Is Steph Curry ‘the greatest sixth man ever’ after his 34 points in 23 minutes?
The Warriors must work out a way to get Steph Curry, Jordan Poole and Klay Thompson playing in the same team, with the two-time MVP back on top form.
Steph Curry was hailed as the “greatest sixth man ever in the playoffs” after a 34-point performance from the bench that made that case.
Two-time NBA MVP Curry is working his way back from a foot injury and has been kept out of the Golden State Warriors’ lineup for their first two games against the Denver Nuggets in the first round.
The Warriors have won both, though, and Curry had a huge role to play in Game 2, scoring 34 points in just 23 minutes on 12-of-17 shooting to earn a plus/minus of 32.
“Jesus,” said Draymond Green when he looked at the stat sheet. “Steph plus-32... that’s incredible. Wow.”
It was only Curry’s fourth playoff appearance from the bench, and his 34 points still fell short of the 40 he scored against the Portland Trail Blazers in his first such appearance in 2016 – the most by any player coming off the bench in the postseason since at least 1985-86. He has averaged 29.5 points across those four games, another record over that period.
The performance against the Blazers came in 37 minutes, however, with this latest display against the Nuggets the best performance by a bench player in 25 minutes or fewer. Only Paul George – 35 against the Dallas Mavericks in 2020 – has scored more in 25 playoff minutes as a starter.
“I’m back,” Curry bellowed at one stage, later explaining: “In the first game, I didn’t really feel normal, like I had the real flow. Then the first half [of Game 2] I had a little pep in my step and my body felt good.
“I was able to get to some spots, and when you make certain shots, it feels a little different. It feels a little bit more normal and more emotion comes out. It was a nice feeling.”
Meanwhile, Jordan Poole, starting in Curry’s place, followed up his 30 points in Game 1 with 29 in Game 2. Klay Thompson added 21.
Nuggets coach Michael Malone said: “You have three guys that are capable of putting up 30, 40 points.
“Jordan Poole had 30 points in Game 1, he had 29 tonight. Steph Curry is the greatest sixth man ever in the playoffs. They bring a guy off the bench like that, 34 points, five threes... and then Klay Thompson.”
The Warriors have an issue now, Green acknowledges, working out how to get all three guards into the same lineup.
“We’re not going to keep Steph in the sixth man role, forget that,” he said. “But saying that, ultimately, Jordan is probably going to have to start, too.
“Ultimately, we’ve got to figure a bunch of stuff out. It’s a good problem to have, a great problem to have.”
Green was happy to let Steve Kerr “figure that one out”, but the coach is very pleased with Curry’s attitude to returning to action on the bench.
“Steph is Steph,” Kerr said. “You don’t need to sell him on anything.
“He’s very unique. He’s incredibly humble and incredibly arrogant on the floor – humble off the floor, arrogant on the floor. It’s a great combination. Anything that is going to help the team he’s all for.”