SAN FRANCISCO — Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry brought the ball over midcourt with Jevon Carter of the Milwaukee Bucks right in his face. Curry accelerated and then quickly stopped at the top of the 3-point arc, making Carter skid a few feet away.
Curry had just enough space to launch a 3. Bang.
The shot tied the score of the Warriors’ game against Milwaukee with 19 seconds left in regulation. And Curry was mean-mugged as he made his way to the bench — the stoic look never leaving his face after it.
“I was tired,” Curry said. “Slow walk to the bench, take advantage of the full three-minute timeout. Don’t yell because that requires oxygen. Conserve energy.”
Curry scored 36 points on Saturday, fueling the Warriors to their 125-116 overtime win. Twenty-two of his points were scored in the fourth quarter and overtime — on 8-of-11 shooting, including 4-of-7 on 3-pointers. He scored 11 points in the final two minutes of regulation (all but two of his fourth-quarter points).
But arguably, his most important play came 17 seconds after his 3 tied the score. With 2.2 seconds remaining in regulation, Jrue Holiday blew by Donte DiVincenzo. It looked like he had an open lane to the hoop. But as he rose to shoot a floater, Curry met him at the top, blocking his shot.
“When you [make] a couple of big shots down the stretch and then find yourself in a position to make a play on the other side, I think that gives everybody a good boost,” Curry said. “I think I got more compliments on that in the locker room than any shot I made tonight.”
“It was great to see him use the rules of verticality and get that block,” Draymond Green said.
That was Curry’s first block inside the final 10 seconds of the fourth quarter and overtime in his regular-season career (he did this once in the playoffs).
“Steph was incredible, and he did it against one of the great defenders in Jrue Holiday,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “It’s amazing watching those two guys battle. Steph is fearless. It doesn’t matter if there is a slow start or if he hasn’t had much going, he can ignite at any time.”
Golden State had a 13-point lead with 8:22 left in the third quarter. By the time there were two minutes to go in the fourth, they were trailing by eight. Curry was on the bench for most of this stretch. Kerr said he looked tired and wanted to save Curry’s energy for the final stretch.
“It’s the challenge of bringing execution and focus,” Curry said. “Even when things aren’t going your way — that fourth quarter when they take an eight-point lead — and you slowly walk them down, that’s the belief you have to have that we can do.”
That’s when Curry got going.
Curry scored 15 of his 36 points in clutch time, outscoring the Bucks 15-11 by himself. Fifteen clutch-time points are tied for the fourth-most by any player this season. It’s also tied for the most in a game in his career.
Golden State also turned up their defense down the stretch, contesting at a high rate and forcing five Milwaukee turnovers. Kerr opted to close with the starting lineup of Curry, Klay Thompson, DiVincenzo, Green and Kevon Looney — in part because of the defense the group was playing, while also capitalizing on offensive opportunities.
“We came out with a defensive mindset,” Green said. “When we defend, we give ourselves a chance to win.
“You don’t defend, it’s a crapshoot. … If you don’t defend then all your shots are tough. You’re playing against a set defense every play. It starts with the defense for us and we were able to establish that tonight.”
This win came in the Warriors’ first game of their three-game homestand and on the heels of three road losses. Golden State is now on a seven-game win streak at home, while they’ve lost eight consecutive games away from Chase Center.
The Warriors know they need to find the magic they have at home on the road. Curry called it a “revolving door,” where the Warriors look like they’re primed to make the run they’ve been waiting for, just to lose it the next night.
But they are starting to play with the confidence to get there.
“Championship stuff,” Kerr said about how the Warriors closed the game. “That is the team that won four titles. They know how to do it. They got it done tonight against probably the best team in the league.”