SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports’ Sam Amick breaks down Game 3 of the Western Conference finals, where the Warriors’ biggest postseason win in team history doubled as the worst playoff loss in Rockets history.
USA TODAY Sports
OAKLAND — Steph Curry wasn’t even done decimating the Houston Rockets in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals on Sunday night, and there were non-basketball matters being discussed on press row inside a raucous Oracle Arena.
“Does Steph Curry swear?” one reporter asked late in the third quarter while Curry’s Golden State Warriors pulled away in a 126-85 rout.
It was an understandable question.
Curry’s golden boy image is both well-chronicled and well-earned. He does all sorts of meaningful charity work, is a devout Christian, and has an All-American family with entrepreneur wife, Ayesha, young daughters Riley and Ryan, and a third baby on the way. But every so often, when the outside world seems to forget what he does best on a basketball floor, the frustration flows in this kind of R-rated way.
“This is my (expletive) house,” he hollered after dribbling around Trevor Ariza and finishing a floater over Luc Mbah a Moute that pushed the Warriors’ lead to 24 points with 3:31 left in the third quarter.
After three days in which everything from Curry’s health to his playoff poise to the overall makeup of his game had been questioned because of a poor Game 2 performance, this was a rare glimpse into the true nature of his competitiveness. The game’s greatest shooter had lost his way from long range, missing 18 of 21 three-point attempts in this series by the time halftime arrived in Game 3.
Yet in that third quarter, when he had 18 of his 35 points while hitting all seven of his shots and both of his threes, Curry reasserted himself in the kind of way that few, if any, can. His bucket that sparked the viral reaction ended a stretch in which Curry scored 13 points in less than three minutes.
Curry is known to have a turnover jar arrangement with his mother, Sonya, who has been paid a handsome sum over the years for some of his on-court sloppiness. Maybe this will inspire a swear jar.
MORE NBA PLAYOFFS
“I already know (the question),” Curry said with a smile when he was asked about his declaration. “I blacked out. I blacked out.”
He has it backwards, though. What he actually did, it turns out, is turn the lights out on the Rockets.
“A lot of (that reaction) was just talking to myself almost like, ‘You’ve got to be your biggest fan sometimes,’ ” Curry explained. “No matter what questions I was being asked over the first two games or what the expectations (were), I had the highest expectations for myself. And you’ve just got to find whatever you want to get going.
“I mean, obviously it felt good and you want to use that energy to show your teammates that you’re here, you’re with them, get the crowd into it. But it’s one game, and you’ve got to have that same type of energy and intentions and focus the next game and the right approach. So I did my job tonight. I’ve got to do it again.”
Curry’s longtime “Splash Brother” Klay Thompson had the most priceless reaction to it all.
“I saw that,” Thompson said. “That was funny. I hope Riley didn’t see it, but it got Oracle pretty fired up. That’s a rare occurrence. I’ve never really seen Steph … use that language, but that’s what the playoffs brings out in you. Don’t do that at home, kids. It’s just once in a while.”
The Rockets had come West with all sorts of optimism in this series, but the realization that Curry has found his way again will certainly be a concern heading into Game 4 at Oracle Arena on Tuesday. He has now played seven games since returning from the Grade 2 MCL sprain in his left knee that cost him nearly six weeks, and it’s safe to assume that Game 3 was the kind of outing that could help him regain his rhythm.
If this keeps up, in other words, it’s the Rockets who will be cursing as the curtains on their season close.
“He’s good, and sooner or later he’s going to erupt,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “You can analyze him all you want, but at the end of the day he’s still a pretty good basketball player. I thought we let him get going a couple times. We didn’t switch out, didn’t get up into him.
“Then it’s a lot easier to shoot when you’re up 20 and up 18, which they were most of the game. It’s very comfortable, and we didn’t make them uncomfortable at all, all night. I do know for sure it will be better on Tuesday. Our guys know what they’ve got to do and we’ve done it, and see if we can do it again.”
Follow Sam Amick on Twitter @sam_amick.