As Stephen Curry casually dribbled the ball across halfcourt, the clock winding down on a tie game in overtime, he took one bounce past the stripe, did his trademark foot shuffle as he gathered himself and let the ball fly from some 38 feet away.
The ball floated toward the basket, and long before it splashed through, Oklahoma City center Enes Kanter had already thrown his hands in the air in defeat. And for good reason.
There was just under 3 seconds left in the overtime, plenty of time for Curry to take another dribble or two in an effort to get a closer look. But in a season in which Curry has solidified himself as the greatest shooter the league has ever seen, why bother?
Curry has attempted 14 shots between 30 and 40 feet away from the basket this season, according to data collected by basketball-reference.com. He has made nine of them, turning the 3-point shot into a longest drive competition.
“When he pulled up, he looked like, ‘Ah, whatever, it’s going in,’” Warriors forward Draymond Green said.
Curry’s .643 shooting percentage on shots between 30 and 40 feet (it was officially estimated at 32 feet by statisticians at the game but later was proven to be over 38 feet upon closer inspection) would be good enough to make him third in the league in field goal percentage from any distance, behind only dunk machines DeAndre Jordan and Hassan Whiteside.
His latest zip code-buster propelled the Warriors to a 121-118 victory over the Thunder in a regular season classic on Saturday that was ESPN’s highest-rated non-Christmas Day regular season game since 2013.
The game was a riveting showdown between two of the best teams in the league, and we get to do it all over again in just four days. Golden State hosts the Thunder on Thursday night.
One of the underrated coaching jobs done this season is coming in Memphis, where Dave Joerger has weathered injuries, age and a lack of perimeter shooting to somehow keep the Grizzlies in the No. 5 spot in the Western Conference.
Joerger has kept the Grizzlies from folding up the tents after Marc Gasol was lost for the season with a foot injury and Courtney Lee was traded to Charlotte. It’s sometimes felt like he is back on the minor league circuit coaching in the Continental Basketball Association, where he cut his teeth.
“It’s really tough,” Joerger said. “Had I not gone through the minor leagues, I would not have been able to handle something like this because in the minors guys get called up, guys go overseas, guys get injured, you can’t get guys into Bismarck or Sioux Falls on a drop of a hat. Some nights you’re playing one style and some nights another.”
After Gasol went down, the Grizzlies sent Lee to Charlotte and acquired Chris Andersen, Lance Stephenson and P.J. Hairston to add to a locker room that already has colorful personalities like Zach Randolph, Matt Barnes and Tony Allen. And yet, the Grizz keep winning, four times in the last six games to stay ahead of sixth-seeded Dallas.
After an ugly loss in Phoenix on the second night of a back-to-back, the Grizzlies are still 34-24 and face a week full of winnable games starting at Denver on Monday and followed with home games against the Kings, Jazz and Suns.
Things to watch this week:
JOE JOHNSON: The former All-Star made his first appearance with the Heat on Sunday night in New York and played 30 minutes. His first game in Miami is on Tuesday against Chicago.
SPURS SCHEDULE: The Spurs are an NBA-best 28-0 at home and play in San Antonio on Wednesday for the first time since Feb. 6 when they host Detroit. They went 7-1 on their annual rodeo road trip and are assured of a winning record on the road for the 19th straight year, an NBA record.
CELTICS-CAVS: No. 1 in the East vs. No. 3. The Cavaliers already dropped one to Toronto last week, and the Celtics come to town on Saturday hoping to show they really belong.
STAT LINE OF THE WEEK: Kyle Lowry, Raptors: 43 points, nine assists vs. Cleveland. On a night when his All-Star teammate DeMar DeRozan went 1 for 11, Lowry carried the second-seeded Raptors to a thrilling home win over the top-seeded Cavaliers.