A few times in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, the Warriors would make spurts of six or eight points, but never achieve sufficient escape velocity to get out of OKC’s orbit. This is rare, and they let the Thunder wander back into the game, which they eventually won. Not so much tonight. The Warriors took Game 2 118-91, but really, Steph Curry slammed the door shut in less than two minutes in the third quarter.
With 7:09 left in the quarter, Golden State led the Thunder by seven when Curry arched in a three-pointer. At 5:11, Curry wrong-footed Kevin Durant and Steven Adams on a pick-and-roll, then tossed in another three to swell the Warriors’ lead to 20. In the intervening minutes, Curry hit four free throws, sent in a long two on a transition play, and dribbled around Serge Ibaka to get another three. 15 points in 1:58 isn’t his most impressive scoring burst of these playoffs, but man, his third quarter informally ended the game 12 minutes early. Here’s his whole quarter, minus the free throws.
And he did it all with a big protruding mass on his elbow, which he whacked diving into the stands. He got knocked around all game, but all he needed was one little window, and, poof, he made the game disappear.
Curry only had to play a minute in the fourth quarter, as his teammates continued to overwhelm the Thunder and render Durant and Russell Westbrook into bystanders. Durant had a much better game than Game 1, but most of his output came in the first half, and he couldn’t get much going in the second.
Everything the Thunder did right in Game 1 (rebound the everliving shit out of the ball, stay in Steph Curry’s grill, create offense through Westbrook’s idiosyncratically ripping the defense to ribbons) disappeared in Game 2. Golden State out-rebounded OKC by nine, and Festus Ezeli finally gave the Warriors someone who could bang with Steven Adams. The Thunder continued to switch physically imposing defenders onto Curry, but his release is so sudden that a modicum of separation makes him near-wide open.
The Thunder are capable of busting out of Golden State’s scheming because Westbrook and Durant can get their shots against anyone, but they can’t match the amplitude and severity of a Curry barrage. Obviously the Warriors had to carry it home and they couldn’t just lie down and chill after Curry erupted, but when Curry goes off this violently, it feels like he can shoot and demoralize opponents all the way out of the game in minutes.
In purely basketball terms, a seven-point deficit quickly ballooning into a 20-point one makes coming back significantly harder. But don’t discount the psychological damage Curry’s bombarding tendencies come with. It has to be incredibly demoralizing to set up an entire defensive scheme to limit the damage one 6-foot-3 dude can cause, only to watch him set fire to it all in two minutes. Curry seems like he frustrates and discourages those who he blazes through, and that has to have an effect on team chemistry and belief. How do you keep fighting back against someone who scores so quickly and persistently?