Steph Curry

Steph, Kerr puzzled why NBA play-in stats vanish into thin air

NBC Universal, Inc.

SAN FRANCISCO – Amelia Earhart, D.B. Cooper and Jimmy Hoffa shouldn’t be associated with Steph Curry, LeBron James or Jayson Tatum, but in the case of the NBA Play-In Tournament, they might as well be.

Like Earhart, Cooper and Hoffa’s disappearances forever being three of the world’s greatest mysteries, historic performances in the play-in tournament go poof and vanish after the final buzzer.

Curry’s 37 and 39 points in the play-in tournament three years ago can’t be found on his Basketball-Reference page. The same goes with James’ triple-double of 22 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists against the Warriors in the arena formerly known as STAPLES Center, and Tatum dropping 50 points against the Washington Wizards on the same night.

The play-in tournament isn’t the regular season nor the playoffs, but somewhere in between – let’s call it the postseason for journalistic points – where stats are written in invisible ink.

“These are playoff games,” Steve Kerr said Monday after Warriors practice when asked by NBC Sports Bay Area what the league should do about play-in tournament stats. “I can’t believe they’re not included in the stats. The stats just disappear into the ether, it’s crazy.”

Curry quite literally could score 101 points Tuesday night against the Sacramento Kings, write the number on a single sheet of paper, take his best Wilt Chamberlain picture by his locker and the stats will never count.

When NBC Sports Bay Area reached out to an NBA spokesperson asking why that is, how the decision was made and if it might change down the road with the play-in clearly being here to stay, the response back was simply “The NBA Play-In Tournament is separate from the NBA Playoffs, so the statistics are not part of the playoffs or regular season.”

Playing 40 minutes for a team that was without Klay Thompson for the second straight season, featured Kent Bazemore in the starting lineup and saw Juan Toscano-Anderson, Mychal Mulder and a Year 2 Jordan Poole come off the bench, Curry did all he could in two 2021 play-in games but the Warriors still fell victim to the Los Angeles Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies. In two games, he totaled 76 points and made 12 3-pointers. Not enough.

Individual box scores for such games can be found. The competitive animal within Curry wishes he was never in those two situations for us to shake our heads at the highlights, and is more than fine with his stats being zapped by a Men In Black neuralyzer.

“I really don’t care, because hopefully you’re not in the play-in that often where it becomes something you’re aware of," Curry said. "I hate the fact that there’s a history of performances there. It’s our job to try and stay out of that each year, but that’s the hand we’re dealt.

“It’s kind of a weird kink in the system.”

Curry also had fun with the oddity, too.

“Sounds like I might be like the leading play-in scorer, if that’s a stat,” Curry said.

Per the Elias Sports Bureau to NBC Sports Bay Area, Curry’s 76 play-in points actually are the sixth-most since the inaugural play-in tournament game in 2020. The current format was adopted the next season when Curry and the Warriors were part of it. Jonas Valanciunas (100 points), CJ McCollum (94 points), Ja Morant (90 points), Brandon Ingram (87 points) and Trae Young (87 points) are the five players ahead of Curry.

However, Curry is the only player in the top-10 of total play-in points to have done so in just two games.

Valanciunas has been part of six play-in games, and McCollum has played in four. Morant, Ingram and Young all have had three cracks at it. Curry’s 38.0 points per game are the best among anybody who has played a minimum of two play-in games.

If Curry’s point totals were to count towards his career playoff stats, he would become the 11th player ever to score at least 4,000 playoff points. His points per game average would increase slightly, from 27.0 points to 27.1. Curry already is far and away the NBA’s all-time 3-point leader in the playoffs at 618, but adding another 12 would make his threes per game in the playoffs increase from 4.20 to 4.23, and his 3-point percentage would go from 39.7 percent to 39.8 percent.

Every percentage point counts when a player unties the laces of their sneakers one final time.

The NBA’s league-wide 90-feet by 50-feet eraser wiping away play-in stats also sarcastically serves as a saving grace for Kerr while the Warriors coach looks to avoid going 0-3 for his career in the tournament Tuesday night in Sacramento.

“If I have a terrible coaching job tomorrow night and I completely screw up the whole game, at least it’s invisible and nobody will even notice,” Kerr said.

Reminded what his record would be if the Warriors were to be on the losing end again, Kerr let his smirk do the talking before responding “What play-in? I don’t remember that.”

Neither do the NBA history books.

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