Stephen Curry just hit 77 straight three-pointers in practice. So any questions about him being cool under pressure might be misplaced. But is the pressure of not missing after 40, 50, 60 straight shots any different than the pressure Curry and the Golden State Warriors will face in the playoffs?
The Bay Area’s “Splash Brothers” are the gang that shoots straight. Very straight. They barely broke a sweat in winning a league-best 67 games during the regular season. And for their work, they’ve earned the rarefied air of a regular season crown, and with it, a steaming pile of pressure for the playoffs.
Everyone is gunning for them now.
Expectations are high and the Warriors are a logical pick to make a deep playoff run, maybe even win the whole thing for the first time since 1975. With Curry hitting shots from outside the gym, it’s not unrealistic.
But logical things don’t always happen in the playoffs. Sometimes insane things happen and regular-season champs melt into playoff chumps. Just ask Peyton Manning and the Broncos. Or Peyton Manning and the Colts. Or the 2007 New England Patriots.
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In basketball, top seeds don’t get upset early very often. But it happens. A No. 1 has lost to the No. 8 seed in the opening round of the NBA playoffs four times in history, something the Warriors will try to avoid in the opening round series against New Orleans.
In 1994, the Denver Nuggets shocked the top-seeded Seattle Supersonics in the opening round. In 1999, the Latrell Sprewell Knicks stomped out No. 1 Miami and became the first No. 8 team to go all the way to the NBA Finals. In 2007, the Dallas Mavericks, winners of 67 games during the regular season themselves, were taken down by No. 8 Golden State. And in 2011, the Grizzlies did work against the heavily favored San Antonio Spurs.
Golden State in the West, and Atlanta in the East, will try to avoid ending up on that list, too.
They may own home court, but the top seeds have a lot of pressure on them now — pressure to produce more meaningful highlights than trick shots prior to now meaningless games.
The Warriors sure seem like the real deal. Now we’ll find out for sure.