INDIANAPOLIS — In the absence of a record-breaking performance from Steph Curry, the Warriors got double-digit contributions from five players in a stop-and-go, back-and-forth game to beat the Indiana Pacers and avoid their first losing streak of the season.
Curry sure got close.
He entered the game six 3-pointers behind Ray Allen’s all-time record and had pulled within two the by final minute of the fourth quarter. Trailing by five with 1:24 on the clock, Curry pulled up from 25 feet and drained it, pulling him within one of Allen and the Warriors within two of the Pacers, 100-98. On the following possession, Curry converted a wild drive to the rim that tied the game at 100.
He left it to Kevon Looney to win it.
It looked like Curry might tie the record while giving Golden State the lead. Draymond Green set a screen, and Curry got a clean look from 25, but it just missed. It acted as a pass to Looney, who grabbed the rebound and put it back to give Golden State a decisive 102-100 lead with 13 seconds left.
“I thought it was a gutty performance on a night when we struggled for much of the game,” coach Steve Kerr said afterward. “It felt like we led that game for maybe 2 minutes at the most, out of 48. So we were fortunate to come out with the win, but we earned it, too. We hung in there.”
The pursuit of the 3-point record now heads to Madison Square Garden with Curry (2,972) only two away from overtaking Allen (2,973).
Beyond Curry’s record chase, which heated up considerably more after halftime, there was little resembling professional basketball game Monday night inside Gainbridge Fieldhouse. The officiating crew was down a man due to COVID protocols. The arena was often so quiet that the squeak of sneakers dominated the soundscape. Even the public address announcer prematurely pronounced an end to the first quarter with 7 seconds still left on the clock.
Curry’s presence might typically negate that, but on this night, he started by missing a pair of wide-open 3-pointers and turned the ball over seven times. After the first quarter, the Warriors had more technical fouls called against them (2) than they had made 3-pointers (0). They finished the game shooting 8-of-30 (26.7%) from distance, with 17 turnovers, leading to 19 Pacers points.
The loudest moments came when Curry touched the ball. Fans were here to see history.
But Curry, who shot 8-of-20 and 5-of-15 from 3, left them wanting, even while leading the Warriors with 26 points and six assists.
“I think he’s been trying a little bit too hard the last few games, just trying to make 3s and get to this record,” Kerr said. “It’ll be a relief for him, I think, and for our team when he does break it. … A lot of (the turnovers) have been coming out of blitzes when he’s coming off pick and rolls. He just needs to make the simple pass. He knows that. But he’s kind of trying too hard.”
On more than one occasion, Curry was visibly frustrated with himself.
With 5:46 left in the first half, Curry pulled up from 29 feet and launched one of his worst bricks of the night and checked out of game at the next stoppage of play. During most of his time off the court, he laid flat on his stomach behind the baseline while a trainer stretched out his upper right leg. Upon re-entering, he lost his dribble on consecutive possessions and smacked his hands together in frustration.
Trapped near center court, Curry let go of a pass that, like Randy Johnson’s trademark “Mr. Snappy,” went flying out of bounds, intended for no one in particular. As he slowly walked to the bench, Juan Toscano-Anderson gave him a pat on chest, as if to say it was all good.
Before the game, Curry said his feelings toward the record chase were “somewhere in the middle” of stressed out and the joy for which he’s come to be known. He admitted the milestone is on his mind.
“I realize how much work’s gone into it, but there is a lot of attention and promotion,” Curry said. “I think about it a lot, but it’s not like you come out and you’re counting every time you make a 3 — 7, 8, whatever it is. Nothing really changes besides the anticipation of something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time.”
Andre Iguodala suggested this week that the hype behind the record and the attention it is generating was taking away from Curry’s enjoyment of the pursuit.
“It’s just like everyone’s trying to capitalize off the moment. I think it’s kind of taken away from his moment, you know what I mean?” Iguodala said. “That’s just a part of the new league. Everything’s a narrative. It’s just how you write it up and how many views it gets. I think it kind of takes away from the essence of the game at times.”
It if it wasn’t the highest quality basketball, it was at least interesting.
The teams traded leads nine times.
The Warriors surged ahead late in the first half with a 12-0 run capped by Jordan Poole clicking his heels and draining a 3-pointer to make it 39-36, but Golden State started to get sloppy, and the Pacers ended the half on a 15-4 run to retake the lead into intermission.
Draymond Green, who started the game by getting whistled for a technical foul on his first layup, began the second half with another driving layup, but this one kicked off a 20-12 run that tied the game at 67 by the midway point of the third quarter.
However, he had picked up his fourth personal foul only moments earlier and subbed out for the final 5:56 of the quarter, while the Pacers pulled ahead 84-80 by the time the final buzzer sounded. Despite the foul trouble, Green turned in one of his most assertive offensive performances to date, with a season-high 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting, to go with nine rebounds and five assists.
Looney, the Warriors’ other post presence against Indiana’s twin towers of Miles Turner and Domantas Sabonis, was also effective while playing extended minutes. With a season-high 14 points in 27 minutes, Looney scored in double figures for the fourth time this season and came one away from matching his career high.
Sabonis, however, proved to be a problem: the 6-11 center recorded a double-double with a game-high 30 points and 11 rebounds.