Spark from the arc: Stephen Curry hits early and often

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OAKLAND¬†Calif. — Stephen Curry led the charge as the Golden State Warriors repeatedly stung the struggling Charlotte Hornets using the long ball to capture a decisive 126-111 victory.

In only three quarters, Curry erupted for a game-high 39 points on 14-of-20 shooting and hit 11-of-15 on 3-pointers. He was two 3s away from tying the NBA record he set earlier in the season on Nov. 7 against New Orleans. His 39 points without a single free throw are the most by a Warriors player since Rick Barry scored 40 points on April 4, 1977.

“Overall, just looking [to be] more aggressive,” Curry said. “Trying to score and put pressure on defenses in that respect, and it opens up a lot more for us as a team.”

Golden State (42-7) was 21-for-48 from long distance, three makes shy of the NBA record.

Klay Thompson had 29 points and was 6-of-10 from beyond the arc. Kevin Durant supplied 18 points, 8 boards and 8 assists. Draymond Green produced 8 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 blocks.

“Well, I mean they were just, you know, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson were just so dominant early,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said, “and we made some mistakes and they made us pay every time so that was tough.”

The Hornets were playing the second end of a back-to-back and looked like it from the outset. Golden State knocked down five relatively uncontested triples in the game’s first three minutes to go up 15-5. Clifford promptly called a timeout in an effort to delay the storm.

He had no such success. It couldn’t, and wouldn’t, be stopped. The 3s continued to pour in at a frequent rate, and the heads of the Hornets began to slump downward.

Curry connected on his first four triples and would drain six of them in the first quarter. At the end of the first period, the Warriors had made nine 3-pointers, the same number of total field goals the Hornets made. The Warriors matched their franchise record of nine 3-pointers in the opening quarter.

“Tonight it was one of those vibes where every shot I took in the first quarter, I knew when it left my hand that it was kind of going in,” Curry said. “It doesn’t happen like that every night. You feel it as it goes and just play the game.”

Entering the game, Curry was averaging 27.3 points all time against Charlotte (23-27). It’s his second-highest average versus any team. His father, Dell Curry, who is a broadcaster for the Hornets, continues to see some of his son’s best work up close and personal.

“It’s always cool obviously to see my dad on the sidelines commentating the game on their end,” Curry said, “and I get a little juiced from that too, but other than that, just make shots.”

The highlight of the evening occurred late in the second quarter, when Curry came off a screen with Marvin Williams chasing him.

Curry caught the ball on the right wing going to his left but then swiftly reversed course and drove hard to his right. Williams so desperately tried to take away Curry’s open look that he overcommitted and crumbled to the ground.

Williams made matters much worse when he attempted to get up to contest Curry’s step-back trey, but he crumbled again while trying to get back to his feet. Curry nailed the 3-pointer, and Williams got a nice hardwood view of the play.

“That was a great move,” Durant said. “That caught everybody by surprise … that’s a great move. He had it cooking today.”

Moments later, he brought the ball up the court, then causally and unexpectedly pulled up and shot from 31 feet out. It found the bottom of the net. Curry and Thompson combined to score 52 of the team’s 72 first-half points.

The back-to-back MVP closed out the third quarter with an off-balanced 3-pointer over multiple defenders.

“That’s amazing. You have to appreciate greatness,” Thompson said about Curry. “As a shooter, you really appreciate what he does. Whether it’s off the bounce, off the rim, midrange, 30 feet away, 50, 60, it’s spectacular.”

With the Warriors up 25, coach Steve Kerr elected to sit Curry to start the fourth. The way the Hornets were playing, there was no way they would have enough in them to trim the margin enough for a Curry return.

In the past three games, Curry is on a tear from 3-point range, shooting 26-of-42.

“You just know that Steph is capable of incredible games like tonight in streaks, stretches, whatever you want to call it, but he’s in a good groove,” Kerr said.

The Hornets are in the midst of a six-game losing skid, having lost 11 of their past 14 games. Second-year player Frank Kaminsky III led Charlotte with 24 points off the bench.

Golden State is 8-0 against Eastern Conference opponents at home this season. The Warriors will hit the road to face the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night.

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