Steph Curry, Julius Randle at their zenithFriday, May 07, 2021
BY MARK ARCHER
The month of April was nothing short of astounding for Steph Curry and Julius Randle from the Golden State Warriors and the New York Knicks, respectively and based on how they started the month of May, there will apparently be no let-up anytime soon for any of their National Basketball Association (NBA) opponents.
There is very little argument that Curry, on any given night, can shoot 'lights-out' on any given court. The NBA has never seen a shooter of his calibre and it's impossible to find anyone else who has consistently made Hail Mary shots appear routine — Saturday night (May 1) against the Houston Rockets was living proof.
Curry scored just seven points in the first half but went berserk in the third quarter for 23 points, helping the Warriors outscore the Rockets 39-12 in the period. That outing was Curry's 32nd career quarter with at least 20 points (his sixth this season). He finished with 30 points for the game (32nd 30-point game of the season and the 15th in his last 17 games). Curry made seven of his 11 shots in the third quarter, including five of seven from three-point range and sat out the fourth quarter as his team cruised to 113-87 blowout victory.
The performance was only fitting as the Warriors arrived at the arena in matching “Mambacita” outfits in honour of the late Gianna Bryant who tragically lost her life with her father and basketball legend, Kobe Bryant, on January 26, 2020 in a helicopter crash — Saturday would have been Gianna's 15th birthday.
Los Angeles Lakers legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson currently holds the unofficial title of the greatest point guard in NBA history, and while a number of players (Oscar Robertson, Isiah Thomas, John Stockton, Chris Paul, and others) have edged close to him over the years, Curry must now be considered the number two and has a genuine opportunity to take the crown.
However, if you ask for the opinion of Washington Wizards' head coach Scott Brooks, the response would be totally different. He believes his current point guard Russel Westbrook is deserving of the accolade and is the second-best to ever play the position. Westbrook has been breaking records and had a night to remember against the Indiana Pacers on Monday (May 3) but lacks the ability to influence a game the way Curry does.
Westbrook finished with 14 points, 21 rebounds (career-high) and 24 assists (career-high) in the 154-141 victory over the Pacers — his second career game with at least 20 rebounds and 20 assists, making him the only player in NBA history to accomplish the feat more than once. He bagged his 32nd triple-double of the season in the win and is guaranteed to complete the season having averaged a triple-double for the fourth time in his career. Still, he resides in Curry's shadow, who led the Warriors to five-straight NBA Finals appearances and three titles.
Julius Randle, who was drafted in the seventh round by the Los Angeles Lakers in 2014, is having the best year of his career and his legacy continues to grow as the season progresses. The 26-year-old forward has led the Knicks to their best season in years, made his first All-Star Team and is peaking at the end of a regular season where teams are fighting to avoid the play-in tournament.
On Monday (May 3), the Knicks held off a late charge of the Memphis Grizzlies for a 118-104 victory and register their 12th win in the last 13 games. Julius Randle finished with 28 points and the 2011 NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) Derrick Rose had a season-high 25 points.
The win, with seven games to go, guaranteed that the Knicks will have a winning season for the first time since 2013 when they finished as the No 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. In the seven seasons since then, they have gone a combined 184-374 and have not made a single play-off appearance.
They are also guaranteed a trip to (at least) the play-in tournament and could possibly secure an automatic place in the postseason by finishing in the top-six. Following the win over Memphis on Monday, the Knicks occupied the fourth seed and had a three-game lead on the 7th-place Boston Celtics.
Come what may, the Knickerbockers only won 38 games in the past two seasons combined and, up to Monday, they had already won 37 this season – an incredible turnaround that has Madison Square Garden rocking again.
With the NBA regular season slated to end on May 16 and each team having only a handful of games to play, each remaining encounter will have a play-off feel (especially for teams vying for the top-six placings in each conference).
The 'Play-In Tournament' (for the teams seeded seven to 10) takes place May 18-21 and if the season ended today, the Portland Trail Blazers, Warriors, Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs would be fighting in the West for the last two play-off spots. In the East the Celtics, Charlotte Hornets, Indiana Pacers and Wizards would have a similar battle.
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Brooklyn Nets 3.30
Los Angeles Lakers 4.60
Los Angeles Clippers 5.60
Milwaukee Bucks 8.80
Utah Jazz 8.80
Philadelphia 76ers 12.00
Phoenix Suns 14.00
Denver Nuggets 24.00
Miami Heat 35.00
Boston Celtics 40.00
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