Warning: Do NOT allow Stephen Curry near any flammable objects. You’re bound to get burned.
The Warriors star point guard was too hot to handle tonight, leading his team to a crucial 115-101 victory in Game 4. The win gives the Dubs a commanding 3-1 series lead, the first time they’ve been up two games in a playoff series since eliminating the Dallas Mavericks in Game 6 of the first round in 2007.
It’s difficult to put into perspective just how amazing Curry was tonight. Consider that over the final 4:22 of the third quarter, Curry scored 19 points on a perfect 8-for-8 shooting. Read that over again. Four minutes, twenty-two seconds. Over the coming days I’m sure we’ll have a better idea of just how historical that performance was, but for now, all I can say is…“Wow!”
Curry finished with 22 points in that that third quarter assault alone, ushering back memories of Sleepy Floyd’s 29-point fourth quarter back in 1987. It was an extraordinary sight to witness, as with each successive bucket, it was as if Curry was essentially saying, “Oh, that impressed you? Watch this.”
And watch we did. It was just a dazzling display of the unworldly shooting prowess that Warriors fans have been spoiled with over the course of his first four years in the league. After draining six more threes tonight, Curry has made more three-pointers in his first four playoff games than any other player in NBA history. It’s just another shooting record to add to the list for Curry, who has too many to count at this point. Prior to the game, the one-and-only Magic Johnson declared tonight to be “a defining moment” for Curry. Turns out Magic is almost as good at being a TV analyst as he was a hall-of-fame player, because defining is exactly what it turned out to be. This game launched Curry into the NBA superstar stratosphere, and if the chants emanating from the crowd at Oracle throughout the contest are any indication, he’s firmly in the MVP discussion now as well.
But when you realize that he only had seven points entering halftime, the big question remains: how on earth did the Warriors enter the break with a 12-point lead? The answer is plain, simple, and extremely large. The Warriors don’t win this game without Andrew Bogut.
As impressive as Curry’s second half was, Bogut’s first half doesn’t fall very short. He was livelier, more passionate and more offensively aggressive than in any other game this year, and he clearly set the tone in the first half when Denver was doing their best to deliver an early knockout punch. As has become well known across the league, the crowd at Oracle Arena is one intimidating sixth man. And as the Warriors continue to reach new playoff success, I’m sure there will be plenty of deafening moments to come. But when Bogut took the ball at the top of the key halfway through the first quarter, saw JaVale McGee in the paint, and put him on what has to be the tallest poster ever made, the lid blew off the roof. Short of Baron Davis’ epic thunderdunk on Andre Kirilenko back in 2007, this will go down as the greatest dunk in Warriors’ playoff history. As he screamed the entire way back down the floor, you could feel the momentum change in the arena. Often in such competitive playoff series, there’s usually a play or two that sticks out as a turning point. Although the Dubs may have already had a lead in the series, it remains to be seen if Bogut’s slam can have a lasting impact, and ultimately, serve as a significant body blow to the Nuggets as the Warriors try to close this thing out.
There were some other key players in this huge victory as well, as time and time again some unexpected contributors provided big buckets. Draymond Green, brimming with an abundance of confidence, notched a new career-high with 13 points and six rebounds in 23 solid minutes, including two clutch three-pointers. When you consider that Green had never made more than a single three-pointer in any game in his NBA career, it really becomes clear that he took that Game 1 loss personally. Ever since he allowed Andre Miller to drive by him, Green has been a different kind of player. He’s exhibiting more confidence in his shot and more energy on defense than at any point so far this year, and it couldn’t come at a better time for the Warriors, who need all the help they can get from their bigs and wings with David Lee gone for the rest of the season. Not bad for a guy who got passed up by all 30 NBA teams in the first round of last year’s draft. Not bad at all.
Of course, not everything went perfectly for the Warriors. They still seem to have no answer for Ty Lawson’s dribble penetration, as he went off for another 26 points. Golden State, although better than in Game 3, could have taken better care of the ball, and they still have issues with clock management and set-play defense. But if you compare those deficiencies to the growing laundry list of problems Denver is having, it doesn’t seem so bad. After all, despite those issues, the Warriors now have a 3-1 series lead, and they’ll take that no matter which way it comes.
It isn’t over yet though. Yes, the Warriors put the Nuggets in a really tough spot tonight, and they’ll be kicking themselves on the entire trip back to Denver for not managing to take at least one game at Oracle. But last time I checked, you have to win four games to advance, and the Warriors aren’t quite there yet. It’s never easy winning in Denver, but Golden State has already proven themselves capable of doing so. You never want to give a team life when you have them down, so the Warriors shouldn’t rest on their laurels and coast into the mile-high city expecting an easy clincher. The final win is always the toughest, and you can bet Denver will be more than ready to attempt to spoil the Warriors’ party. But something tells me Golden State will be ready, and if Game 5 is anything like Game 4, that’s something we can all get excited about.