For a brief moment, it was unclear whether Stephen Curry was losing the ball or just toying with his defender.
Another look quickly revealed the MVP’s stutter step and fancy dribbling were intentional:
Curry drilled a 3-pointer to end the first quarter, capping a 16-2 run that erased a 13-point Grizzlies lead, and inspired a raucous home crowd into delirium.
And just like that the Warriors were back in control – of this game (which they won, 98-78, while never trailing in the final three quarters) and this series (which they lead, 3-2).
Golden State can advance to its first conference finals since 1976 by winning Game 6 Friday.
“This is big,” Curry said of the Game 5 win.
Then, Curry – who had 18 points, seven rebounds, five assists and six steals – looked ahead: “It’s getting bigger and bigger. And we love it.”
Curry made 6-of-13 3-pointers, Klay Thompson 3-of-4 (including one as part of a four-point play), Harrison Barnes 3-of-5 and Andre Iguodala 3-of-5 – and the Warriors (14-of-30) dominated the Grizzlies (4-of-15) from beyond the arc.
But no matter what the narrative says, Golden State is not a one-dimensional jump-shooting team.
Take Draymond Green, who missed all five of his 3-point attempts but kept the ball moving with nine assists. Plus, the forward played his usual strong defense – and eventually, so did the Warriors.
With Jeff Green starting for an injured Tony Allen, the Grizzlies look free by the ability to play 5-on-5 offensively as they raced to a 23-10 lead. In Game 4, Golden State mostly ignored the poor-shooting Allen and used his nominal defender, Andrew Bogut, to roam the paint.
But the Warriors, the NBA’s best defense during the regular season, adjusted to their new challenge and clamped down. They also started turning their stops into transition. Golden State outscored Memphis on fastbreaks, 31-6.
Despite their best efforts to slow the pace, the Grizzlies still couldn’t keep up.
It’s hard to see how will.