Steph still feels butterflies, even as playoff veteran


SAN FRANCISCO – The days and hours before Stephen Curry’s 135th NBA playoff game won’t be much different than his first. The pit of his stomach reminds him of the stakes.

Even at 35, the proverbial butterflies still flutter and dance about in his gut.

“Absolutely,” Curry told NBC Sports Bay Area after practice Wednesday.

They’ll be there on Saturday, when the No. 6 seed Warriors step onto the court at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento to face the third-seeded Kings for Game 1 of a first-round of the Western Conference playoff series.

Sometime after tipoff, around 5:40 p.m., the insects will fly into the ether, just as they have in all the previous playoff games. As sure as they materialize in advance, they disappear when the sweating begins.

Always have, always will.

“Your level of preparation takes care of that once the game starts,” Curry said of that semi-queasy feeling leading up to Game 1. “It’s always there, though. Old heads used to say if it matters enough, you’ll have those. When it doesn’t, that’s when you start to worry.

“I definitely still have them. You embrace them. And then you just go out and hoop.”

That might be easier for Curry and some of his teammates than it will be for the starting lineup of the Kings.

All-Star point guard, the utterly electrifying De’Aaron Fox, is a six-year NBA veteran but will be making his postseason debut. Center Domantas Sabonis, a three-time All-Star, will be playing in his 13th playoff game, all of them first-round losses. Shooting guard Kevin Huerter has appeared in 23 postseason games, none with the Kings. Harrison Barnes is an 11-year veteran, but this is his first playoff appearance since 2016, when he was a member of the Warriors.

The Kings are young and fast and prolific, having led the league in scoring, averaging 120.7 points per game. Golden State, however, finished second, averaging 118.9 points per game. The offenses have a lot of similarities, surely rooted in the fact that Kings coach Mike Brown, in his first season in Sacramento, spent six seasons as the top assistant under Warriors coach Steve Kerr.

“They like to get up and down the floor, and so do we,” Curry said. “I’m sure the playoff atmosphere will be chaotic at first, with feeling each other out. But then you settle into whatever pace it presents itself to be.

“All it takes is for is a little bit of focus on taking care of the basketball and not feeding into their transition offense. They have a lot of weapons, and they play with a lot of speed. Obviously, D-Fox downhill is a problem.”

The most visible difference between the teams is experience, both regular season and postseason. The Warriors are built largely around Curry, with Draymond Green at one side and Klay Thompson at the other. Their average age is 34, and they’ve played a combined 34 seasons in the NBA – all as teammates.

The Kings are built around Fox and Sabonis, who have been teammates for a total of 94 games, not one in the playoffs.

Until Saturday. That’s when the Kings will confront Golden State’s wall of postseason wisdom.

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Curry’s postseason record is 93-41 and his first-round record is 25-9. Veteran teammates Draymond Green and Klay Thompson have identical postseason records, 102-43 overall and 31-11 in the first round. Kevon Looney is up to 64 playoff games, with a 46-18, including 12-4 in the first round.

Whereas the Kings, after making the playoffs for the first time since 2006, will be trying to ignore the pesky insects that signal anxiety, the Warriors and Curry are welcoming a familiar presence.

“Just allow yourself to have fun out there,” he said. “That experience is dope, no matter how it plays out.”

Six trips to the NBA Finals, four championships and thousands of butterflies later, the feeling is the same for Curry. The old heads didn’t have to tell him that.

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