Stephen Curry sets Game 7 record with 50 points as Warriors beat Kings

Stephen Curry sets Game 7 record with 50 points as Warriors beat Kings

SACRAMENTO — The Sacramento Kings spent the past two weeks pushing the Golden State Warriors to the limit, threatening to dethrone the defending champions by beating them at the same high-paced, shooting-heavy game they used to build their dynasty.

But the Warriors — older, wiser and a touch slower relative to their competition than they were in earlier years — finally put away their fearless challengers Sunday afternoon, leaning on craft, force and a record-setting Stephen Curry scoring outburst to silence the cowbells and claim a 120-100 victory in Game 7 at Golden 1 Center.

“To do this for a decade is incredible,” Warriors Coach Steve Kerr said. “The energy it takes to fight off challengers year after year — there’s a reason these guys are Hall of Famers and champions. This isn’t a one-year flash in the pan. This is a decade they’ve done it.”

For Curry, the superstar most responsible for turning the NBA game outside-in over the past decade, this series finale was an opportunity to showcase his shooting and his well-honed interior game. The two-time MVP set the NBA’s Game 7 scoring record with 50 points, surpassing Kevin Durant’s 48 for the Brooklyn Nets against the Milwaukee Bucks in 2021.

Even by Curry’s high standards, this was a tour de force that prompted Kerr to compare his point guard’s resilience, consistency and big-game reliability to Michael Jordan’s. Golden State outscored Sacramento by 25 points in Curry’s 38 minutes.

“Our experience took over,” Curry said. “Probably our best performance of the series, and it was great timing.”

Curry deployed high-arcing scoop shots on four occasions, punishing Sacramento’s defense when it overcommitted to the threat posed by his jumper. When the Kings switched big men on to him, Curry deked past the slower-footed defenders to coast in for layups. Finally, with Sacramento on its heels and wavering, Curry blew open the game from beyond the arc in the fourth quarter. His 38 shot attempts were a career high (in the regular season or the playoffs), and he shot 7 for 18 from three-point range while adding eight rebounds and six assists.

“He pushes us over the top in moments like this,” guard Klay Thompson said. “When he’s in a zone like that, you just try to get him in his spots, get him the ball and get out of the way. This is a Game 7 I’ll forever remember as the Steph Curry game.”

The teams entered the finale with just five points separating their cumulative scores over the first six contests — never mind that Golden State had won four of the past eight NBA titles and Sacramento hadn’t reached the playoffs since 2006. True to that nip-and-tuck form, both teams struggled to take control in the first half Sunday.

Sacramento raced to an early lead, as it had in its Game 6 blowout Friday in San Francisco, but Golden State quickly steadied itself this time by leaning hard on Curry, who had 20 points at halftime. The Kings were up 58-56, but neither team had led by more than six.

With the Warriors’ title defense hanging by a thread, Kerr reinserted Draymond Green to his starting lineup for the first time since Game 2, returning to the quintet that won the 2022 championship. That move, which prioritized Golden State’s collective experience over Jordan Poole’s scoring ability, was a successful counter to Sacramento’s smaller lineups, which thrived in Game 6.

Kevon Looney, Golden State’s workhorse center, battled away inside, posting 11 points and 21 rebounds, including 10 on the offensive glass. The 27-year old big man had at least 20 rebounds in three games during the series, and his interior presence was crucial to the Warriors’ defense.

“I think Loon is one of the best centers in the league — I really do,” Kerr said. “People don’t recognize it, because he’s not dunking and shooting threes and all that stuff. This guy is a flat-out winner and a machine, and we wouldn’t be here without him.”

Green posted eight points, six rebounds and eight assists, picking apart the Kings with passes to set up cuts and back screens. Thompson shot 1 for 10 in the first half and even wedged a three-pointer between the backboard and the rim after halftime, but he connected on a critical four-point play that pushed Golden State’s lead to 10 at the end of the decisive third quarter. Golden State, which was sloppy throughout its Game 6 loss, committed just seven turnovers in this closeout win.

Sacramento’s top-ranked offense, so electric for much of this series, screeched to a halt in the second half, crumbling into a pile of missed shots and turnovers while managing just 19 points in the fourth quarter. De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk struggled to find driving lanes, and the scoring-minded guards combined for 30 points on 33 shots. Starting wings Harrison Barnes and Kevin Huerter fizzled as Sacramento’s hopes of advancing to the second round for the first time since 2004 went unfulfilled. The eager Sacramento crowd groaned as its postseason slipped away before cheering its team off the court.

The Warriors’ series win — their 19th straight against Western Conference opponents under Kerr — sets up a second-round showdown with the Los Angeles Lakers. Curry’s Warriors beat LeBron James’s Cleveland Cavaliers in three of their four Finals meetings from 2015 to 2018, and Curry will welcome James to Chase Center for Game 1 on Tuesday as each star moves a step closer to his fifth championship.

“This series against the Lakers is going to be epic,” Green said. “You got Steph and you got LeBron doing it all over again. Stop trying to turn the page on us so fast and on [James] so fast.”

While the Warriors will need to quickly regroup, their marathon with the Kings won’t soon be forgotten, given the high drama of Green’s suspension for stomping on Domantas Sabonis, the first 2-0 deficit of Curry’s career, Harrison Barnes’s missed buzzer-beater in Game 4 and Curry’s series-closing show.

Once Golden State pulled its starters with the win secured, Curry plunged his hand down, mimicking the Kings’ “Light the Beam” celebration.

“All of that stuff kind of comes out when you get the job done,” Curry said. “This is hard, winning at this level. There’s a lot of narratives and commentary from game to game, and you’re trying to block it all out and focus on basketball. At the end of it, there’s fun with it, too.”

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