OAKLAND — With two minutes to play in the fourth quarter of Thursday’s Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, Warriors point guard Stephen Curry stood at the free throw line with a chance to give Golden State a two-point lead after being fouled on a 3-point attempt.
Down by one, Curry tried to set his focus, but a familiar voice nagged in his ear, one he’d heard in backyard games in suburban Charlotte: his younger brother Seth.
“He tried to distract me at the free throw line,” Stephen said with a chuckle. “I knew how to go back and stay focussed on what I needed to do.”
On Thursday night, it was this brotherly rivalry that rose to the forefront of a 114-111 comeback win for the Warriors. It would be the pair’s extraordinary familiarity with one and other that turned Game 2 into a sibling showdown for the Curry family, complete with their parents‚ Dell and Sonya, wearing split jerseys in the stands.
“This was like the coolest experience I’ve ever had playing against [Seth],” Stephen said. “It worked out perfectly, though. He played great and we won.”
Two games into the Warriors’ third playoff series this season, much has been made of the brother-on-brother battle as Stephen and Seth — the Duke product and role player for the Portland Trail Blazers — met for the first time in the postseason.
When Game 1 tipped off, the two became the first pair of siblings to ever play in a conference finals series, beating the Gasol Brothers — Marc and Pau — who would have matched the feat if not for a season-ending foot injury suffered by the latter.
“What a special moment this is for the Curry family,” Warriors guard Klay Thompson said. “You never know when this will ever happen again. I’m enjoying it because I know how hard they work.”
While the moment may be special for the Currys, having both sons compete against each other on one of the biggest stages in all of basketball comes with its drawbacks. Mother Sonya and father Dell — who played 16 seasons in the NBA — have been forced to choose sides, dawning custom, half-and-half jerseys to represent both teams, with one son on the front, and the other on the back.
The Curry boys — Stephen being two and a half years older than Seth — shared plenty of backyard battles and on-court skirmishes growing up, but on Thursday, that sibling rivalry made its way into one of the most important games to this point of either’s season.
Just two nights earlier, the Warriors had secured a comfortable 18-point win over Portland, led by Stephen, who scored a game-high 36 points and nine 3-pointers. Meanwhile, Seth had a night to forget, scoring just three points on 1-of-7 shooting from the floor and finishing as a -10 for the game.
In Game 2, Seth scored seven points in the first half as his Trail Blazers outscored the Stephen’s Warriors by 15 heading into the break. While Stephen had 19 points of his own, the Warriors were reeling.
After the Warriors outscored Portland 39-24 in the third quarter, Golden State had pulled itself back into the game, setting the stage for an exhilarating fourth quarter with both Curry brothers in the middle of the action.
“I thought of their parents at one point,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said. “Can you imagine watching your two boys go head-to-head in a playoff game and both of them hitting huge shots? It must have been amazing for them.”
Although the Warriors had drawn even to start the fourth, the Trail Blazers responded by building their lead back to eight points with seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, with Seth hitting two of his three 3-point attempts during this stretch.
Just 18 seconds after the second Oracle-silencing triple, Seth would get the best of his two-time-MVP older brother by stealing an errant pass from Stephen.
“It felt like I changed the game and put in more energy,” Seth said. “I made him work harder.”
After climbing out of yet another hole, Steph found himself at the free throw line with two minutes to play with a chance to put Golden State ahead, 110-108.
Just like Seth knew where to be when Steph handled the ball, picking his pocket twice earlier in the game, he had an idea of how to get Steph off of his game by jawing in his ear.
But the tactics did not work in Seth’s, or the Trail Blazers’ favor, as the eldest Curry striped all three free throws to put Golden State ahead.
Two possessions later, Seth would have one last shot at spoiling Steph’s 37-point outing by nailing a 29-foot 3-pointer to put Portland up by one with 52 seconds remaining.
Unfortunately for the Blazers, Golden State’s championship mettle prevailed, as they scored the game’s final four points to capture a 2-0 series lead over Portland.
“Them two, growing up in the backyard playing against each other their whole life, whether it’s video games, in the backyard playing one-on-one, whatever it is — I’ve got a big brother,” Green said. “You compete your entire life and to be on this stage, it don’t get much better than that.”