Oakland — If this was to be the final home game for the Warriors in this magical season of theirs, then they left the sellout crowd at Oracle Arena with memories that would last a lifetime.
Years from now, the fans will remember Stephen Curry in all his Most Valuable Player glory, getting the best of mighty LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, scoring 17 of his 37 points in the crucial fourth quarter.
The fans will recall the gold-blooded 3-pointer by Curry that gave his team the lead, the crazy hook shot by Andre Iguodala that extended it and yet another 3-pointer by Curry that was the cherry on the Sunday.
Most of all, they’ll remember their own chants of “M-V-P! M-V-P!” and “War-riors! War-riors!” in the final seconds of the 104-91 victory, which moved their team within one victory of an elusive NBA title.
“I mean, these are the plays I’ve been making all year and the ones I feel confident in,” said Curry, who also had seven rebounds and four assists. “Obviously, when one goes in, it keeps your confidence high.”
The Warriors can close the deal in Game 6 on Tuesday evening.
“There’s a lot of emotion,” said Kerr, whose smallball line-up had positive results again. “You’re right there on the cusp of something, but you still have to get the job done. And in this case, we’ll be on the road against a great team.”
Well, a great one-man team, anyway.
James put up another triple-double — 40 points, 14 rebounds, 11 assists — but only three teammates scored more than five points. The losers converted 40 percent of their field goal tries.
Five Warriors scored in double figures, including Iguodala (14), Draymond Green (16), Leandro Barbosa (13) and Klay Thompson (12).
“We’re going home with a Game 6, and we’ve got enough to win it,” James insisted. “We’ll worry about Tuesday first. But if we protect home like we’re capable of doing, we force a Game 7. I feel confident.”
When the Warriors took a 73-67 lead into the fourth quarter, it was difficult not to like their chances. They’re the far deeper of the two teams, which was apparent in the last four games, when they outscored the worn-out Cavaliers by 28-25, 36-24, 27-12 and 31-24 margins.
Still, James and his gang refused to fade away quietly. After he drained a 10-footer to tie the score at 77-all, Game 5 was reduced to a best-of-eight-minutes affair. A short time later, he dropped a bomb from well beyond the arc to give his team an 80-79 lead.
But when Curry answered with one of his own, the Warriors had the lead again. They wouldn’t relinquish it the rest of the way.
“I called all those plays. Those were my genius inventions,” deadpanned Kerr before he turned serious. “No, that was just Steph taking over the game.”
At the 3:45 mark, when Iguodala banked in a circus shot for an 84-71 advantage, the Warriors were all but home free.
That left Curry to put his signature on the team’s 82nd victory of the season. It came in the form of a 3-pointer off a cross-over dribble that left Cavaliers superpest Matthew Dellavedova stuck to the floor.
“Signature moments only come for players who are holding the trophy at the end of the day,” Curry said. “So I can sit here and talk about what a great play it was and what a turning moment it might have been, but we have to be able to back it up and finish the job.”
If and when that happens, imagine how much the Warriors and their fans will have to talk about then.