JANIE McCAULEY, AP Baseball Writer
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Joe Smith made a blind, backward, over-the-head free throw that Stephen Curry couldn’t match. Then, the Angels relief pitcher stymied the reigning NBA MVP on a left-handed 3-pointer and had suddenly beaten arguably the world’s best basketball player at a good-natured game of PIG.
“That was fun. I loved it,” a giddy Smith said afterward. “I’m not that bad. I ain’t that good either. Sometimes a little bit of luck, a lot bit of luck.”
Whether Curry brought his absolute best stuff to the post-practice contest, we’ll never know. It sure made Smith’s day to walk away a winner from the defending champion Golden State Warriors’ practice. Smith, infielder Cliff Pennington and sluggers Albert Pujols and Mike Trout attended practice Tuesday before their night game against the Oakland Athletics some 10 minutes down the freeway at the Coliseum.
At the ballpark, Smith was still riding high from his improbable feat.
“I mean, I’ll play him again,” he said.
Curry made 90 of 100 3-pointers during the practice before playing PIG, so the Angels felt pretty fortunate. Pennington, who gave Curry a ‘P’ in the PIG game with a shot from the right wing just inside the 3-point arc, caught 28 in a row on video.
“Hey, a letter’s a letter,” Pennington said, smiling. “It took all four of us to strategically beat him.”
And what a day to be there, with Golden State (72-9) trying to beat the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ all-time wins record in Wednesday night’s regular-season finale against Memphis at Oracle Arena.
Smith took his win in stride. He received handshakes and hugs from Curry.
“Well, you don’t go into something expecting you’re going to lose, that ain’t how you become a professional athlete,” cracked Smith. “Everything you do you want to win. But that was pretty cool. Like I told him, we positioned everybody the right way. I just got lucky, I was in front of him and there were four guys. All of his tough shots, everybody else missed. We knew somebody had to beat him. We couldn’t walk out of here without a win, you know? That’s not making ESPN.”
Oh, and Trout dunked and also topped Draymond Green in a separate game. The slugger regularly shot long 3s ala Curry.
“It’s cool to try to take the shots he usually takes,” said Trout, who praised Smith’s shot-making, noting: “He’s got all the tricks up his sleeve. He gets me mainly on his lefty shot.”
Curry got a kick out of having the Angels in the house.
“I’ve watched Albert Pujols for years and never met him before so that’s pretty cool and obviously Mike Trout and the rest of the teammates, talented guys in their trade, so it’s pretty cool that they’d come out and watch us practice and get to chop it up for a little bit.”
But, he did say all this before losing to Smith.
“That was fun,” Pujols said. “We had a good time.”
Angels manager Mike Scioscia was thrilled for his players getting such a fun experience and learning how the best NBA team operates on a daily basis. He knows Smith will build from the monumental victory, too.
“I’m hoping he carries the momentum from a tremendous morning if he pitches tonight,” Scioscia said. “Confidence comes in a lot of different ways.”
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