It was desperation. No matter the mantra from the Warriors. They had to win that game or they were finished. They couldn’t lose the first two at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder and expect to win this series, not to mention another NBA championship.
It was desperation, but then it was Steph. And in the end it was elation.
The things that went wrong in the opener of the Western Conference Finals on Monday went through the basket on Wednesday night, especially — but not only — when Steph Curry had the ball. This was the basketball we had come to know, and what the W’s, and their sometimes overly hyped fans, had come to expect from Steph, the golden child of Golden State.
It took a while, and the sellout crowd at Oracle Arena, in the gold T-shirts reading “Strength in Numbers” was less uproarious than tentative. The Dubs finally had a burst at the end of the second quarter to lead, but the margin had been trimmed from 11 to seven.
And then, for what, the millionth time — or does it just seem that way — Curry went off. A Curry Flurry. A 3-pointer at 7:09, a steal; a free throw after a technical that was called after he was fouled on a 3-point attempt at 6:33 (naturally, he sunk the freebies); a 3-pointer at 6:07; a 2-pointer with his toe on the line at 5:47; and finally yet another 3-pointer at 5:11.
Fifteen points in 118 seconds, a 79-59 lead and for all intents the game, which in time the Warriors would win, 118-91. The best-of-seven series was even. Faith had been restored. The Warriors still were the Warriors, and Steph, who would score 28 on 9-of-15 (5-of-8 three pointers) was still Steph.
“That was our brand of basketball,” said Curry.
Steph had seemed angry, the result of some non-calls. Warriors coach Steve Kerr was oblivious. To Curry’s emotions, not his performance.
“I didn’t notice,” said Kerr about his star. “I didn’t see him getting angry, but I expected nothing less from Steph. He’s the MVP for a reason, and he knows he didn’t have his best night in Game 1 (26 points but only 9-of-22 shooting), and he came out and played exceptionally well.”
He had the bad ankle. He had the bad knee. He had the bad game, relatively that is. But swish, swish, everything was fixed. The crowd at the place nicknamed the Roaracle bellowed joyfully. The Warriors still haven’t lost two in a row this season. Nor have they lost their cool.
This is the Warriors’ time, and they best seize it. The New York Times ran an enormous article not on the team but the T-shirts and the dancing girls and the little parachutes dropped from the supporting beams. The Wall Street Journal seems to have more stories on Curry than on Warren Buffet. ESPN had a video feature on the entire Curry family. This usually doesn’t happen to teams out West not named the Lakers. Of course, no team out West or elsewhere has had a Steph Curry.
“We let Curry get loose a few times,” said Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan.
Even when they didn’t let him, he forced his way loose, moving without the ball, darting behind a screen set by Andrew Bogut or Draymond Green, and then before Donovan blinked, swish.
“Listen,” said Donovan, “Curry’s faced every possible defense there is. He’s faced trapping. He’s faced switching. He’s faced it all.” Donovan, in his first year with the Thunder, won two NCAA Championships at Florida. But he had never faced anyone like Curry.
“We’ve got to do a better job there,” said Donovan.
Curry simply has to do the same old job, getting free, sinking shots.
“Obviously we have to give huge credit to Steph,” said Klay Thompson, who had 14 points, “with his shots and the way he was moving the ball like a pro.”