SAN FRANCISCO — Stephen Curry’s mouthpiece rage is gone, replaced by one of the silliest grins ever.
A triumphant smile, you might say, as it spread across Curry’s face shortly after the Warriors erased a 10-point deficit in the final six minutes of Wednesday night’s 122-120 win over the rival Memphis Grizzlies.
Curry stood in the hallway outside the Warriors locker room where he had been banished minutes earlier, watching his teammates leave. He slapped security director Yusef Wright and teammate/friend Andre Iguodala.
In the end, Jordan Poole approached the team’s touchstone, and his blind shooting was the source of Curry’s ire, leading to his ejection. Curry grinned. Poole responded with a smile. Poole then threw his mouthpiece, mimicking the Warriors’ two-point lead as Curry was ejected with 1:14 left.
Curry’s smile turned into a laugh, and he and Poole clapped and hugged. They stepped back, giggled again, and, well, fell into another hug.
“It was,” Curry said of JP’s toss, “like one of those ‘too fast’ jokes.”
It’s one of those meaningful moments for the team. Poole’s 29-foot field goal with 1:14 left and 13 seconds left in the game enraged Curry — and his coaches and teammates. JP later made up for it with a free-slip on a foul play and a layup with one second left.
game over. The same teammate who drives Curry crazy makes him happy. Everything is forgiven.
“Seeing these guys come back and get the job done? There’s a lot of celebration in the tunnel,” Curry said.
“We just hugged a little bit,” Poole said. “Obviously he’s our leader and we’d love to have him with us for the last 3 games, but we just found a way to hang on and play against a really good team. Great win. We have to keep the momentum going.”
The Curry-Poole dynamic is alternately painful and beautiful. Both are exceptionally talented point guards who can also play well off the ball. Both are prone to mistakes. Both are incredibly confident, but JP’s self-assurance shines in neon lights, while Steph builds a Hall of Fame career by using his humility as a cover to try to take down all his enemies.
Truth be told, JP is the 23-year-old heir to 34-year-old Stephen, who is, all things considered, the greatest warrior of all time. His shoes are that big, meanwhile, Curry and Poole must find ways to not only co-exist but share prosperity.
Like they did in the fourth quarter. Poole scored 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting, including 1 from 3-point range, plus or minus 13 points in the quarter. Curry only lasted six minutes before getting thrown, but he scored 10 points without missing a shot and was +8.
“We desperately needed this win,” Curry said. “Not just because it’s Memphis and all the stories there, but that’s how we play. We’re trying to put together a solid performance and build some consistency, momentum and in the next few minutes, JP’s No. Four quarters out of the gate and made some big shots. He gave us some energy. I came in and tried to pick up where he left off.”
Naturally, Chase’s already high levels of anxiety soared when Curry left. That puts Klay Thompson and Poole in the spotlight. Who will the Warriors turn to?
Well, both. Thompson made a three-pointer with 14.6 seconds left to give Golden State a two-point lead. The Grizzlies responded, with Ja Morant driving into the lane and delivering a game-tying lob to Brandon Clarke with 6.3 seconds left.
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That set the stage for Poole, who got off Ziaire Williams, caught a Donte DiVincenzo inbounds pass and bounced the ball into the basket.
Joy filled the room. As for Poole’s ill-advised shot and Curry’s mouthpiece-throwing reaction, coach Steve Kerr forgave both players.
“It’s okay,” he said with a sheepish smile. “We won. We won. Let’s focus on the positive.”
indeed. All is well with a happy ending.
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