“The buzz inside Madison Square Garden was reminiscent of Michael Jordan in his prime and, more recently, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.” – Frank Isola, NY Daily News
Many people know that one of my goals is to attend a baseball game at every Major League Baseball stadium. At this point, I am in the teens, so there are plenty more to go. A compliment to my love of the uniqueness of baseball stadiums, is my affinity for iconic stadiums and arenas. I have visited far fewer of those, but they are no less intriguing to me. Places like Lambeau Field, Soldier Field, Stamford Bridge, and Madison Square Garden are a few of those locations that I would really love to go. Last week I was able to check Madison Square Garden off that list in grand style.
For this excursion I was joined by Mo Money, Mo Hart who would serve as the person that put up with my ramblings throughout the game as well as my subway guide. We left work in Brooklyn and did a quick change routine at the ‘Yard and then bolted for the 1 train. After a stop or two we opted to hop off the 1 and over to the 3 to MSG. Why do I mention this? Because we had no clue what we were doing. But our dumb-luck was in full effect because the 3 turned out to be an express whose next stop was Madison Square Garden. That was the first indication that things were breaking our way. The second was when we arrived and realized that we were not late when we thought we would be. Score another one for the good guys. So at this point it was a good opportunity to see if we could find any souvenirs for MMMH’s lady friend (perhaps at her suggestion) and the official offspring of yours truly. We wrapped that up and decided to set our sights on some food. MSG has quite a variety of local choices such as an outpost of the Carnegie Deli, but as we discussed…if your first taste of the Carnegie Deli is at the Garden, it isn’t the same thing. (And the even larger factor was that the line was ridiculous). So after we nabbed some nice chicken strips and seasoned waffle fries, we headed to our seats.
During warm-ups we started to just take in the sights and sounds. I’ll be honest… I was grinning. It was really cool to be there. Now, I’m sure that most folks would prefer to have been there Sunday for the Heat/Knicks game, but I was plenty happy just getting to see A game. Mo Hart and I had pretty mild expectations for the game. We hoped for a close one, but didn’t expect anything special. It’s not like the Knicks vs. Warriors is what people set their DVRs to record (even though we realized once we got there that it was the ESPN game so we hoped that would signal something good). Of course, my personal bias toward my beloved Yellow Jackets made this a little more enjoyable since the Warriors’ Jarrett Jack and Knicks’ Iman Shumpert are both Tech grads. The most interesting part of the pre-game was realizing that Shumpert is apparently the ringleader of the Knicks’ pre-game hype machine. Who knew that a Sociology major from an Engineering school would do some weird floor routine to get his teammates ready?!
The first quarter played out as though it would be a “ho-hum” kind of night. The Knicks came out shooting pretty well. Golden State was coming off a rough night the previous night having been involved in a fight and having their #1 rebounder suspended for the night and they looked like they were suffering from a sort of hangover. So after one quarter NY had a 9 point lead, Steph Curry (the Warriors’ best player) had only 4 points and MMMH and I had only had to stand up 3 times to let people out of our row.
Now here’s where things started getting interesting. A few minutes into the quarter it became clear that Curry was beginning to warm up and the Warriors were starting to make things interesting. With a couple of minutes to go there was a buzz starting to build in the Garden. Curry was beginning to hit, seemingly, everything he put up from the outside. Meanwhile, Tyson Chandler was dominating the glass, giving New York a multitude of second and third shot opportunities. In the second quarter, Curry poured in 23 points by himself and pulled Golden State within 3 at the break. Almost equally amazing was the fact that Tyson Chandler had 18 rebounds in the first half. And MMMH and I had to get up 6 more times for people to get out of our row. (Ok, I’ll let it go, but some of those people needed to learn to hold it!)
