Charlotte, North Carolina, where Stephen Curry had a night to remember. Hosting 73 of his own personal guests tonight in Time Warner Cable Arena tonight, Curry put up 27 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists, in what was, for much of the night, a Stephen Curry shooting clinic. David Lee chipped in 25 points and 11 rebounds, and bench duo Carl Landry and Jarret Jack combined for 28.
The game saw the Warriors lead by double digits for nearly the entire game, often by 15+, and by as many as 21. It was in hand early, despite a late push by the Bobcats that eventually cut the lead to 6 in the game’s final moments.
For Curry, Charlotte is where he grew up. Where he watched his dad suit up nightly for the Charlotte Hornets. Dell Curry, now the Bobcats TV broadcast color analyst would be watching his son play from court side. Charlotte is where he was a high-school basketball star and just 20 miles down the road from where he turned himself into a household name. Steph, who purchased 73 tickets out of his own pocket for the game, would also have his own personal rooting section, as well as numerous other fans supporting the former Davidson star on their own dime. If any player in the NBA has a homecoming game, it’s Stephen Curry playing in Charlotte.
Tonight was about more than Curry, though. He was the featured star, on both a basketball and personal level, but the Warriors and Bobcats had many more underlying stories than just his own return to Charlotte.
Festus Ezeli got his first chance to play against Vanderbilt college teammate Jeff Taylor. Taken with consecutive picks (Ezeli 30th, Taylor 31st) in this past draft, the two late picks have found themselves in situations where they are starting on their new teams. Quite the accomplishment for both. Both had very poor games tonight, but it’s got feel good seeing each other doing so well this early in their respective careers.
Also stemming from the draft, the relative value and rivalry between lottery picks Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Harrison Barnes. Throughout the draft process, there was word of the two being highly competitive with one another. Being the two best SF prospects in the draft, they were competing for draft positioning. Tonight was each player’s first chance to out-do the other head to head. This match-up, though not featuring many exciting head-to-head moments, clearly favored MKG, the 2nd overall pick in the draft. Putting up 17 points, 7 boards and 3 assists, he far outdid Barnes who couldn’t seem to hit an open shot. Barnes also had his own, much smaller homecoming, as number 40 UNC jerseys were visible throughout the crowd.
Something that all of these story lines took away from was the game itself, and what it meant to either team. The Bobcats came in losers of 7 straight. The Warriors, winners of 3 straight on the road, and 7 of their last 8 overall. Through each team’s first 12 games, their records were identical at 7-5. So despite where they are now, both were teams exceeding expectations, with everyone else waiting for them to deflate. The Bobcats, they were who everyone thought the were. The Warriors, so far they’ve been everything the Bobcats wanted to be after their hot start.
With the Warrior win tonight, they’ve now won 4 straight road games, their longest road winning streak since 2007. It’s also their best start to a road trip since the 1978-1979 seasons, when they swept a 5-game roadie. They’re winning percentage has now reached .667 with an overall record of 14-7. It’s their best start since the 1991-1992 season, when the team won 55 games. So, more or less, blowout or not, the Warriors storybook season continues.
And now, they face the ultimate test. The defending champs, in Miami, and if you believe LeBron James, the Heat won’t be taking the Warriors lightly. Here’s to hoping it’ll at least be fun.
But for tonight, the Warriors can celebrate Curry’s first game played in Charlotte in nearly 2 seasons, after missing the game due to injury last year. And for Curry, it still appears to be home, sweet home.