It was only right that the man who clinched another MVP would put on an entirely new and more impressive show than he ever had before.
The Warriors supposedly learned their lesson about being the more desperate team during their Game 3 loss, yet the Blazers led 16-2 at one point. The officials called more than a foul per minute and Scott Foster ejected Shaun Livingston with two technical fouls in less than 10 seconds. The Blazers crowd roared louder with every Warriors turnover and every 3-pointer Stephen Curry missed. All of that will be forgotten in time, because of Curry, who scored an NBA-record 17 points in overtime to finish with 40 on the night and finish off the Blazers before they even play Game 5 in Oakland.
Curry was doubtful on Sunday, questionable on Monday, active on Monday night. He came off the bench, which was understandable but still weird, and the Warriors looked like a team that needed an MVP’s heroics to rescue them.
He was up to the challenge from the start, in every way besides 3-point shooting. But this second round series ended when he finally made his first three to give the Warriors a 103-100 lead with 4:35 remaining in the fourth quarter. After starting 0-for-9 on 3-pointers, Curry finished by making five of his last seven.
Curry’s overtime … even a hyperbolic recap does it no justice. He was on his way to one of the best playoff runs of all-time before he got hurt in Game 1 against Houston. It was easy to see. Nothing, other than an injury, could’ve stopped him. Now it looks like we might get to see a truncated version. He’ll probably play a better overall game in these playoffs from an efficiency standpoint, but he may never match what he did Monday night. The word “clutch” should be reserved for Curry’s overtime.
The only thing we can do is remember just how goddamned lucky we are to watch him. Even the Blazers are lucky. Even if Curry never came back and they found a way to beat the Warriors (doubtful, since Golden State still has two home games remaining in the series if necessary), Portland wasn’t going to get out of the Western Conference. If they’re going to go down, they might as well go down like this, against the repeat MVP on a night when he did something he had never done before.
He didn’t look the way he did in Houston for Game 3 of that series, when he was slower than usual and at times looked as if he was trying to feel his way across the floor, like a dad avoiding floor-strewn legos in the dark. Curry was in some pain on Monday, understandably, but he was moving almost as well as he usually does. As the Warriors kept coming back in Game 4, and Kerr realized that saving Curry’s knee meant probably losing a pivotal playoff game, his minutes limit vanished.
He barely missed a runner at the end of regulation, and that was probably a blessing in disguise for the Warriors. They need Curry to do this. Without him, they can beat anybody. With Curry there, potentially blitzing teams in this fashion at any moment and for several moments at a time, they are clearly the best team in the world, and his swagger permeates the entire league.
— How about Curry’s offensive rebound and layup over Mason Plumlee in overtime? It took me until at least 10 minutes after the game to look at the box score and realize he was one rebound and two assists away from a triple double.
— Then there was Draymond Green, who wouldn’t let the Warriors’ deficit grow too large and put forth one of the most absurd stat lines ever. He scored 21 points while attempting only 9 shots. He made a couple threes. He got four steals and blocked SEVEN SHOTS. Green said he played “awful” defense in Game 3, and guaranteed the Warriors would win Game 4. He meant what he said, and his screens for Curry weren’t bad either.
— Green’s dunk off the pass from Curry. Whoa.
— Harrison Barnes made the three that tied it at 111-111 in regulation, and finished what looked like an and-one over Plumlee in overtime. Kerr didn’t trust him for large stretches, but he probably earned some of that trust back with those plays when the Warriors needed them most.
— Curry was obviously the star, but the entire bench played well. Mo Speights made all three 3-pointers he attempted!
— Foster and his crew seemed like they were under strict orders to extend this series if at all possible (more Steph = more ratings), but the Warriors seemed to benefit after Livingston was tossed. He didn’t play all that well in Portland, and it forced Kerr to play Curry more minutes in regulation than was otherwise planned.