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Stephen Curry gets mad, then gets even in a hurry

Angered by a non-call early in the fourth quarter, Warriors' superstar unleashes a 9-point flurry in 75 crucial fourth-quarter seconds.

Stephen Curry gets mad, and takes it out on the court, drilling the Clippers for nine points in a 75-second fourth-quarter span.

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LOS ANGELES — This time, Stephen Curry liked what the sound of the whistle meant.

The Golden State Warriors’ star made yet another 3-pointer, his seventh and ultimately final of the day. And by that point, LA Clippers coach Tyronn Lue had seen too much. Well before the Warriors’ 105-90 win over the Clippers on Sunday at Staples Center became official, Lue called a timeout.

Curry had just given the Warriors a 95-77 lead with 5:20 left, after scoring nine points within a 75-second span. After nearly sitting down on a courtside fan, Curry stood up and pressed his right hand against his left fingers to form a “T”.

Given the state of Curry’s emotions, the gesture could have meant two things: 1) Did Curry just illustrate with body language that Lue called a timeout? 2) Or did Curry mock an official with the gesture, after collecting a technical foul moments earlier?

“You can decide,” Curry said with a grin afterwards. “Open for interpretation.”

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What’s not open to interpretation: plenty of Curry’s performance in points (33), shooting from the field (12-for-22) and from 3-point range (7-for-13) as well as assists (six) and steals (six) all traced back toward playing with an edge.

He became irritated earlier in the fourth, when officials did not call a foul with 9:07 left, after he drew contact from Clippers forward Terance Mann. With the Warriors holding a 79-70 lead,  racing out on a 2-on-1 fast break, Otto Porter Jr. connected a pass to Curry near the basket. Curry went up for an under-handed right layup, and Mann jumped up, making contact with Curry’s right shoulder and arm; he tumbled to the floor without hearing a whistle.

Curry to sprung up off the ground, pumping out his right arm toward the official. He yelled for a foul, adding a few expletives, and quickly received the technical. Even after Warriors teammate Juan Toscano-Anderson pushed Curry away from the official, he walked back toward halfcourt while still expressing displeasure.

“I thought I got fouled,” Curry said. “So I let my emotions go. It definitely fired me up and fired our team up.”

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Curry also seemed fired up to show he can excel on defense, too. After fielding criticism about his defense for most of his 13-year NBA career, Curry impressed the Warriors so much with his six steals, eight deflections and overall hustle that they acknowledged viewing him more as a defensive asset than a liability.

“He’s one of the best defenders we have on our team now,” said Warriors forward Draymond Green, who is an early candidate to collect his second Defensive Player of the Year honor this season. “It’s beautiful to watch. When he’s giving the type of effort that he gives on that side of the floor, everyone else has to follow. It makes our defense that much better.”

The other thing that makes the Warriors better?

Curry has led the Warriors (18-2) to the NBA’s best record not just because of his strong marksmanship, effort and basketball IQ. Curry knows how to play with an edge. Curry knows how to play with anger. He may have cemented himself as a generational talent that plays off of joy and empowers others around him with positive reinforcement. Yet, Curry also plays with a chip on his shoulder after being overlooked as a high school prospect, an undersized college phenom and an injury-riddled player during the beginning of his NBA career.

Since collecting three NBA titles and shattering numerous shooting records, Curry plays with both an inner confidence about his skills and an inferiority complex about ensuring they never erode. So even if Curry often smiles and does not become consumed with pettiness, push his buttons on your own peril.

The Warriors, Clippers and officials all witnessed the fury of a patient man.

“That’s my first time seeing it live,” Warriors third-year guard Jordan Poole said. “I’ve seen him throw a mouthpiece before, but I haven’t seen it live.”

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Curry threw his mouthpiece at a fan inadvertently after he became upset with a foul call in Game 6 of the 2016 NBA Finals. Curry also chucked his mouthpiece at an official inadvertently in the final minute of a regular-season loss in Memphis in 2017-18 after arguing Mike Conley fouled him on a made layup attempt. The NBA fined Curry for both incidents in the NBA Finals ($25,000) and the 2017-18 regular-season game ($25,000). The Warriors also conceded both times that Curry should have handled his emotions better.

