Stephen Curry can shoot the three. He can hit a mid-range jumper. If you need him to drive the lane and loft a floater, he can do that too. Another guy has a hot hand? No problem, he can kick-and-shoot or thread an entry pass with the best of them.
On Sunday night, he did all of the above.
The Golden State Warriors punched the Denver Nuggets’ card for the third straight time on Sunday night. The 115-101 win secured Golden State’s 3-1 advantage in the series, thanks largely to an unforgettable third quarter from Curry, who finished the game with 31 points, seven assists and four steals.
Curry – who is suffering from a left ankle sprain sustained Friday night – was almost a non-factor on offense in the first half, taking only three shots and limiting his contributions to assists and steals. He didn’t make his presence known until around halfway through the third, when Jarrett Jack found the hobbled point guard with a leaping pass from the baseline to the top of the arc. Wide open, Curry kissed the ball into the back of the net, sparking what became a 22-point, 8-of-11 run that sent fans at Oracle Arena into a frenzy.
“We played aggressive all night,” Curry said after the game. “We’re doing it by committee.”
Curry’s timely 22-point explosion came right as the Nuggets were on the verge of overtaking the Warriors’ shrinking lead. Despite finishing the second quarter on an 11-0 run that sent both teams into their locker rooms with the Warriors up 56-44, Denver had managed to eliminate whatever momentum Golden State had with Ty Lawson putting the team on his speedy, undersized back by scoring 15 points in the opening minutes of the third quarter.
For a short period, Golden State’s defense allowed Lawson to score at will. The former North Carolina guard hit threes, fade-aways and drove the lane in an inspired five-minute stretch that almost put Denver back in the driver’s seat.
Defensive adjustments – including some clutch plays from rookie Draymond Green – helped stifle Denver’s offense following Lawson’s outburst. But the real game-changer came when Curry found his stroke.
Why the Warriors Won
As impressive as Curry’s third quarter was, Golden State would not have won this game were it not for key contributions from the rest of the starting five and its bench. Six Warriors finished the night in double figures, with Jack and Andrew Bogut combining to shoot an unbelievable 14-of-18 from the field.
With Curry clearly playing hurt, Jack served as Golden State’s primary facilitator for much of the second and third quarters, racking up nine assists against only two turnovers. Carl Landry and Draymond Green both provided the Warriors with some size and toughness, and Bogut got the crowd going early with several earth-shattering dunks over JaVale McGee and Kenneth Faried.
Klay Thompson also played well, recovering from his six-point dud on Friday to go 5-of-10 with 13 points. Golden State’s ability to distribute scoring across its starting five and bench kept Denver’s defense guessing, and gave Curry a chance to find his shot without having to force the issue early on.
The Warriors gave me plenty to choose from.
Besides an 11-point run to finish the first half, and Curry’s explosive third quarter, one stretch that stands out took place early in the second quarter, when Bogut dove into the stands to save the ball on an errant shot from Landry.
The Australian slapped the ball to Thompson near half-court and recovered in time to sprint back to the lane, where he fielded an entry pass from Curry that resulted in a thunderous dunk over a few unfortunate members of Denver’s front court.
Curry followed that up by going 2-for-2 from the line on the following possession.
Shortly thereafter, Bogut threw a Ricky Rubio-esque behind the back pass from the lane to a wide-open Jack on the perimeter. Jack nailed the three.
When Denver tried to push the ball back up the court after Jack’s three, Curry forced a steal, which he then tossed to Jack for a pretty lay-in, giving the Warriors a big eight-point second half lead.
As noted above, Golden State took a more balanced approach with its offense in Game 4 – which made the team seem much more dangerous than when they relied on David Lee, Curry, Thompson and Jack through the regular season. Shooting contributions from Landry, Harrison Barnes and others spaced the floor and forced Denver’s defense to dedicate players to the perimeter, thereby creating more open looks for Curry, and (now) Bogut.
That being said, the most notable performance from Game 4 has to go to Draymond Green. Green managed to draw several charges from Denver’s defenders, challenged the Nuggets’ bench on the boards and even managed to knock down a pair of threes to finish the night with 13 points, four steals and six rebounds in 25 minutes of play.
Green is a hustle player whose high basketball IQ makes up for his complete lack of athleticism and his (usually) limited scoring ability. His presence of mind on defense is astonishing, as it gives the Warriors some much needed toughness whenever Bogut is on the bench.
MVP- Andrew Bogut/Stephen Curry
On one hand, it’s impossible to look at Stephen Curry’s unbelievable third quarter and not give him tonight’s MVP. After all, 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting would be an impressive line for 35 minutes of play; he did it in a little less than 6:30.
However, Curry had largely been a non-factor up until that point, so much so George Karl had assigned ancient Andre Miller to defend the younger, faster point guard at the start of the second half. Karl shouldn’t take too much heat for that decision – Curry had looked sluggish coming off of screens and seemed to lack confidence in his shot for most of the first half. He didn’t really take off until he knocked down an open look three (courtesy of Jack) from the top of the key.
Up until he went on that run, Andrew Bogut was the Warriors’ hands-down MVP. Golden State is finally seeing the center they traded Monta Ellis for; the Aussie threw down a handful of incredible dunks in the first quarter en route to a 12-point, five-rebound effort, which included some elite defense against Denver’s formidable bigs (Faried and McGee). Had this game not been a blowout by the fourth quarter, Bogut likely would have finished with a double-double.