Stephen Curry scores a career-high 54 points as Warriors lose to Knicks

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There are nights when guys get hot, and there are nights where guys are simply on fire.

Stephen Curry gave us an exciting taste of the latter on Wednesday, pouring in a career-high 54 points while absolutely shooting the lights out, knocking down 11 of his 13 attempts from three-point distance.

Curry’s amazing performance wasn’t enough to give his Warriors the win; it was only enough to give them a fighting chance. Behind 35 points from Carmelo Anthony and 26 from J.R. Smith, the Knicks held on for the 109-105 victory.

It was the Warriors’ second straight loss, and even though they both came on the road against two of the top teams in the East, they won’t be any easier for Curry to swallow. He scored 38 in the loss to Indiana on Tuesday, giving him 92 points combined in the back-to-back set.

Golden State was playing without David Lee in this one, who was serving a one-game suspension for his role in the altercation that involved several players from both teams in Tuesday’s loss to the Pacers. As a result, the Warriors had zero presence in the paint, which led to a ridiculous 28-rebound night for Tyson Chandler inside.

That left the responsibility on Curry’s shoulders, and he delivered in a way we haven’t seen in some time.

The 54 points were the most scored by an opponent in Madison Square Garden since 2009, when Kobe Bryant and LeBron James scored 62 and 52 respectively in consecutive games there. Curry’s total is also now the high score in a single game by any player this season, surpassing the 52 points that Kevin Durant scored on Jan. 18 in Dallas.

Curry started things off with just four points in the first quarter, but really got rolling in the second, where he put up 23 points on 7-10 shooting, including 4-5 from beyond the three-point arc.

He notched 11 more points in the third on 4-5 shooting overall, while hitting all three of his three-point shots in the period. And in the fourth, Curry dropped in 16 more on 5-7 shooting, and made all four of his three-point attempts.

Curry finished 18-28 from the field, and added seven assists, six rebounds, and three steals, while playing the entire game — all 48 minutes.

His night wasn’t perfect, however, as he made a couple of critical mistakes late that helped the Knicks come away with the victory. The first came with 3:13 remaining and the Warriors clinging to a one-point lead, when Curry left his feet and turned the ball over while attempting to make a difficult cross-court pass that was picked off by Iman Shumpert. The ensuing possession resulted in a three-pointer from Anthony that gave the Knicks the lead.

And then, with 1:28 remaining and the game all tied at 105, Curry forced a shot attempt while facing one-on-one defensive coverage from Raymond Felton. Felton played Curry perfectly, and ended up blocking his jumpshot a good 20 feet from the basket. Curry did not attempt a shot the rest of the game.

It was a solid win for the Knicks, who overcame Curry’s otherworldly performance with a more balanced team effort offensively, and a dominant performance on the offensive glass. New York had 27 second-chance points to just two for the Warriors, and those offensive rebounds late in the game, especially in the last three minutes, were ultimately the difference.

Celtics’ Kyrie Irving: “It was a nice streak. But it was time to come to an end.”

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The Celtics established themselves as one of the NBA’s elite teams, a contender for the Eastern Conference title, during their 16-game win streak.

However, that hot streak to start the season will matter as much as Thanksgiving leftovers in the back of the refrigerator in April by the time the playoffs roll around. This is a team that still has work to do.

Which is what Kyrie Irving was getting at in this post-loss quote from Friday night, via Israel Gutierrez of ESPN.

“There’s still a lot to accomplish going forward,” Irving said. “It was a nice streak. But it was time to come to an end.”

This team still needs to get better and more consistent. The Celtics had to come from behind in the fourth quarter in eight of the 16 wins, and while the team defense was impressive the offense still can be hit and miss. Al Horford and Kyrie Irving play well off each other, but this is still the 20th ranked offense in the NBA. They are taking more long midrange jumpers than most coaches want, but the bigger challenge is they have not been finishing around the basket.

Titles are not won in November. Irving gets that. Jayson Tatum will hit the rookie wall at some point (they all do) and he needs to prove he can break through. Al Horford is playing maybe the best ball of his career and needs to keep it up. The Celtics need to keep their defensive focus (the fundamentals are there to have a top five defense). I could go on but you get the point, and so does Irving — there is a lot of work for this team to do.

Boston is off to a fantastic start, but it’s just that.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich: I’ve never seen injury like Kawhi Leonard’s

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Gregg Popovich is a basketball lifer.

He’s the NBA’s most experienced active head coach. Before that, he was the Spurs’ general manager. Before that, he was an NBA assistant. Before that, he was a college head coach and assistant. Before that, he was a college player. Before that, he was a youth player.

The San Antonio coach has seen everything.

Except the right quadriceps tendinopathy suffered by Kawhi Leonard, whom Popovich said more than a week would return “sooner rather than later.” Yet, Leonard still hasn’t played this season.

Popovich, via Michael C. Wright of ESPN:

“Never, never,” Popovich said when asked whether he has seen such a condition hampering one of his players. “What’s really strange is that [point guard] Tony [Parker] has the same injury, but even worse. They had to go operate on his quad tendon and put it back together or whatever they did to it. So to have two guys, that’s pretty incredible. I had never seen it before those guys.”

“I keep saying sooner rather than later,” Popovich said jokingly. “It’s kind of like being a politician. It’s all baloney, doesn’t mean anything.”

The 26-year-old Leonard is one of the NBA’s biggest on-court stars. He might be the league’s best defender, and he has built himself into an offensive force. The Spurs (11-7) have fared fine without him so far, but they’ll need him to accomplish their main goals – this year and beyond.

Hopefully, Leonard’s health is better than it sounds here, because Popovich’s answer sure isn’t encouraging.

Tim Hardaway Jr. calls fallen ref safe rather than defend shot (video)

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The Knicks went on a 28-0 run.

They earned the right to showboat late in their win over the Raptors last night.

Tim Hardaway Jr. called a ref, who slipped on the baseline, safe rather than contest Serge Ibaka‘s 3-pointer. Perfection!

Luc Mbah a Moute sets modern record at +57 in Rockets’ win over Nuggets

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Luc Mbah a Moute is a quietly good player.

He’s an effective and versatile defender. Offensively, he shoots 3-pointers well enough to score efficiently and spread the floor. Most of all, the 31-year-old just understands how to play and plays within himself. His teams tend to perform better when he’s on the floor.

That’s an understatement for Wednesday night.

In a 125-95 win, the Rockets outscored the Nuggets by a whopping 57 points in Mbah a Moute’s 26 minutes. That’s the best single-game plus-minus in the Basketball-Reference database, which dates back to the 2000-01 season. It tops Joe Smith’s +52 in a 2001 Timberwolves win over the Bulls, a 53-point game that also produced a +50 for Wally Szczerbiak and +48 for Terrell Brandon.

Mbah a Moute’s traditional stat line was impressive, though not overly so: 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting with four rebounds, four steals and an assist. He played well, contributing to winning in all the small ways he often does, and the Rockets happened to play excellently around him.

Now, Mbah a Moute tops the leaderboard in single-game plus-minus since 2000-01:

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