether he liked the looks he received, Thompson said, “I did,” before departing to visit family and friends.

Thompson’s slide has led Kerr to go away from him to close halves recently, placing Podziemski as the second guard next to Curry, Wiggins, Kuminga and Green. He closed that way in Memphis and did again in the first half Saturday, before Wiggins’ injury.

“As long as that group is doing well, I won’t hesitate to close with it,” Kerr said.

Green opened the game with an alert breakup of a Young lob to Capela. He had several other stout defensive stands against the bigger Capela and Onyeka Okongwu front line. But Green looked winded down the stretch. Playing almost exclusively at center, he’s logged 46, 29, 28 and 35 minutes in the last four games against Anthony Davis, Joel Embiid, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Capela.

Kerr did try the Green and Trayce Jackson-Davis pairing early in the second half. There was one defensive possession where Jackson-Davis had position and slid over for a blocked shot. But Green, maybe forgetting he had help behind him, came over for the foul.

“I gotta get used to playing with him,” Green said. “Because he does a good job of protecting the rim and I still find myself sliding over and he’ll be there.”

Kerr used Kevon Looney for 15 minutes. Saric is expected to join the team in Brooklyn, the site of Monday’s game. Jackson-Davis has shown some promise in his rookie season. But perhaps the extra frontcourt answer could come at the trade deadline on Thursday. They are 21-25, looking nothing like a realistic contender but still within reach of the forgivable Play-In bracket.

“Until it’s said otherwise or decisions are made, it’s up to us to go out and perform and hold our ground as a legitimate team that can win,” Curry said. “If you’re not, then you approach things differently when the opportunity presents itself.”

(Photo of Stephen Curry shooting over Clint Capela: Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)