Golden State Warriors

Warriors rout Thunder with ball movement, 3rd quarter scoring barrage from Angry Curry

Stephen Curry emoji

The stage was set, four minutes into the third quarter, with the Warriors nursing a 9-point lead. Steph Curry was sporting a pretty large lump on his elbow from a nasty fall over the front row, in front of the patrons in the second row next to the Thunder bench. And he looked peeved.

He appeared to want more calls than he was getting, but after the game he noted that he slammed the ball down because his sore, swollen elbow got dinged again. Luckily for the Warriors, the range of motion in his right arm wasn’t hindered.

The anger only served to fuel him toward one of his trademark scoring explosions that cause competitive games to have garbage time fourth quarters. His 17-point overtime in Portland set a league record. Tonight Curry scored 15 points in 118 seconds.

What stood out about this Curry moment, in which he scored as many points as a good NBA player averages in a game, in less than the span of one commercial break?

“Nothing,” Steve Kerr said with a wry smile. Then he shrugged.

“Business as usual. This is what he does.”

There was a sense among the Warriors that their 118-91 win over Oklahoma City, in a Game 2 that was in effect the opposite of Game 1 as far as the second halves were concerned, was a return to normalcy. There was a lot of talk about getting back to being “us” by Curry after Game 1. After Game 2, he dropped a Mark Jacksonism, saying the Warriors played “our brand of basketball.”

In other words, they rebounded better. Their feet and hands were more active on defense. But their biggest problem on Monday was their offense, and that was rectified in Game 2 with fewer rushed shots and the kind of beautiful basketball that went missing in the second half of Game 1.

“It’s all about our ball movement,” said Curry, who scored a team-high 28 points on just 15 shots. “The way that they’ve been defending, it’s hard to kind of get a rhythm if you don’t move the ball and don’t play with aggression and decisiveness, and I think we were able to do that. We set great screens. We moved the ball from side to side.”

The Facilitator

Before the game I wrote a post about what — or, more accurately, who — was the key to this game. Draymond Green, who has played some of his best games after Warriors defeats, scored 23 points in Game 1, but only had 4 assists while taking 20 shots. The latter two numbers needed to change, and they did. Green’s scoring and shot attempts were cut by more than half, and he finished with 7 assists.

I asked him whether that was a conscious decision made before the game.

“I knew coming into this one, I took 20 shots last game, and I don’t think many of them were bad shots. A couple of them were bad shots. Tonight I knew that driving in the paint, look to kick out some more. Those guys are really athletic, and they collapsed.

“So just trying to take advantage of the situation. I knew also coming into this game that I need to facilitate a little bit more, because that’s when we’re at our best. So I tried to do a little bit of that and it worked out. But if the game says shoot, I’m going to shoot. If the game says pass, I’m going to pass. I’m a player that plays off feel, and I just went with my feel tonight.”

The bench bounces back

Andre Iguodala’s defense was there in Game 1, but that’s about all you could say for what the reserves contributed. That changed drastically in Game 2, as the bench contributed 50 points (a lot of those in garbage time, to be fair) and allowed Curry and Klay Thompson to play a little under 30 minutes.

Iguodala came into the game in the first quarter and got two steals immediately. He started 0-for-5, but finished 4-for-10, scored 14 points, and made one of the more ridiculous layups off the glass … I didn’t know what to say when I saw it happen live, and I’m not sure how to describe it now. Iguodala is an avid golfer, but with that kind of English he might think about taking up the game of pool.

Without Iguodala, this game could’ve been tied at halftime, or worse. The Thunder took a 47-46 lead, then the Warriors finished with an 11-2 run that included 7 points (including that unreal layup), two rebounds and a steal from Iguodala.

Festus Ezeli, who seems like a better match against the Thunder due to his physical abilities, made all five shots he attempted and scored 12 points and grabbed 5 rebounds in under 14 minutes. One would have to think he’ll play at least that many minutes in Game 3 and beyond.

“Game 1 was definitely not our best game,” Ezeli said. “We came in with a better focus tonight, the bench did.”

Dub Steps

— Here’s how Curry’s (wrapped) elbow looked after the game.

Stephen Curry elbow

— “Elbow’s fine. It looks like it has a tennis ball on top of it, but it doesn’t affect range of motion or anything. It’s just some pain, so I’ll be alright,” Curry said.

— After watching these two clips, it seems like Curry knew the fans didn’t provide much of a safety net, or even a cushion, when he dove over the patrons in the first row.

“Maybe (the fans were) surprised by how high I jumped, I don’t know.” (h/t @DTromerhauser)

“I think there is that kind of metal, first row kind of platform. I missed the first row and then didn’t get quite all the way to the next row. So thankfully — I haven’t seen any video or anything, so I don’t know how much the fans helped me have a soft landing,” Curry said.

“Not at all. Not a bit,” said Santa Rosa Press-Democrat reporter Phil Barber.

“Not at all?” Curry asked, laughing.

“I’m surprised nobody caught him,” Ezeli said.

That’s when Curry appeared to look down and possibly mumble “seriously.”

— Kevin Durant went 9-for-13 with 23 points in the first half and only got two shots off in the third quarter.

“They were sending three guys, I was trying to make the right pass. I was turning the ball over, playing the crowd,” said Durant, who turned it over eight times. “So maybe I just got to shoot over three people.”

— Meanwhile, Russell Westbrook had an outfit that could’ve been worn by Bubbles from “The Wire.”

Westbrook’s airball three during the Warriors run to end the first half was massive, as the crowd got even more involved (they were much better tonight) and the Thunder seemed to wilt afterward. Westbrook was -27. And while Thompson didn’t have a great shooting night (5-for-17), he once again slowed an All-NBA guard with excellent perimeter defense.

— The Warriors had the edge in rebounds (45-36), offensive rebounds (15-7), points in the paint (48-42), second chance points (15-5) and points off turnovers (23-12).

— Ezeli fell on Adams, which send the center from New Zealand to the locker room for a brief spell. Then Green kneed him in the kiwis later. Adams was a huge presence in Game 1, and the Warriors hesitated to attempt many close shots in the first quarter tonight, but the Warriors did a much better job of limiting his overall impact on the game. That could’ve been the difference, especially with Serge Ibaka going 1-for-6 and doing next to nothing defensively.

— “When you win by the margin that we won by tonight it makes it a little bit tougher, because usually the other team’s pissed off and usually the team that won by that amount usually relaxes a little bit,” Green said.

“Now being down 1-1, I don’t think that affects us that much.”

The Warriors are so unaccustomed to losing that they think a tied series means they’re behind, apparently.

— I did call the Steph barrage, and I wrote about Green’s need to facilitate before he did, but I’m not some great prognosticator. Especially when it comes to betting lines.

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