Stephen Curry scored 50 points in a record-shattering performance Sunday to send the defending champion Golden State Warriors into the second round of the NBA playoffs, while a Jimmy Butler ankle injury raised tensions for the triumphant Miami Heat.
Stephen Curry, a four-time NBA champion and two-time NBA Most Valuable Player, was nearly unstoppable as the Warriors advance after winning 120-100 at Sacramento to capture their best-of-seven Western Conference series 4-3.
“I just wanted to come out and look for shots early, get my teammates going throughout the game,” Curry said. “But when I’m looking for shots, it usually works in our favor.”
The 35-year-old guard delivered an incredible performance, hitting 20 of a career-high 38 shot attempts and going 7-of-18 from 3-point range and 3-of-5 from the free-throw line.
“It was about being aggressive,” Curry said. “I got 38 shots for a reason. We started to see where the holes were and I could be ultra-aggressive and it worked.”
Curry also added eight rebounds and six assists.
“Steph was elite. He put these guys on his back and said, ‘We’re not losing,'” Kings coach Mike Brown said. “Give Steph a ton of credit for doing exactly what he’s supposed to do. Heck of a performance.”
Curry’s 50 points were a career playoff-high and the most points in any NBA game seven — breaking the old mark of 48 set by Kevin Durant for Brooklyn in a 2021 loss to Milwaukee.
“What an incredible all-time performance,” Curry’s backcourt teammate Klay Thompson said. “This is a game seven I’ll forever remember as the Steph Curry game.”
The Warriors next face LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers in a Western Conference semi-final matchup starting on Tuesday. Golden State faced a James-led Cleveland in four straight NBA Finals, winning three of them.
“It’s special from the first series we played him in Cleveland,” Curry said. “We’re blessed to be playing at this level still and excited about a new chapter.”
In Sunday’s other playoff contest, Butler scored 25 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead Miami over the host New York Knicks 108-101 in their Eastern Conference second-round opener but suffered a right ankle injury.
The series continues Tuesday in New York but Butler’s status will steal the spotlight until then.
“No idea,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “You just don’t know with ankle sprains. I don’t even know if we will know more by tomorrow. We’ll just have to wait and see. It will be a waiting game.”
Asked how the ankle felt, Butler said, “Like a rolled ankle.”
At Sacramento, the Kings had no answer for Curry in the winner-take-all battle. After 20 first-half points, he pressed the attack in the third quarter as the Warriors pulled away along with Kevon Looney, who grabbed 21 rebounds.
“It’s huge for us,” Curry said. “In each series, he makes an impact. It’s not loud. It’s all the dirty work and we love him for it.”
Thompson completed a four-point play with 1.4 seconds remaining in the third quarter to give Golden State a 91-81 edge entering the fourth. The Warriors stretched the lead to 104-83 with 6:30 remaining and cruised from there.
Domantas Sabonis led the Kings with 22 points but had only six in the second half.
Heat sizzle late
There was an intense atmosphere at Madison Square Garden, which had not seen a second-round playoff contest since 2013.
The game and Butler’s ankle turned when Butler fell to the court with the Heat up 95-92 and 5:05 to play.
As Butler planted his right foot to drive to the basket, falling Knicks defender Josh Hart’s foot struck Butler’s foot. Butler limped to the bench but returned to make two free throws and remained in the game.
“He did not want to come out of the game so we left him in,” Spoelstra said.
Often standing in a corner far from the run of play, Butler was largely stationary.
“Find a way to win,” Butler said of his reason for staying on the court. “Be out there. Be a presence. I didn’t do too much except airball a three. But I’ll take the dub (W).”
Butler’s teammates stepped up. Gabe Vincent made a 3-pointer and Bam Adebayo and reserve Kyle Lowry, who scored 12 of his 18 in the second half, added hoops in a pivotal 7-0 run for a 104-94 Miami edge.
Banner image from Golden State Warriors on Twitter.