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Morgan Howen

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Credit the Warriors for their resilience as much as their shooting

Stephen Curry signed his rookie contract extension with the Golden State Warriors on Oct. 30, 2012. That day was the start of the 2012-13 NBA Regular Season. At that time Curry had never been named an NBA All Star or to an All-NBA Team. The Warriors went on to make the playoffs for the first time since the We Believe squad of Stephen Jackson and Baron Davis. As the No. 6 seed, they upset a strong Denver Nuggets squad — sans Danilo Gallinari.

That was May 2, 2013. Nearly 10 years to the day on Apr. 30, 2023, the sixth-seeded Warriors knocked off the young and hungry Sacramento Kings on the road in Game 7. This after the Warriors finished the 2022-23 regular season with their worst winning percentage in a healthy Curry season since 2010-11 — his second in the NBA.

The Warriors — still here

The Warriors’ defeated the Kings 120-100 on Sunday to advance to the second round. Curry scored a playoff career-high 50 points on 52.6 percent shooting. However it was more than simply Curry’s offense that lifted the Warriors to victory and home-court advantage against the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Warriors tallied 18 offensive rebounds for the afternoon. They grabbed 16 of those in the second half. Kevon Looney hauled in 20-plus rebounds for the third time in this series. He snatched nine offensive rebounds in the second half. The Warriors attempted nine more field goals in the second half than the Kings.

For all of Curry’s excellence, this was not a glamorous Warriors victory. This team that is the face of modern NBA offense shot 63.3 percent from the free-throw line. Neither Andrew Wiggins, Klay Thompson, or Jordan Poole shot even 35 percent from the field. No other Warrior scored 20 points in the game.

Where they took the game from the Kings was on boards and on defense. The Kings shot 37.5 percent from the field for the game — 32.6 percent in the second half. Draymond Green was poking the basketball away from players at the top of the key, and Gary Payton II recorded four blocked shots in 15 minutes of action.

More than shooting matters

For all of Curry’s 30-plus foot shots, competitive fire and defense is how the Warriors have won four NBA Championships in seven seasons. When the Warriors defeated the Memphis Grizzlies during their first championship season, Curry shot better than 44 percent from the field only once after they were down 2-1 in the series.

Game 6 Klay is a phrase in the zeitgeist that began with his 41-point performance when the Warriors were in danger of getting eliminated on the road against the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2016. Yes, he hit 11 3-pointers, but what really sealed that game for the Warriors was Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combining for five turnovers in the final three minutes of the game — including three awful ones nearly in succession from Westbrook.

Even last season, when Stephen Curry was tour de force against the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals, he had a tough Game 5. Followinig that legendary Game 4 performance, he shot 31.8 percent from the field and went 0-9 from the 3-point line. The Warriors still won that game 104-94. They pulled that victory out because the Celtics turned the ball over 18 times.

Guts count, too

With Curry and Thompson able to reel off 10 3-point makes in an NBA game like they’re shooting at practice, it is easy to forget the gutsy efforts this team is capable of producing. Even on a night in which Curry put up the first 50-point Game 7 in NBA history, Looney’s performance was captivating.

Green is certainly the most demonstrative player on the team, but he is far from the only tough player on the Warriors. Just like head coach Steve Kerr with the Chicago Bulls, the rest of the Warriors have resilience that has been molded by fire. The only players left from 2012-13 are Green, Thompson, and Curry. Yet this team is still as feisty as the one that pushed the San Antonio Spurs to six games in the second round that season.

Absolutely give Curry credit for another legendary performance as one of the best players in the history of professional sports. That being said, it took more than his 50 points, or any of his good shooting, to gut out a seven-game series win against the upstart Kings. The Warriors played a lot of sloppy basketball in this series.

What got them through to the next round as a 44-win team with a ghastly road record, was some real heart of a champion stuff. The brought a championship hammer to Golden 1 Center on Sunday afternoon, and bashed the Kings into elimination with it.

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