Two of Stephen Curry’s three career ejections have come because he threw his mouthguard into the stands. Wednesday’s outburst, somehow, came in a Warriors victory.
With 1:18 remaining and the Warriors up two points, Jordan Poole jacked up a 30-foot jumper while Golden State had a 14-second shot clock. Curry was clapping for the ball as Poole rose to fire, and trotted back on defense with his shoulders slumped. Four seconds after Poole’s ill-advised misfire, Curry shucked his mouthpiece to the baseline.
“It was a crucial time in the game, and the way that our season has gone, there’s a heightened sense of urgency,” Curry said. “Every detail matters. And when you want something really bad, just getting a win, fourth quarter execution, clutch time type situation — all that stuff does matter. So I reacted in a way that obviously put myself out of the game and put my team in a tough place. But the intentions and the energy around what matters, in a sense of winning, that’s what it’s all about.”
Curry finished with a game-high 34 points, but his ejection nearly cost Golden State the game.
“He knows he can’t make that mistake,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said postgame.
Curry’s backcourt running mate, Klay Thompson, sank a clutch 3-pointer and Poole went from goat to hero as he slipped to the basket on a perfectly executed out of bounds play for a game-winning layup. Without Curry for the final 74 seconds, the Warriors escaped with a 122-120 victory.
Aside from the obvious, Curry knows not to toss his mouthpiece because he’s felt the ramifications for it before. In Game 6 of the 2016 NBA Finals against Cleveland, the two-time MVP got tossed for chucking his mouthguard into the crowd.
After the game, though, Curry drew a distinction between that instance and Wednesday’s.
“I remember in 2016 when I threw it, I hit somebody so it was a clear situation,” Curry said. “This one, I’m sure he just saw how hard I threw it, but it didn’t go into the stands. It was kind of like a delayed reaction by (the official)…I don’t think it got into the stands or put anyone in danger.”
Kerr, though, said he considered Curry’s action an “automatic ejection.”
“Thankfully we all responded,” Curry said.
After Poole’s go-ahead shot, he got showered with hugs on the court. In the tunnel, he threw his mouthguard in a playful gesture before embracing Curry.
When asked about the interaction, Poole joked that he didn’t remember, claiming “short memory.” Curry had a much more genuine response to offer.
“That’s like one of those ‘too soon’ jokes,” Curry said.