Steph Curry is back. And in his return, the Baby-Faced Assassin refused to disappoint, leading the Golden State Warriors to a 132-125 overtime victory in Portland against the red-hot Trail Blazers.
The last time we saw Curry in action was back on April 24, when he played just 18 minutes, and sprained his right MCL, a potentially devastating injury for the Warriors’ championship chances. Golden State won 73 games — the most in NBA history — but without Curry greatness could slip from their grasp.In the span of three weeks since his injury against the Rockets, speculation swirled on when he’d return to the lineup, while concern over his possible effectiveness coursed throughout the league. During his absence, Golden State won three of four games against Houston and Portland, but it was obvious they needed Curry to navigate the championship waters.
Rust was clearly a factor for Curry at the outset of Game 4. At halftime, Steph had 11 points in a little over 13 minutes of game play, but he was just 5 of 13 from the floor (38.5 percent), and he missed on all five of his 3-point attempts. The remainder of the game, however, belonged to the man clad in a blue No. 30 jersey.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr initially planned to use Steph for only 25 minutes Monday night, but that plan was scrapped when Golden State backup point guard Shaun Livingston was ejected from the game with less than two minutes left in the second quarter.
Portland led by 10 at halftime, but that advantage was erased almost instantly: Curry played 18 minutes in the third and fourth quarters, and racked up 12 points, six assists and five rebounds. He looked smooth navigating screens on defense, which is an encouraging sign for fans of the Warriors. According to NBA.com, the Warriors gave up only .895 points per possession with Curry on the court in the second half. Perhaps more importantly, though: just as Curry was beginning to look mortal from beyond the arc, he connected on his 3-pointer from 25 feet out with 4:35 remaining in the fourth quarter. As soon as the ball splashed through the net, the Blazers’sychological advantage the Blazers had evaporated.
With the game tied at 111, Curry missed a potential game-winning shot at the very end of regulation. But the miss allowed Curry to create history again.
In the extra period, Curry went bananas: 6 for 7 from the floor, including 3 for 3 on 3-pointers. He poured in 17 points in overtime, a new an NBA record. Golden State scored 1.93 points per possession with Steph on the floor as they raced past the Blazers. If you extrapolate that productivity over the course of a full 48-minute game, it would equate to 163.2 points.
During a stretch of 71 seconds in that overtime period, Curry scored on three-straight possessions, capping it off with 26-foot moonshot that silenced everyone in the sold-out Moda Center. While dreams crashed and burned in Portland, Curry, a far more confident human being than his humble persona lets on, let everyone in attendance know: “I’m back.”Steph Curry: “Im here..Im Back!” #MVP pic.twitter.com/rhDo4QzJRM NBA Inside Stuff (@NBAInside_Stuff) May 10, 2016
This development should terrify every team still remaining in the playoffs. A healthy Steph Curry transforms the Warriors back into an alien spaceship destined to conquer the galaxy. Take a glance at Microsoft czar and Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen following Curry’s explosion. Paul Allen's face pic.twitter.com/l9K1fsFXoa Evan Doll (@edog1203) May 10, 2016 This is the appropriate look for opponents.
The Blazers are a young, energetic team, and they won’t go down without a fight, but the Warriors now possess a 3-1 series lead as it shifts back to Oakland. This spells doom for Portland. Golden State gets a chance to close things out Wednesday night on their home floor. If they can punch their ticket to the Western Conference Finals, they’ll move on to face the winner of the San Antonio-Oklahoma City series, currently gridlocked at 2-2.
But don’t get caught looking ahead. Just enjoy the brilliance of Curry in his triumphant return to basketball.