Forget the 3-Point Record, What About 81?

The artistry of Steph Curry begs for an explanation but no amount of words can do it justice. The word extraordinary applies but even that seems a lazy way of offering an adequate description. Numbers don’t seem to fit the truth to the page either. The metrics are familiar, great players do great things. But not quite like this, so completely and devastatingly annihilating. Curry has evolved into the perfect man and it doesn’t matter that it’s hard to understand completely what he is doing to perimeter defenses and why he is doing it; explanations don’t always accompany brilliance. Brilliance is quantified by what it is. What Curry is right now is sensational.

Curry made a record number (13) of three point shots against the Pelicans after a game in which he couldn’t make one three point shot against the Lakers. He had 46 points against the Pels and then for an encore dropped 24 points and 50% from three against the Mavs, followed by 33 points and 53% from three in Denver.

His field goal percentage is identical to what it was last year, 50.3%. He is shooting a career high 46.7% from three. His offensive rating is a little less than last season, 122 vs. 125. Where he has really fallen off is his defense. His defensive rating is 111. It was 111 his rookie year. Last year, his defensive rating was 103.

Because some of his overall numbers are down this year from his MVP year of 2015-16 (free throw percentage, rebounds, assists, steals) and because of the presence of Kevin Durant, a third MVP in a row seems a long shot for Curry.

The only question left to answer, besides the MVP question and becoming a champ again question, is can Curry top the infamous 81-point Kobe Bryant game?

In that game Bryant was 28-46, 60%. He was 7-13 from the three point line and 18-20 from the free throw line, all in 42 minutes.

Bryant had fourteen points in the first quarter. He was 5-10, 4-4 free throws. He had twelve points in the second quarter, going 5-8, 1-1 three pointers and 1-2 free throws. The first half he had 26 points.

In the third quarter Kobe scored 27 points. 11-15 field goals, 4-5 three pointers, 1-1 free throws. In the fourth quarter he didn’t seem to tire, putting up 28 points. 7-13 were two point shots. 2-6 were three pointers. 12-13 free throws. Kobe scored 55 points in the second half.

Putting up a monster scoring night of that caliber needs two dominant 25+ quarters, not one. Bryant had an advantage in that he was a scorer and not a shooter. He had an array of shots to choose from: the step back, the jab step, the catch and shoot, the dribble pull-up, the pump fake. The fact that he went to the line 20 times helped elevate his numbers. The game stopped and slowed down guaranteeing him more possessions, not less. And then this. His teammates that game were Lamar Odom, Smush Parker, Kwame Brown, Luke Walton, Chris Mihm. In other words, if he wasn’t scoring, no one was scoring.

Last year with such a deep offensive team, it was a non-sequitur, Curry coming close to Kobe’s mark. But this year? The team has three legitimate scorers. On a night when KD and Klay are off, they may need Step to be superhuman.

But it’s a longshot. Curry’s game has never been inside the foul line. This year he is shooting 33% from midrange. He doesn’t take enough free throws. This year he is averaging less than 5 a game. He’d have to make it up in three pointers. The most shots he has ever taken in a game was 32 shots in December of 2013 against Charlotte. He played 45 minutes and put in 43 points. He made 5-16 three’s.

This year, his 46 point performance against the Pelicans was one in which he took 26 shots in 35 minutes but only got to the free throw line twice. Free throws allow you to slow down a little.

As simple as Curry makes it look, the distance of his shots, almost makes it an impossibility that he could launch 46 shots with a high enough percentage to get to 80. He may not have to take 20 more shots than he did against the Pelicans but he’d have take at least 15 and hit about 10 more threes. That seems a long shot since the record for threes in a game is 13. Curry would have to slaughter that record and make 23-25 threes.

After his 81-point game Bryant talked about how exhausted he was; he was 27 years old, Curry’s is 28. He’s a jump shooter who knows how to pace himself in a game. But he is also the type of scorer that can have one of those special, special nights where everything goes in. He may not ever get to 81 but I’d bet before his career is over he hits 70.

photo via llananba