Another missed opportunity has left the Portland Trail Blazers with no margin for error in their quest to overtake the Golden State Warriors.
They’ll now need to be virtually perfect with Stephen Curry back and having rediscovered his shooting touch.
Curry’s heroic return has the Warriors a win away from a second consecutive trip to the Western Conference finals when they return home for Wednesday night’s Game 5.
Playing for the first time since spraining his right knee in Game 4 of Golden State’s opening-round series with Houston, Curry shook off a rusty start to take over the final stages of Monday’s Game 4. Hours before officially earning his second straight league MVP in a first-ever unanimous vote, the sharpshooter scored an NBA-record 17 points in overtime to rally the Warriors to a 132-125 victory for a 3-1 series lead.
Curry missed his first nine 3-point attempts and was 6 of 18 from the field through three quarters, but he went 10 of 14 thereafter to finish with 40 points in 38 minutes.
“I figured he’d find his stroke and make a few shots, but that was crazy,” coach Steve Kerr said. “Once he got going, he didn’t look tired.”
Curry’s performance helped turn around a series that appeared to be shifting in the Trail Blazers’ favor following Saturday’s 120-108 Game 3 win and a sizzling start to Monday’s matchup. Portland led 16-2 when Curry entered with 5:58 left in the first quarter and owned a 71-59 advantage early in the third before the Warriors began to mount their comeback.
The Blazers also couldn’t close out Game 2 in Oakland, where they were outscored 34-12 in the fourth quarter in a 110-99 defeat.
“We played really well in Game 3 and got the win, Game 2 we played really well and we let that one slip away and then (Monday) we played really well again,” guard Damian Lillard said. “They’re a championship team. We competed with them. We’re right there, we were one or two stops from winning the game. We let another one get away.”
Lillard couldn’t duplicate a brilliant 40-point effort in Game 3. Though he finished with 36 points, the star guard was 9 of 30 from the floor after Saturday’s 8-of-13 display from 3-point range.
The near-misses have put Portland in a precarious spot. The Blazers will need to win twice at Oracle Arena, where the Warriors are 44-2 this season including the playoffs and have won six straight over Portland. Golden State also has yet to lose back-to-back games during its record-setting campaign.
“If I don’t think they’re done, I don’t know who else is going to think it,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said. “We’re going home with a 3-1 lead. I trust our team to come out ready to go and close this series out. We did what we needed to do; we came on the road and got one win.”
Curry, who will receive his MVP award before the game, presents another obstacle to a Portland team that’s also had difficulty containing Klay Thompson and Green. Thompson is averaging 30.5 points for the series and hit three 3s during a momentum-shifting 19-5 run during the third quarter of Game 4. Green compiled 21 points, nine rebounds and seven blocks on Monday and is averaging 24.5 points and 11.3 rebounds in the series.
Only nine teams have overcome a 3-1 deficit to win a series, though Houston did so against the Los Angeles Clippers in last year’s West semifinals. Portland did win four straight over the Clippers in the opening round after losing the first two.
“The important thing for right now is that we’ve played better in every game, which is improvement, obviously,” coach Terry Stotts said. “Just like in the Clippers series, we played better as the series went along. Same thing here.”