But to players and coaches of the Golden State Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies, 18,000 fans at the FedEx Forum, and millions watching across the globe, the MVP’s extra long-range bomb amounted to a game- and series- deciding dagger. Memphis had clawed all the way back from an early double-digit deficit to trail 63-62 with just 3:55 remaining before the final stanza.
Golden State made a valiant effort to somewhat stem the tide, taking a five-point lead as Jeff Green corralled a Harrison Barnes miss and made his way up the floor for a last-second attempt before the quarter’s end. But Andre Iguodala blocked – or fouled? – the Grizzlies swingman on his three-point try, and the ball bounced to Curry in perfect rhythm.
Splash. Warriors 76, Grizzlies 68.
Then Curry put his opponent away for good with three consecutive triples in the fourth quarter as Memphis made a last-ditch effort to save its season. Even his awe-inspiring stretch in the game’s last minutes seemed mostly inconsequential, though. The Grizzlies were deflated entering the fourth while the Warriors were exhilarated, leading to a 108-95 close-out victory for the visitors.
And to Golden State, the outcome of Curry’s 62-foot runner was as unsurprising as its effect on the game’s momentum. Why? The Warriors begin each practice by warming up with shots of similar length and difficulty. Seriously.
Well, I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but before you guys get into the gym every day at practice as we’re warming up, the whole team is firing full-court shots, half-court shots, drop-kicks – I like the drop-kick personally. So every day we got music going, guys are firing full-court shots, we’re warming up, and all I can think of is if Lute Olsen [Kerr’s coach at the University of Arizona] could see our team warm up he’d think, ‘What are you doing? There’s no discipline here.’
But it’s kind of our way to loosen up and get into practice. And I would say Mo Speights and Steph are the two most accurate full-court, three quarter-court shooters. They shoot them constantly, and make them more often than you’d think.
Yup. The best team in basketball begins each practice by fooling around with circus shots like you and your prepubescent buddies used to do as sixth graders.
Curry made clear his coach wasn’t joking, either.
Only the Warriors.
Some will scoff at how Golden State begins daily practice and shootarounds. Heaves, kicks, and more are hardly attempts that will be taken often if at all during games, and don’t exactly scream professionalism, either. But that unique approach is just another of the many attributes that makes this team so good: camaraderie.
And it starts with Kerr, the first-year head man who replaced a mostly beloved one and finished second in Coach of the Year voting while leading the Warriors to a 67-15 record. The affable, easygoing charmer we see during pre- and post- game media sessions holds the same persona in parts of practice, obviously. But what sets Kerr apart from more laid-back coaches is his fiery intensity.
Look no further than him leading all coaches in technicals this season, motivating Draymond Green with tough love, and his almost maniacal daily preparation as evidence of that reality.
Golden State wouldn’t be where it is without one of the league’s most talented rosters and hordes of individual improvement. But it’s safe to say the Warriors wouldn’t be the team they are, either, if not for the sweeping influence of Kerr.
An effect, apparently, that includes setting Curry up for the shot that gave Golden State its first Conference Finals appearance since 1976.