Without All-Star forward David Lee, Stephen Curry had to crank it up a notch when his Golden State Warriors visited Madison Square Garden Wednesday night. And did Curry crank it up.
By the time the second half rolled in the basketball-savvy New York fans were cheering for Curry each time the ball left his hand.
Curry was 18 of 28 from the field, finishing one shy of the NBA record with 11 3-pointers in 13 attempts, in a performance that had the Garden crowd going bananas. He finished with a career-high 54 points, and two more than the season’s previous high of 52 points set by Kevin Durant against the Dallas Mavericks. It didn’t matter that Curry’s Warriors lost 109-105. It was one of those magical performances that will be relived in Garden lore.
”He put on a clinic. Knocked down shots. Made plays. Carried us,” Golden State coach Mark Jackson, a New York native, told the Associated Press. ”He did it all. I’ve seen a lot of great performances in this building and his goes up there. I’ve seen a lot. I’ve seen a lot, but that shooting performance was a thing of beauty.”
There have been many electrifying performances at the Garden. There was Bernard King’s 60-point outburst on Christmas Day, Michael Jordan’s double-nickel game in 1995, LeBron James’ 52-point night in 2009, and Kobe Bryant’s record-setting 61-point game in 2009. For Jackson — who is a native New Yorker and former Knick player — to say Curry’s shooting exhibition ranks up there holds a lot of weight.
Playing all 48 minutes, Curry finished with seven assists and six rebounds while passing his previous career best of 42 points. Snubbed during the All-Star selection, Curry now has plenty of ammunition to prove to the rest of the league that he’s a rising star and should have been playing in the main event instead of being a participant on All-Star Saturday night.
The Knicks, who hadn’t played since Sunday, looked ready to blow the Warriors out early, taking a 25-11 lead that the Warriors trimmed to 27-18 at the end of the first period before surging ahead behind Curry.
Curry scored 12 straight Golden State points, cutting it to 35-34 with his third 3-pointer of the second quarter. He followed Richard Jefferson’s 3 with another one, giving the Warriors a 40-37 advantage. The Knicks recovered and went back ahead by nine late in the period before Curry answered with six consecutive points, and New York’s lead was 58-55 at the break.
”He’s a special young player with a very unique talent,” Chandler said. ”We ran everything at him. He just got hot. There was some shots that he couldn’t have seen the rim.”