People are going to write stories on this Golden State Warriors team. Whether it be about the championship and the greatest regular season of all time followed by a title and a dynasty or the simple failure to reach expectations, there will be books and tales told describing the trials and tribulations of these years. And the first two words out of everyone's mouths will always remain: Stephen Curry.
On Wednesday night, Curry rose again, and the Golden State Warriors responded with such ferocity and force that even the most irrational Warriors fans could have seen coming in a 118-91 rout. But it didn't start that way. Unlike against the Memphis Grizzlies and Cleveland Cavaliers, the Warriors didn't simply come out of the gates and storm past the Oklahoma City Thunder while coasting their way throughout the rest of the game. Instead, this one came with a twist.
A white-hot Kevin Durant, dominant in the middle Steven Adams, and some timely bench shooting withstood the Curry runs in the first half and even took a lead late in the second quarter. Draymond Green was screaming at Klay Thompson (normal) but Klay was screaming and waving back right at him (less normal). The halfcourt offense slowed to a complete crawl as Steph was back off the ball and shut off like the fourth quarter of Game 1.
Then all of a sudden, they were back. It all starts on defense, as Green kept reminding us in the media presser over and over again, sometimes unprompted. It coalesced with an Andre Iguodala spinning no-look layup off the glass with his body parallel to the ground. On the other side of the floor, he played one of his best defensive games, forcing KD into eight total turnovers with repeated swipes on the upward movement on KD's shot.
While the first half mirrored the first game in terms of results, OKC once again replicated that defensive effort in the second half. And finally, the Warriors, and the name that will forever etch itself in Warrior folklore woke up and annihilated everyone in sight, sustaining his regular season into the Western Conference Finals. Curry dropped 17 points in two minutes, stared down Serge Ibaka and said, "nothing" as the ball was still in midair, posed in front of the Thunder bench, and effectively made his stamp on this series.
In front of an Oracle crowd that returned back to its vocal roots (despite their inability to catch Curry in the stands), the Warriors got the man they've been missing throughout the postseason. After the game, Steve Kerr in more than his usual jovial manner described his emotions during the flurry, "Nothing. Business as usual, this is what he does." And when asked again, "I feel great joy. I really do."
Festus Ezeli drew the podium seat next to Steph and on the first question playfully shook him while exclaiming, "Steph is gonna Steph, alright!"
The players knew they got him back and even Steph himself admitted, "My body is catching up, I think I'm there." Now seven wins away from the championship, and obviously not 100 percent and unlikely to get there, Curry is willing himself to the type of stratosphere and status normally reserved for the titans of the game. His team needs him now to sustain who he is and it was never more evident than in Durant's postgame near-distaste of his shooting.
"He makes bad shots. He makes tough shots."
That's who Stephen Curry is and always will be. Look at Randy Foye's reaction of stoic chaos as Curry lifts off from 3. Look at the crowd murmur in unison as Steph sets up in transition. Look at Steph react to his own shots with a wiggle there, a dance after, and the familiar smell of defeated-ness of opposing teams. There is no defending bad shots.
As a defender, you learn to live with Curry making bad shots. Hell, you even learn to live with getting the ball out of his hands (which the Thunder did repeatedly, letting Green get into a playmaking rhythm). But when it comes at you in waves, over and over again, that's when it all starts to snowball, and the Thunder defense collapsed in a span of a few minutes.
The series is now tied 1-1, the Oklahoma City Thunder still own home-court advantage, and yet, it seems like the entire texture of the Western Conference Finals has shifted back to the defending champions. Because of Stephen Curry. Be sure to start with those two words when you tell your kids' kids one day.