“Business as usual. This is what he does.”
That was how Warriors coach Steve Kerr described Stephen Curry‘s play during a 15-2 run in the third quarter that blew the game open and evened the Western Conference Finals at one game a piece.
While Curry was grabbing everyone’s attention with a classic “Curry Flurry” of shots, this run was more than that — it was the Warriors defense cutting off the passing lanes of Oklahoma City, it was sloppy Thunder defense, and it was Draymond Green making smart plays. It was everything the Warriors did right to earn the win encapsulated in 133 seconds.
Here’s how it went down. Andre Roberson cut Golden State’s lead to 64-57 with a driving layup with 7:23 left. That’s when the Curry Flurry started.
• The first bucket is pretty simple: Curry pops out off an Andrew Bogut down screen (at the mid-post) and Bogut makes sure Serge Ibaka didn’t get to Curry by keeping that screen moving. Steven Adams stayed back as if he wasn’t coming out to that thin air, so Curry got as clean a look as he would all night. Three ball. 67-57 with 7:09 left.
• Russell Westbrook lazily brings the ball up and with 12 seconds on the shot clock passes to Kevin Durant out top. Westbrook can’t get open coming off an Andre Roberson screen, then there is a lot of standing around. Durant tries to make a risky pass to Roberson on the baseline, Curry tipped it and Draymond Green intercepted it. It was one of several turnovers that made the Warriors’ run possible, but this one was more about a stagnant Thunder offense than good Warriors play.
With the turnover Golden State was off to the races — Green made a 40-foot pass ahead to a streaking Curry, who was met at the basket by Durant, and Curry could not score around KD’s length (there was a lot of contact, but the refs were letting them play, so no call). Harrison Barnes grabbed the loose ball and passed out top to Green. While that happened Curry got up off the ground, sprinted to the right corner, Durant lost him for a second and had to close out fast after Green made the pass, and KD fouled Curry. Then Durant picked up a technical. Curry proceeded to hit the technical and all three free throws, 71-57 with 6:33 left.
While Curry has the hot hand and is drawing the attention, it is Green who is often the catalyst and was in this case.
“I thought (Green) made some big defensive plays in the third quarter, deflections, and that allowed us to get out and run,” Kerr said after the game. “And often times he becomes the ball handler in transition with Steph and Klay running the wings. There were some plays there where we broke free and Steph was able to get some looks and get going.”
• While Westbrook walks the ball up, Durant went down by the baseline then popped back up to the elbow off an Adams down screen — that was enough space for one of Durant’s favorite shots, that fade-away jumper. This is the only points the Thunder score during the Curry Flurry. It’s 71-59 with 6:22 left.
• Curry brings the ball up and both Westbrook and Adams are there to meet him 30 feet from the basket — they are going to get it out of his hands. Curry steps back from the double and passes to Andrew Bogut rolling down the lane — and this is where the ball movement lacking from Golden State consistently in Game 1 shows up. Bogut sees help defenders come to him, so he passes to Andre Iguodala in the corner — and now the Thunder are scrambling, Adams has dropped into the paint and Westbrook has taken his eyes off Curry and started ball watching. Iguodala throws it to Green in the post, Curry slides down the arc and Green hits him with a pass, Ibaka closes out hard so Curry pump fakes, waits for the Ibaka flyby, steps up and shoots the three — then while the ball is still in the air stares down Ibaka. Net. 74-59 with 6:07 left.
• Again Westbrook has the ball out top and again Durant comes off the down screen to the elbow — but this time Bogut and the Warriors anticipate it, arrive when the pass does and steal it. It is what the Warriors do when they crank up their defense, they start to jump passing lanes and take risks to force turnovers and transition opportunities. It worked here.
On the break Bogut throws it ahead to Iguodala, who throws it back to Curry at the top of the arc — he hits it but steps on the line, so just two points. 76-59 with 5:47 left.
Thunder coach Billy Donovan calls a timeout. It’s not enough.
• The Warriors have a fantastic defensive stand out of the timeout — Klay Thompson bodies up Durant at the top of the key and takes away any easy shot, he passes Westbrook who drives around an Adams screen at the elbow but first Green then Iguodala seamlessly handle the switch and cut off the drive, Westbrook passes to Enes Kanter and he goes to the basket but both Bogut and Green are there. Green is credited with the block.
Iguodala brings the ball up, passes to Green at the three-point line on the left wing, Curry comes out and gets the handoff from Green, then quickly reverses field to use Green as a screen, Durant can’t get over the pick and Adams again is too far away. Three again. Now it’s 79-59.
And it’s all over. There are 17 minutes to play but everyone realizes this game is done.