Warriors have a closer in Curry

Jackson on Curry: 'He did what big-time players do'

Warriors have a closer in Curry
December 12, 2013, 4:00 pm
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Stephen Curry's total fourth-quarter PAR average (points/assists/rebounds) of 12.0 leads the NBA. (AP)

Programming note: Rockets-Warriors coverage tips off Friday at 7 p.m. with Warriors Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area (territorial restrictions apply)

Too many of their first halves have been exercises in futility, rife with ghastly turnovers and sloppy defense and extended periods without getting a basket.

But the Warriors are developing a feel for the finish. The late rescue work typically begins, and often ends, with Stephen Curry.

Curry, who on Wednesday hit the game-winning shot to defeat Dallas, rapidly is becoming one of the most productive and reliable closers in the NBA. It may be a stretch to proclaim Curry the league's best closer, but it's no stretch at all to say nobody has been better.

“The basketball is going to be in his hands the majority of the time, and I trust him to make the right decisions,'' coach Mark Jackson said. “He did that (Wednesday) night and he's been doing it all year long. He's that good. I wouldn't ask him to do that if I didn't believe in his ability to take over ballgames. But he's been special this year.''

The league's most famed closer, Lakers star Kobe Bryant, missed the first five weeks and recently returned from offseason Achilles surgery. The Thunder has two solid options to close, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. The Rockets usually turn to James Harden, the Spurs to Tony Parker and the Clippers to Jamal Crawford.

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The Warriors are going to Curry and reaping rewards. Curry leads the NBA with a fourth-quarter scoring average of 8.9 points, ahead of Durant's 7.9. Curry's 2.0 assists average is second in the league, behind New Jersey's Deron Williams (2.5), who has played only six games.

Curry's total fourth-quarter PAR average (points/assists/rebounds) of 12.0 also is tops, too, ahead of Durant's 11.3 and, surprisingly, the Heat's Michael Beasley's 10.1.

The fifth-year point guard delivered against the Mavericks, with 33 points and 10 assists. More vividly illustrating his late-game impact, Curry delivered a 16-point fourth quarter during which he added three assists without a turnover. Of the 29 points scored by the Dubs, he was directly involved in 23.

It's becoming customary. In the epic Dec. 3 comeback victory over Toronto, a game in which the Warriors trailed by 27, Curry submitted a 14-point, five-assist fourth quarter. In a tight game at Sacramento on Dec. 1, Curry orchestrated the victory on both ends of the floor, including a 12-point final quarter.

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These closeouts have come even as opponents realize it's Curry they must contain.

“If you get up into Steph and make him play off that 3-point line, he has such a wide array of shots, with both hands, that he becomes a very tough cover,'' Kings coach Michael Malone said after that Dec. 1 game. “He made a couple circus shots. He's a terrific talent.''

Curry sealed that win, made difficult by a late Kings rally, making two free throws with 8.6 seconds on the clock.

“Lately, he's acted like he's the best player on the floor,'' Jackson said. “He's been incredible. I love the way he's being patient, picking and choosing his spots. And at the end of the game, he's embracing having the basketball in his hands and making big-time plays for us.

“The best players on the floor act like it. They don't run and hide. And it's not about making the game-winning shot. It's about making plays.''

Curry's game-winner on Wednesday may have been the first of his career, but Curry has solidified his status as a late-game go-to guy capable of finding a way to win.