Updated: April 16, 2013, 12:57 AM ET

1. Playoffs Ahead, Curry Bringing Star Power

By Ethan Sherwood Strauss | ESPN.com/TrueHoop Network

OAKLAND, Calif. -- "Be careful what you ask for." After beating San Antonio's backups in a 116-106 victory at Oracle, Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson surprisingly converted celebration into admonishment. Though the win places Golden State in position to face the currently third-seeded Denver Nuggets, death can easily come by the hand of a preferred opponent. The coach sighed, and spoke of the time he, as a player, rooted for a playoff matchup versus the flagging Knicks. Unfortunately for Jackson, that wish manifested itself as New York elbowing past Mark's Indiana Pacers in the series, en route to a title appearance.

"Be careful what you ask for," also serves as a fair warning to Western Conference teams, on an evening when Stephen Curry claims 35 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Tuesday night's win brought the Warriors into the sixth-seed spot, one game ahead of the Houston Rockets, who would now face San Antonio if the postseason started today. Between the Lakers' historical track record, and Houston's explosive offense, the Warriors would seem to be a preferred opponent for the Thunder, Spurs and Nuggets.

Golden State is a fair choice for "weakest link" status, but they present one, specific threat that gets scarier by the game: Stephen Curry's star has been rising with the speed and loft of his shot release. From the point Curry missed the All-Star cut on Jan. 24, he has averaged 26.3 points and 7.5 assists, while hitting an incredible 46.5 percent of his 8.8 3-point attempts per game. Not since Steve Nash's peak has danger looked so benign. Curry cuts a scrawny figure in a burly league, and jumps as though his famously fragile ankle is actually filled with lead.

Curry
Kelley L Cox/USA TODAY SportsStephen Curry is on the brink of eclipsing Ray Allen for one record.

This doesn't much matter because he just might be the greatest 3-point shooter the league has ever seen. Casual fans are starting to get the memo and the Warriors crowd is getting behind the star they've always wanted. Curry's three high-difficulty, fourth-quarter 3-pointers were chased through the hoop by a massive waterfall of crowd noise. The Oracle crowd bellowed "Cur-ry!" at a pitch perhaps not reached since Baron Davis decapitated the Mavericks.

Though Davis harnessed Oakland's manic energy for a time, Curry's ascendance could animate this crowd for far longer, and possibly take it to better places.

Though teams might still prefer a Warriors matchup, Curry is certainly garnering more strategic attention than ever before. The Spurs gave him the full-court treatment, denying Curry the ball right from the moment Golden State pulled down defensive boards. When asked about how teams have been guarding him differently, Curry responded, "They're more aware of where I am in transition. That's the biggest thing."

After the first two quarters, Golden State's point guard seemed a longshot to best Ray Allen's single season 3-point record of 269. Steph was stuck on 262, with only six quarters left in the season.

Then, Curry was taken off the ball and San Antonio's omnipresent Curry defense broke to the tune of six 3-pointers in the second half. The barrage included a fadeaway triple and a running leaner. The star with the deceptively benign appearance takes what looks like a bad shot and proves it wise.

San Antonio just might play the Warriors this postseason, should Golden State drop their final game and fall to a seventh seed. For now, the tenor coming out of Texas actually isn't one of fear with regard to Steph. After the game, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich mused: "Everybody hates losing, but I enjoyed the hell out of watching a talented kid perform the way he did."

Ethan Sherwood Strauss' work appears on WarriorsWorld. Follow him @SherwoodStrauss

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