Before tipoff of Monday’s crucial Game 4, Steve Kerr had a number of minutes in mind for Steph Curry. The Golden State Warriors superstar eclipsed that total by the end of regulation with the score still tied, his team down a key perimeter reserve, and playing in a game for the first time since April 24.
So how did Curry respond in the extra session? With an all-time performance that befits his future status as a two-time MVP, of course.
Curry scored a playoff-record 17 of his team’s 21 points in overtime to lead the defending champions to an instant-classic 132-125 win over the Portland Trail Blazers. His eye-popping box-score line of 40 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists on 16-of-32 shooting doesn’t even do a night like this justice.
Consider that Curry came off the bench for the first time since March 7, 2012, or that Shaun Livingston was ejected late in the second quarter. Remember that Curry hadn’t played in over two weeks and wasn’t sure he would play at all until completing his customary pre-game warmup. Don’t forget that the Warriors trailed for the game’s majority or that Curry missed his first 10 three-pointers, either.
“I’m Back!” pic.twitter.com/uOBuyjhCEX
— NBA (@NBA) May 10, 2016
It would be easy to overlook those mitigating factors. The best players step up in the biggest moments, the cliché goes, and Curry is a future Hall of Famer whose team was at risk of going back home with this series tied 2-2. Maybe this is how he should have played, basically.
But no way. The most ardent Curry fans didn’t see this performance coming – not just because he was coming back from an injury after a two-week absence, but because no player under any circumstances whatsoever should be counted on to play like he did in Game 5.
From the time he entered the game for good with 4:50 remaining in the fourth quarter, Curry scored 23 points. He had three rebounds and two assists. He shot 8-of-12 overall and 5-of-7 from beyond the arc, and found Harrison Barnes for a game-tying triple during the waning moments of regulation – in a beautiful out-of-timeout set from Kerr, by the way – that allowed him to continue his crunch-time heroics for five more minutes.
How to end their season in five minutes, a seminar by Prof. S. Curry. pic.twitter.com/C5utqzmCp3
— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) May 10, 2016
Curry opened overtime with a nifty bank shot out of the pick and roll. Then he drilled a three. Then he got an offensive rebound, stuck the follow, and flexed for a stunned Portland crown. Then he leaked out in transition for an easy layup and hit another long ball. And just when it seemed the Blazers had one last fight in them as the game clock ticked to one minute, he made a final 3-pointer to put Golden State up 128-120.
Remember when the Warriors looked vulnerable? That was only a couple hours back, when Curry was laboring his way through rust and upstart Portland held a comfortable lead over basketball’s best team in front of an inspired crowd. But it sure seems much longer ago, just like any lingering doubts of Curry’s health and Golden State’s status as prohibitive title favorites do, too.
*Overtime highlights courtesy of CBS Sports’ Matt Moore.