For one night, Stephen Curry reminded basketball fans what we have been missing in this year’s playoffs. After seeing super stars like Chris Paul and Blake Griffin go down with injuries, and having to slog through the interminable games out East masquerading as competitive basketball (ahem, Raptors-Pacers), Curry’s return to Game 4 of the Warriors’ series with the Blazers was a brilliant display of the magic and fervor he brings to the court.
After missing two weeks of action with a sprained right knee and not having played more than 20 minutes in a game since April 13 in the regular season, the MVP returned to the playoffs and put on a dazzling and dominating performance at the Rose Garden in Portland. Curry rained 3-bombs from deep, pulled off multiple sleight-of-hand dribble moves to drop dimes, and scored a cool 17 points in overtime to help the Warriors complete the victory and gain a commanding 3-1 series lead. The Warriors now head back to Oakland for Game 5, and fans can rest assured these playoffs are about to be fun again.
Here are 10 thoughts on the game and the MVP’s scintillating performance:
1. It wasn’t all smooth sailing. The Warriors spotted Portland a 14-point lead before Curry checked into the game at the 5:58 mark of the first quarter. Steph started out slow, missing a layup and even air balling a three. He’d see 0-of-9 from deep before finally connecting on a triple late in the game. But once that first one went in, the cavalcade of points just kept coming. Steph scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, matching Damian Lillard shot for shot in a one-on-one battle that was both Warriors-versus-Blazers and MVP-versus-All-Star. When Steph’s game-winning runner missed wide left, I was slack-jawed shocked — we’ve seen him hit those shots countless times this season. But then, as if to make up for the miss, Steph went berserk in overtime, dropping 17 of the Warriors 21 points and single-handedly pulling his team to a victory they had no business getting…
2. …but that’s the difference between the Warriors with Curry and without Curry. Sans the MVP, the Dubs are a good team that can hit certain heights when everything breaks right, but with Steph in the game, these Warriors have no ceiling. Anything is possible. They’re a limitless basketball team playing their way for a seat at the Greatest of All Time table.
3. Draymond Green made good on his post-Game 3 promise and delivered a frenetic performance on both sides of the court. Defensively he was an ace protecting the rim (7 blocks) and helping out on Dame and CJ McCollum on the roll. Offensively, he had 21 points on only nine shots and was great bringing the ball up court, especially when Shaun Livingston was ejected and with Steve Kerr electing to run Steph off the ball. Dray played 44 minutes of fly-around-the-court basketball and collected a prime-Kevin Garnett-esque line of 21-9-5-4-7.
4. Dray had one monster sequence in the third where he sank a three to pull the Warriors within two points, and then blocked a Lillard layup and then a Plumlee dunk attempt that set up a Klay Thompson 3-pointer for the Dubs’ first lead. You can count on one hand the number of power forwards that can accomplish that same sequence.
5. I wasn’t mad at Livingston for picking up the two techs and getting tossed. Dude clearly got smacked in the head, and though it’s never a good idea to get ejected when your team needs you, sometimes a jolt of emotion doesn’t hurt. The Dubs were reeling at the time (they went from down 3 to down 10) and heading into the locker room, a little “Get this one for me, guys!” pep talk probably didn’t hurt. Plus, sans Shaun, Kerr had no choice but to play Steph more.
6. The Warriors needed three 3-bombs from Mo Speights, a game-tying dagger from HB, an and-1 bucket from Ian Clark, 44 minutes of Dray’s electric defense and an all-time performance from Steph to eke out this win. That’s all you need to know about the resiliency of this young Portland squad. I’m looking forward to another half-decade of this soon-to-be Dubs-Blazers rivalry.
7. For the series, HB is averaging 10 points on 45% shooting. Meanwhile his counterpart on the Blazers, Al-Farouq Aminu is putting up 15 points a game on 54% from the field with over three 3-pointers. The offensive output is starkly in Aminu’s favor, but let’s not forget that with all the attention drawn to Lillard and McCollum, most of his shots are coming wide open. Now that Steph’s back, you’d have to imagine HB will see an uptick in open shots, which should help his scoring and efficiency, and also limit the amount of Twitter hate from fans on his timeline.
8. The shot of the night (and there were many considering that Steph and Dame were continuously firing from deep) came from the TNT cameraman who picked up Paul Allen’s shocked face after that ridiculous Steph three on Aminu.
9. Klay Thompson went 42 minutes chasing Damian Lillard and still scored 23 points. After settling down from a shaky first quarter, Klay connected on four huge catch-and-shoot threes in the third quarter to help bring the Warriors back into the game.
10. Remember that old Chris Rock joke about how every malady can be remedied with Robitussin? Steph is definitely the 2016 version of that joke. Your offense stalling in the half court? Pour some Steph on it. Defense having trouble slowing the ball handler? Sprinkle some Steph on the top. Watching Anderson Varejao checking into a game having you feeling down? Mo’ Steph!