LOS ANGELES, May 10, (AFP): Stephen Curry returned from injury to deliver an overtime performance for the ages Monday, scoring 17 points in the extra session to lift Golden State to a 132-125 win over Portland in game four of their playoff series.
Curry reminded everyone why he is the reigning league MVP, coming off the bench to finish with 40 points in 37 minutes of playing time as the Warriors moved to within one victory of the NBA Western Conference finals.
Curry, who sat out the past four postseason games with a knee injury, bagged all but four of Golden State’s overtime points as he outscored the Trail Blazers by himself in the extra session.
“It took me a while to get in the groove but it finally happened,” said Curry, who also had nine rebounds and eight assists.
Warrior coach Steve Kerr started his news conference Monday by joking, “Steph will start on Wednesday night”, referring to game five.
Kerr said he expected to have to limit Curry’s minutes Monday to about 25. But after watching the way Curry rallied the troops, he threw that plan out the window.
“The guy has played one game in three weeks,” Kerr said. “I expected a lot of rust. Nobody could have predicted that explosion.
“I figured he would find his stroke and make a few shots, but that was crazy.”
Curry didn’t enter the game until halfway through the first quarter, with the Warriors trailing 16-2 in front of a crowd of 19,500 at Portland’s Moda Center arena.
“I been through a lot in the last three weeks,” Curry said. “A lot of people helped me to come back and play.”
Klay Thompson scored 23 points and Draymond Green collected 21 points, nine rebounds, seven blocked shots and five assists for the Warriors.
Damian Lillard scored 36 points and handed out 10 assists, CJ McCollum added 24 points, and Al-Farouq Aminu chipped in 18 points and 13 rebounds for the Blazers, who will attempt to extend the series by winning Wednesday at Oracle Arena.
Curry scored the Warriors’ first 12 points of overtime for a 123-118 lead with 1:51 to go.
Harrison Barnes’ fastbreak layup extended the lead to 125-118 with 1:23 to play.
Lillard made a pair of free throws to cut the difference to 125-120 with 1:18 to go, but Curry drained another three-pointer and it was 128-120 with 65 seconds left. The Blazers got no closer than seven points the rest of the way.
Meanwhile in the Eastern Conference game Monday, Dwyane Wade scored 30 points and had a clutch steal and dunk in overtime as the Miami Heat evened their second-round playoff series with a 94-87 win over Toronto.
“This is one heck of a series,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Was there any doubt this was going to overtime?”
The Heat stepped it up in overtime as Joe Johnson blocked two shots, Justise Winslow produced a tip-in basket and Goran Dragic had a key layup as Miami levelled the best-of-seven series at two games each. “That is just him being D. Wade,” Dragic said. “Unbelievable. He is unstoppable.”
Game five is Wednesday in Toronto, where Wade will be public enemy number one after Toronto fans accused the Chicago native of being disrespectful in game three for shooting baskets during the Canadian national anthem.
On Monday, Wade tied the score with 12 seconds left by driving to the rim for a basket. Toronto had a chance to ice the victory in regulation but Cory Joseph missed a 15-foot jump shot at the buzzer in front of a crowd of 19,600 fans at Miami’s AmericanAirlines arena.
Toronto, who played without injured center Jonas Valanciunas, got scoring from some unexpected sources — 14 points each from DeMarre Carroll and Joseph.
Bismack Biyombo started in place of Valanciunas and tallied a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds. Valanciunas is out for the rest of the series.