Life without David Lee is one thing; knocking off the San Antonio Spurs minus the NBA’s best pure shooter — forget about it.
Stephen Curry saved the Warriors from finding out the hard way in Game 4 at Oracle Arena on Sunday, limping through 38 tough minutes that were desperately needed to even the series up at 2-2.
“I just sat back and was, honestly, just in awe,” guard Jarrett Jack said.
Jack said the performance reminded him of Isiah Thomas in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, when the Hall of Famer scored 25 points in the third quarter despite a severely sprained ankle. The comparison might be a stretch, but it isn’t too far off.
Curry squeezed out 22 points on a hobbled left ankle in Game 4 and the Warriors needed every single basket in the thrilling overtime win over the Spurs.
It wasn’t the first time Curry has bounced back from an ankle sprain this postseason, but this time his status was in serious doubt prior to tip off.
“Watching him warm up, I said, man there’s no way this kid is playing,” Jack said.
Coach Mark Jackson wasn’t sure what to expect, either, after speaking with him before the game.
“He said, ‘I’m going to give you what I’ve got coach,’ and that’s not the language he speaks,” Jackson said. “So I knew right away that he was not 100 percent.”
Curry appeared to be in full torch mode when he nailed two three-pointers in the game’s first four minutes. But as the quarter progressed, Curry limitations became obvious. He couldn’t penetrate with the dribble and it restricted his ability create opportunities for his teammates and open up space for his own shot on the perimeter. Instead, he stood in the corner hoping for open looks.
He finished the first half with six points in 15 minutes and the Warriors trailed by eight.
“I tried to pick and choose when to use him,” Jackson said.
Curry played in the opening minutes of the second half in less than 90 seconds he changed the course of the game. First, he drained a three from the top of the arc with 9:46 left in the quarter and then he hit another one on the Warriors’ next trip up the floor. One possession later, he beat Tony Parker off the dribble, earning a trip to the free-throw line for two points as a familiar chant — “MVP, MVP, MVP” — shook the arena.
Just like that, the Warriors cut the lead to a single point.
Curry added a 14-footer later in the quarter, he dropped another 3-pointer in the fourth and he iced the game in overtime, driving the lane for a three-point play to put the Warriors up by nine points with 1:46 left on the clock.
Sure, he didn’t baffle the Spurs like he did in Game 1, but he sparked fires at the right times and the Warriors needed his contribution to win.
What will Curry’s status be for the rest of the series? Who knows? But the Warriors will need everything he can offer to keep this dream season alive.
Paul Gackle is a columnist for The San Francisco Examiner. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @GackleReport.