This time? The Warriors justified Curry’s behavior.

“That was great, and deserved,” Green said. “You saw the play?”

The Warriors sure did.

“He clearly got fouled,” Kerr said. “Steph is a guy who is just so competitive. When he knows he got fouled, especially on a play like that in transition where it’s right out in the open easy to see and he doesn’t get the call? Every once in a while, he’s going to snap. He doesn’t do it often. When he knows he’s right, the competitor in him always comes out. He’ll kind of lose his mind a little bit. But it often spurs him like it did in this instance.”

The Warriors predicted this would happen. They already saw Curry score 13 points in the first half while going 3-for-7 from deep. They already saw Curry score seven more third-quarter points. And given Curry’s career track record, Kerr knows that his scoring outbursts “can come out of the blue.”

But after Curry’s outburst against the officials? They sensed this wouldn’t be random. Consider what Green told Poole shortly after Curry collected the technical. “He’s about to put one up,” Green said. Curry put more than one up.

He scored 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting after the technical. It could have been more had officials not called Nemanja Bjelica for an offensive foul just as Curry drilled a corner 3 on the ensuing possession. The official start would soon follow: Curry made a 33-footer at the top of the key. Then Curry moved off a pick-and-roll and sank a 27-footer. And finally, on a fast break, Curry breezed past Reggie Jackson and Eric Bledsoe before sinking a corner 3. That play prompted Lue to call the timeout. That play prompted Curry to throw up a “T” sign of his own.

“I laugh afterwards,” Curry said. “It’s competition. It’s intensity. It’s desire because I want it so bad. You get into certain situations, where you know it’s a playoff-type atmosphere and it’s a grind-it-out type of mood. Whatever it takes to get going. Once the spark is lit and I let the emotions fly?

“However long it lasts, as soon as there’s an intentional moment or voice in your head, then it’s all right. Let’s play basketball. I love to control that moment. If you don’t, then it spirals into doing something other than what you’re supposed to be doing out there and you overdo it.”

Curry rarely struggled in that department offensively. He’s now tied for the league lead in points per game (28.6), joining Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant atop the field. He surpassed Scottie Pippen for 62nd on the NBA’s all-time scoring list with 18,945 points. And now, with 105 3-pointers through 19 games this season, Curry has eclipsed his own record of making 100 3s through 20 games, accomplished in both the 2015-16 and ’18-19 seasons.

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As far as defense, though? The Warriors admitted that Curry overdid things.

“He used to reach a lot,” Green said. “He’d be in great position to reach and foul. We used to harp on him and say, ‘Stop reaching, stop reaching.’”

The Warriors don’t say that anymore. In the past two years, they have touted him as an underrated defender that has used his basketball smarts, effort and chip on his shoulder to prove he can also defend.

“He’s been great defensively all year,” Kerr said. “I hope people are recognizing it. Everyone obviously locks in on his offensive brilliance, as they should. But he had six steals, eight deflections and just all over the place. For whatever reason, he has a reputation of being a poor defender. I don’t see that at all. I think he’s a really good defender. He’s been great defensively all year this year.”

Analytics still might depict Curry as a poor defender. Those numbers might be enough to undercut any hopes for Curry to make an All-Defensive team. But that does not mean Curry is a weak link.

Green described Curry as “one of the strongest guys on the team right now” because of devoted discipline in the weight room. Consider how Curry played with such an edge and purpose against the Clippers.

He recorded all six of his steals by disrupting passing lanes instead of just gambling. He converted one of those steals into a fast-break layup. And he funneled defenders toward Green and Kevon Looney.

“I know me doing my job looks a whole lot better when you got Draymond and Loon behind you,” Curry said. “If I do my part, good things happen.”

As the Warriors, Clippers and officials saw on Sunday, good things also happen for Curry when he becomes angry. That should leave the Warriors feeling happy and their opponents feeling terrified.

Mark Medina is a senior writer/analyst for You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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