When the impossible becomes a regular event, what do we even call it anymore?
It doesn’t seem possible that even a great basketball player could struggle so visibly in his first half back from an injury notorious for its re-adjustment period, then flip the script so quickly for a 40-point near-miss on a triple double. It certainly didn’t seem possible that he’d play 37 minutes in his return when 25 was the initial target, and even less so on the heels of the first ejection in over a decade-long career for a teammate at the same position. A vital offensive rebound over a seven-footer is outrageous to expect from a point guard generally listed at 6’3, and yet that’s exactly what happened. What do you even say, then, after an NBA-record 17-point overtime period caps it all off? You say it’s another day in the life of Steph Curry.
Early on in Game 4, Curry looked just the way one would expect him to look returning from his MCL sprain and after several weeks without game action. His legs weren’t cooperating on his three-point attempts, causing him to leave them short and long. He missed his first nine, he didn’t find the bottom of the net from deep until the middle of the fourth quarter, and was subsisting on his usual great touch around the hoop.
A surprise ejection for starter Shaun Livingston near the end of the first half, though, changed the arithmetic on his expected minutes, and ended up changing the course of the game and the series. A couple of botched defensive coverages from the Blazers (Al-Farouq Aminu ruined a great all-around performance by falling asleep as the second defender in the pick-and-roll on two of Curry’s big threes late) left Curry open for easy shots in rhythm. The rest was cake.
Curry’s omnipotence cast a shadow over herculean efforts from Golden State’s other All-Stars. Draymond Green looked near the edge of losing his mind with the officials at various points, but channeled it into one of the most ferocious and yet precise defensive halves possible from an NBA player. Consecutive highlight-reel blocks in the third quarter (two of his career-high seven on the night) crystallized his game – a hair off on either contest, and he takes his fourth foul and likely is forced to the bench instead of helping Curry lead the charge back. Klay Thompson shook off his own tough shooting in the first half, canning a few vital shots before Curry got going to keep the score within reach. Green and Thompson alone outscored the Blazers in that pivotal third quarter.
There was so much more to this game, but most of it will be relegated to footnotes. One of the most unevenly officiated contests of the playoffs gave way to a tension from both sides and an edge to a Moda Center that was already rocking, producing a top atmosphere for likely the most exciting game we’ve seen in this postseason. Some excellent Blazers offensive execution early coupled with some Warriors slippage defensively flipped on its head later on, with some absolute wizardry on an after-timeout play from Steve Kerr serving as the crown jewel for a Warriors offense that executed to perfection down the stretch.
When the score was 21-5 Portland seven minutes into the game, none of it seemed possible. We should have known better, honestly.
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