PORTLAND -- It is reasonable to suggest at this point that Stephen Curry may simply be a diabolical sadist trying to think of new ways to crush the spirits of others.
It is certainly not arguable that what he did to the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 4 of this Western Conference Semifinal series was the stuff of hook-baiting cruelty. Not surprising, mind you, but the way he let the outcome linger while he quietly removed coat after coat of inactivity in time to tear the Blazers’ souls into shreds with one of the most extraordinary end-game performances since people first realized that other people would pay money to watch this sort of thing.
Curry scored a beyond-cartoonish 27 points in the game’s final 17 minutes, 17 of them in the five-minute overtime, to lead – no, grab and drag – the Golden State Warriors to a 132-125 win over the Blazers to take an arm-bar to this series. He finished with 40 points, eight assists and nine rebounds in 38 minutes, nearly as many as he had played in the rest of his postseason, but it is how he finished, and seemingly finished the Blazers, that will be remembered.
And yes, we say finished. After a game like this that Portland had seemingly controlled, the series would seem to be done but for the submission hold, and yet . . . well, the Blazers don’t capitulate easily, let’s say that. But you’d certainly understand it if they did.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Curry carries Warriors to OT win in Game 4]
Curry has never been more stridently merciless in the face of adversity, more imperiously dominant when defeat was grabbing his attention. And the Warriors have never more attentive to, respectful of and eager to showcase his ability to end a game that deserved to last forever.
“When he did this at times last year, (former offensive assistant) Alvin Gentry used to say, ‘I’ve got two plays for you. Steph, get the ball, and get the ball to Steph,’” head coach Steve Kerr said. “We did that tonight in Alvin’s honor.”
That, of course, assumes, that there can be a grand plan for a tornado. Typically, though, all there is a rumble, then furniture starts moving, and everything becomes a blur.
It all started with the expected rust from having played the equivalent of one game in three weeks. Between his ankle and knee issues, Curry had played in only two games and fewer than 20 minutes in each. Thus, when he was declared ready to play before Monday’s game, Kerr decided to ease him into the cockpit by having him come off the bench for the first time since 2012.
And that rust showed. He missed his first nine three-pointers, and though he made sure that the rest of his game was up to standard, he wasn’t doing what Curry does – take the opponent’s will and snap it over his thigh like a bat in Chili Davis’ hands.
The 22-footer just inside the arc at 9:01 . . . the first three-pointer to break a 100-all tie at 4:35 . . . the 29-footer to cut the Portland to 107-106 at 2:01 . . . the pass to an open Harrison Barnes for his game-tying trey with 51.9 seconds left . . . all in regulation, capped off by his last misstep of the night, a bank-shot that came off the glass too hard and forced the overtime that people will be writing lyrics about in the days to come.
And in the extra period, all of it came fast and without remorse . . . taking the lead with a 10-foot banker, a deep three to tie the game at 116, a putback for 118-all, a runner and then another trey to make it 123-118, and then, just to help traffic flow out of the Moda Center, a 25-footer to make it 128-120 with not nearly enough time left to save the Blazers from the fate that has probably crushed them. Fifteen points in 3:22, plus two superfluous free throws to send everyone home bewildered and embittered.
“I wouldn’t say amazed,” Curry said afterward, when asked if, well, he was amazed by the wreckage he had wrought in such a brief time. “It’s just one of those moments where you realize what just happened, and it’s a pretty good moment. I mean, I’m pleased.”
He’s “pleased.” He missed almost the entire series, then killed it in one night. Yeah, “pleased” probably covers it.
There was more to this win, to be sure. The Warriors defended better after a ridiculously bad start, they overcame their self-discombobulation in the second quarter over their own mistakes and their objections to the officiating, and they found big minutes from Andre Iguodala and Festus Ezeli to go with Draymond Green’s superb effort and Klay Thompson’s defense on Damian Lillard.
But all that would still have netted them a loss if not for the whirlwind of Curry. He took a game that was lost and not only found it but bent it to his will, and in doing so reconfigured his legend . . . by killing a very entertaining playoff series in which he was an ancillary figure right up to the point where he exceeded the most ridiculous expectations, and made it look like just another anecdote in the Hall of Fame speech that could last for hours.