Steph gets perfect birthday gift from Draymond’s return originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
SAN FRANCISCO — Steph Curry, in his 13th season, is used to hearing MVP chants from Warriors fans. Hell, sometimes the two-time NBA MVP hears them on the road.
As he stood at the free throw line with 2:55 remaining in the Warriors’ 126-112 win over the Washington Wizards on Monday night at Chase Center, Dub Nation began drowning out the home arena with a cohesive M-V-P as Curry swished his first free throw to give him 46 points. Then came a different chorus from the crowd.
“Hap-py birth-day! Hap-py birth-day!” was heard as Steph swished his second free throw, giving him his total of 47 points for the night.
It was a collective present to Curry from the 18,000-plus fans on his 34th birthday. No gift was greater than Draymond Green’s return after missing more than the last two months to a back injury.
“The game changed immediately when he got out there in a lot of different ways,” Steve Kerr said of Green. “It changed for Steph right away as soon as Draymond got out there. I think he had an assist to him like five seconds in.
“The chessboard changes with Draymond out there with Steph.”
Kerr surprised everyone before the game when he announced Green wouldn’t be in Golden State’s starting lineup. Due to his minutes restriction — he played 20 minutes and was a game-high plus-24 — Draymond came off the bench for the first time since April of 2014. He didn’t much time to find Curry.
Not at all.
He entered the game at 4:50 mark in the first quarter with the Warriors down 18-17. Kerr slightly exaggerated, but not by much. Just 11 seconds into his return, Curry hit his first triple, giving the Warriors a 20-17 lead. That was just the beginning, too.
Curry made all seven of his 3-pointers when he shared the floor with Green. He went 7 for 9 from deep with Draymond by his side and missed all five of his attempts when his point-forward was stuck to the sidelines.
“100 percent,” Kerr said without hesitation when asked if Curry’s 47-point scoring barrage coincided with Green being back.
For Steph and Draymond, this isn’t anything new. They’ve been doing this for a decade now, only getting better with time. Blindfold Green and he’ll get Curry the ball, right where he needs it.
You already know how this ends — three points, just like it did seven times against the Wizards.
Throughout his career, Green has seen both Curry and the other part of the Warriors’ Big Three, Klay Thompson, go through grueling injuries. Draymond himself never has missed this many games. As he has been itching to come back, one of the hardest parts of not being on the court has been watching his teammates work alongside Steph.
Nobody has the same silent chemistry as those two.
“I missed it a lot,” he said when asked about feeding Curry. “When I’m not out there and when I’m watching, I see things that can be done that can help him out. He’s the greatest shooter we’ve ever seen. But you still have to screen and you still have to find him in good spots and make sure he gets good shots and easy looks as opposed to tough looks all the time.
“I think the toughest thing for me is watching. I’m like, ‘Man, if you just went there! Ahh, if you just did this! Hey, you don’t see that!’ I think that’s the toughest thing for me: Just watching and knowing what could happen or what should happen.”
At 6-foot-6 and 230 pounds, Green is one of the most unique and different players the game has ever seen. The same goes with Curry. Some him as a point guard, some see him as a shooting guard and Portland Trail Blazers coach Chauncey Billups earlier this season called Steph the greatest “combo guard” of all time.
His combination of generational skills shine brightest with Green by his side, and as much as fans might not like it at times, that includes getting Curry off the ball.
To Draymond, that’s when the Warriors are at their most dangerous.
“It’s tough because it’s hard to focus on a guy when he’s off the ball,” Green explained. “You focus in on a guy floating off the ball if you want to. We got guys who can just get right downhill to the rim. So I think when he’s allowed to just roam off the ball, eventually you’re going to lose him.
“There’s nobody that can keep up with him. He moves so much. The moment you relax, he’s gone. When he can just float off the ball, it’s dangerous. … When he gets off the ball, I think that’s when the magic happens.”
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Curry’s 47 points were his second-most this season behind the 50-burger he dropped against the Atlanta Hawks in November. It was his highest total since the calendar flipped to 2022, and set a new career-high for points on his birthday, surpassing the 32 points he scored on his 33rd birthday last year.
Best birthday ever?
On the court, it has to be.
“I don’t know,” Curry said when asked that exact question. “I had a good time out there. Always get good juice and an appreciation for what I get to do with another year on this Earth playing this game. Just having fun, man.
“That’s what it’s all about.”
From Steph, to Draymond, Klay and the entire crowd, Curry brought the party to Chase Center and no gift can top having Green back out there finding him for open threes and putting on a show for all Warriors fans to take part in.
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