It was interesting to talk with folks around us at the half. It was clear that, while they loved their Knicks, they were starting to wonder/hope to see something special from Curry. The whispers were, “You think he’ll hit 40? 45? Dare we even say 50?”. Mo Hart and I exchanged hopes of Curry and the magic number of 50 as well. Of course, then we stopped our pondering long enough to enjoy the halftime show of 3 young girls (13 and under) showing that they had more singing skill than half of the finalists from American Idol this season. It was quite remarkable! Then I proceeded to snag a pretzel, and sweet talk my way into a free refill of my Souvenir beverage. Yes, things were going well.
It quickly became apparent that this night was turning into something very special. Early in the 3rd there was a sequence where you could tell that Steph Curry was feeling it so much that he made up his mind that he was shooting and then looked for a place to get it off, only the Knicks were double-teaming him so there were no openings. He then seemed to decide that he wanted to see just how hot he was so he stepped even further back and as he was twisting sideways just fired up a deep three. Nothing but net. The Garden exploded with a resounding “OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH!”. Everyone was feeling it. The best part was that the Knicks could feel it too and it ratcheted their energy as well. Each time Curry would hit a shot either Carmelo, J.R. Smith, or Raymond Felton would answer with a shot of their own. It turned into a prize fight. Punches and counter-punches took the form of three-pointers and slam dunks. The teams matched blows to the tune of an even third quarter, keeping the difference in the game at 3 points.
At this point there was a palpable buzz in the air. And nothing changed. Curry hits a 3. Curry hits a layup. Amare Stoudamire throws down a huge dunk. J.R. Smith hits a 3. Curry answers with another 3. Back and forth it went. Under 5 minutes to go there was another sequence of a Curry 3, Smith 3, Curry 3, Anthony 3. Once Curry got to 49 points you could tell that everyone there wanted to see Curry get 50 and then hope that the Knicks would hang on. No one was disappointed. Curry buried a 3 to cross the 50 point mark and give the Warriors a late lead, causing the everyone in the Garden (including Katie Holmes and Victor Cruz) to go crazy. But two jumpers by Anthony, one by J.R. and a key block by Felton sealed the game for the Knicks.
Now, you may be wondering if I’m simply making a bigger deal out of the game than it merits, but keep in mind the following:
- Curry’s 54 points are the most of any player this season.
- His 54 was the first 50+ point night at MSG since Lebron and Kobe did it back in ’09.
- Curry’s 11 3’s are 1 from the single game NBA record. And his 11 for 13 shooting was the highest shooting percentage of anyone who has hit 11 or more 3’s in a game.
Additionally, normal games don’t merit the flood of articles that came out the next day across the country. Here’re just a few in case you are interested:
And while we’re at it…here was some of the Twitter reaction that night:
- @BRush_4 – Watching Steph going off in person is beautiful
- @nate_robinson – @StephenCurry30 is ballllllllllllllllllinnnnnnnnnnn Jim jones voice
- @SportsNation – Steph Curry might not be human…
- @bball_ref – Steph Curry’s eFG% last night was .839, third best in a 50-point game. Only eclipsed by Dana Barros (3/14/95) and Glen Rice (4/15/95).
- @Ballislife – Steph curry is defining the term “make it rain” right now
- @AnthonyBain – Too bad it’s illegal to shoot from out-of-bounds because Curry would have a deadly inbounds shot. #HoopIdea
- @ESPNMag – Looks like Steph Curry has been reading our #AnalyticsIssue, which dubbed him the best outside shooter since … anyone. #NBA
- @wallyball – #StephCurry decided to play a video game tonight @TheGarden!!
- @TheRealJRSmith – @StephenCurry30 you are an All Star in my book any day! Unbelievable game bro! [Dang] 54 PTs in 48 min 11/13 from the 3! That’s work kid!
When your opponents are tweeting about your performance, you know you did some serious work!
As Mo Money, Mo Hart and I headed back down to the 1 train after the game we reflected on how unexpected and awesome that night’s experience was. We went in just hoping to enjoy the Garden and see a competitive game. We came out marveling that we’ll be able to be “those guys” who say “we were there” when people talk about that game in the future. It was an amazing night at The Garden.