Curry red-hot on return for Warriors
Stephen Curry stood among the coaches during a third-quarter timeout pleading his case to keep playing, and Steve Kerr relented — after a brief chat with the training staff, of course.
And who could blame Curry? He was feeling it after waiting weeks to get back on the floor, even missing the marquee Christmas Day matchup against LeBron James and the Cavs.
"Third quarter, it was a quick look to him and I literally said 'no way, no way,'" the two-time MVP said. "... It felt like the first day of school again, for real."
Curry made a sensational return from injury by scoring 38 points with a season-high 10 3-pointers, and the Golden State Warriors beat the Memphis Grizzlies 141-128 on Saturday night with an energy and spirit that had been missing much of this month without him.
Curry shot 13 for 17 and 10 of 13 from deep in just shy of 26 minutes for his ninth 30-point game this season after missing 11 games with a sprained right ankle. His mere presence brought an energy to the Warriors and all of Oracle Arena, and he spent much of the fourth quarter pacing, gesturing in delight while cheering his teammates with a towel draped over his head.
Kevin Durant added 20 points, nine assists and five rebounds, and Klay Thompson scored 21 points as the Warriors wrapped up nearly three weeks at home in California. Zaza Pachulia scored a season-best 17 points and also had eight rebounds and six assists.
"It wasn't just him," Grizzlies interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff said of Curry. "You look up and they've got guys that can make shots all over the floor. They were making shots that were contested."
Marc Gasol led six Memphis players in double figures with 27 points on 10-for-13 shooting.
With his parents, wife and two daughters in attendance, Curry got his first points on a layup at 10:27 that put the Warriors out front 7-0 and led to a Memphis timeout. He hit a 3-pointer at 9:52 before Memphis scored its first points.
Curry received roars from the sellout crowd during pregame introductions, and Durant threw his right arm into the air to cheer his pal's comeback.
In the game's closing minutes, Curry hit a 3-pointer, held his follow-through and jubilantly hopped up and down on his left foot. At other moments, he pounded his chest. This marked Curry's ninth career game with 10 or more 3s, most by any player in NBA history.
"I was feeling pretty good. I think me and him had an understanding where the minutes would kind of fall as the game would go on and I would give him feedback how my body was feeling, and I felt amazing and it was me just saying that, I really did," Curry said of convincing Kerr he could stay in. "He gave me that extra minute and a half and I made a shot, so it paid off."
Curry was all smiles during pregame warmups. He hoisted his signature tunnel shot, signed a few quick autographs when daughter Riley arrived to greet him and briefly held his arm around her before turning around to do his customary hallway sprint. His little girl cleared the way, and off her dad went to the locker room.
He's healthy at last — and it showed immediately.
Kerr had hoped to play his star 20-25 minutes, and Curry hit another 3 just 30 seconds after conferring with the coaching staff during that timeout with 4:36 left in the third.
"Everything just looks better," Kerr said. "The food in there is going to taste better tonight. My wife's going to be even better looking than she already is. My kids are going to be happy. Steph, he has that impact."
In Salt Lake City, Utah rookie Donovan Mitchell scored 29 points to lead the Jazz to a 104-101 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers, denying LeBron James the victory he wanted for his 33rd birthday.
Mitchell slashed his way past James for a layup with 35.4 seconds remaining as the Jazz thwarted a Cleveland comeback bid that saw the Cavs pull within one point three times in the fourth quarter after trailing by double digits in the third.
Elsewhere, Reggie Bullock's big night pushed the Detroit Pistons to a 93-79 home victory over perennial Western Conference power San Antonio.
Bullock, who started in just seven games in his first four NBA seasons and became a regular starter for the Pistons in early December, scored a career-high 22 points.