Stephen Curry 51-point game: Wizards explain exasperation of guarding Warriors star when he’s scorching hot

OAKLAND, Calif. — Exhaustion. Exasperation. Deflation. Use any synonym you want, but the Washington Wizards looked like they had just been deposited on Earth following an alien abduction after Wednesday night’s 144-122 loss to the Golden State Warriors. We’re 90 percent sure that Stephen Curry briefly morphed into some sort of human-wildfire hybrid while dropping an NBA season-high 51 points, making 15 of 24 shots and 11 of 16 3-pointers in 31 minutes.

This was an all-time performance from Curry, who’s all but cemented himself as the greatest shooter of all time at the ripe age of 30. He surely would have surpassed his career-high of 54 points, and would have at least gotten close to his NBA record of 13 triples in a single game, had the Wizards kept things close in the fourth quarter, which would have allowed Curry to return.

After the game, the Wizards spoke about the 6-foot-3, baby-faced Mack truck that just flattened them at Oracle Arena, and the presiding sentiment was one of bewilderment.

“Some of the shots that he was making, you don’t ever see that,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. “He is a special player, special scorer, special shooter. He was taking 35-foot shots and it is hard to double-team a guy that is that far out. He makes them like they are layups. You never see anything like it.”

Brooks also said that, at the level Curry was playing, team defense almost doesn’t even factor into it. You can put out maximum effort, but at a certain point there’s just nothing you can do.

“There was not a lot we could’ve done. They were tough shots. Stephen makes it look like he is playing a video game, because those shots are not normal shots to make, but he can make them. … You are watching a generational player. There are not a lot of those guys coming up through the ranks. He makes shots that coaches would think are bad shots, but he makes 60 percent of them. So, they are good shots for Steph.”

Wizards guard Bradley Beal, who took a brief hiatus from the game with a sternum issue before returning for the rest of Curry’s onslaught, came up with one possible solution — but quickly realized even that wouldn’t work.

“Probably foul the s— out of him, that’s probably what we should have done,” Beal said. “And even when we did that, he was still making them. So I don’t know.”

When the Wizards weren’t fouling Curry, who also went 10-for-10 from the free-throw line, he was hitting shots from every conceivable spot on the floor. Wizards point guard John Wall explained how well Curry finds openings on the court amid chaos.

“Early on [Curry] just made some tough shots. It was a little bit of us not communicating on switches, but some of them, it’s like, when he’s hot, he’s hot,” said Wall, who was tasked with guarding Curry for much of the game. “Then getting off his rebounds he does a great job of moving, relocating, getting open shots. But he just got into a rhythm. He made tough shots.”  

A big part of a problem is the team that Curry plays for. You can blitz him and double-team him, much like teams did in his breakout 2014-15 season, but then you’re at the mercy of Draymond Green as a playmaker, finding Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson on the wings. Durant, by the way, had perhaps the quietest 30-point game of his career, while Thompson added 19. That’s 100 points between three players on 59 shots — the Warriors’ conundrum in a nutshell.

“It’s just their team all together, you really can’t help off of guys,” Wall said. “They have KD and Klay out there, and Draymond does a great job of moving without the ball, setting screens. Everybody tries to imitate what they do, but you don’t have the personnel to do it. That’s what makes them so tough. That’s what makes those guys defending two-time champs. When he gets going they find [Curry] in transition, they set good screens, and at the same time he knows how to finish at the rim so you just can’t just tell him to drive. So he does a great job of that.”

Curry has put up mind-boggling, MVP numbers so far this season, right in line with the confidence he displayed heading into the season. It’s hard to imagine Curry, a two-time MVP, raising his game to an even more ludicrous level, but he’s now 33-for-63 from the 3-point line (an absurd 52 percent), and has made more 3-pointers than four NBA teams. If Curry can stay healthy, he might be impossible to ignore as a candidate to win his third MVP.

“Players that have been in the league for a while, that won a couple MVPs, I’m sure the voters tend to overlook them,” Durant said. “Not maliciously, but it’s just the fact that they’re looking for the next player. You’ve got to wake them up with games like that. Steph definitely did that tonight.”

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