OAKLAND — Steve Kerr has had a front-row view of Stephen Curry and his jaw-dropping skills on a basketball court over the last four-plus seasons.
Despite watching Curry perform at a near-absurd level over that span — which has included 13 three-pointers in a game and an NBA-record 17 points in an overtime period — Kerr is still amazed by the things his point guard can do.
On Wednesday night against the visiting New Orleans Pelicans, Curry shocked his coach again, hitting seven threes in the third quarter on his way to 41 points. Curry’s heroics would lead to a 147-140 win over New Orleans, Golden State’s sixth victory in a row.
“I can’t say that nothing he does surprises me anymore because tonight, that might have been the most unbelievable stretch, in terms of the difficulty of his shots,” Kerr said.
Less than 24 hours before Wednesday’s tip off, the Warriors (31-14) had polished off one of their most complete victories in the last four years: a 142-111 statement win over the Denver Nuggets.
Coming home for one night after competing at nearly a mile above sea level, it took the Warriors a bit to get adjusted to normal conditions.
“Man, it’s tough,” Golden State wing Alfonzo McKinnie said. “You could feel the burn in your lungs. I had to wait and catch my second wind.”
For the Warriors, catching their second wind took longer than expected as the Pelicans, who had an off day on Tuesday after a 121-117 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday night, took advantage early on.
With 8:46 remaining in the second quarter, Golden State trailed by as many as 17 points. New Orleans forward Nikola Mirotic carried much of the load as the former Chicago Bull led all scorers by halftime with 21 points while shooting 4-of-6 from three-point range.
“Mirotic had it going in the first half,” Kerr said. “When he’s shooting the ball for them, they’ve got the whole floor spaced and then you have to deal with [Anthony] Davis. They’re a handful.”
While the Warriors cut the Pelicans’ lead to only six by the break, their third quarter effort fell once more, allowing the Pelicans to push their advantage all the way back to 16 with 4:49 left in the period.
“Our defense was poor,” Kerr said. “But we were also playing against a team that puts a lot of pressure on you … I think that the back-to-back was apparent to me — to all of us as a staff.
“To play defense these days, it takes so much effort. You have so much court to cover, you’re in transition almost every play.”
Enter: Curry, who to that point in the third quarter had a total of 17 points on 3-of-8 shooting from distance.
Starting with a 26-footer in transition off of an Andre Iguodala assist, Curry would rattle off six consecutive 3-pointers.
Pulling up from as far out as 32 feet — in the middle of three defenders — Curry’s flurry helped turn a 16-point deficit into a one-point advantage by the end of the third quarter.
“It looked to me like they all were six-to-eight feet behind the 3-point line with a guy in his face,” Kerr said. “It’s insane what he does.”
With 23 points in the third quarter alone, Curry’s seven three-pointers gave him a grand total of nine triples in the game, making him the only player in NBA history to hit at least eight threes in three consecutive games.
“These are shots I work on. I have confidence in them,” Curry said. “It’s kind of just muscle memory. A lot is just finding a rhythm.”
In the fourth quarter, Golden State would falter briefly, allowing the Pelicans to regain the lead. But with a pair of threes from Draymond Green and a quarter of conscious defense, Golden State was able to grind out the win.
“We wouldn’t have won this game a month ago,” Kerr said, “We’re in a different place. We’re more connected now.”