Steph Curry, Warriors figure out 'fine line' of shooting in Game 2 rout
OAKLAND, Calif. — If Game 1 was an example of how the Golden State Warriors can be their own worst enemy at times, then Game 2 was a valuable reminder of how historically explosive they can also be.
As Steve Kerr admitted before the Warriors' 118-91 Game 2 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday to tie the Western Conference Finals at 1-1, there's a "fine line" between good shots and bad shots for the Warriors, and if the Dubs aren't careful, their otherworldly shooting ability can actually border on being counterproductive.
In losses such as Game 1, the Warriors' shot selection tends to trend toward the latter (bad shots). In Game 2, their shot distribution was more of the former (good ones).
Basically, there were better looks for Stephen Curry in Game 2, which has proved to be a winning formula of historical proportions.
After failing to recapture the magic he displayed against the Portland Trail Blazers at the end of the last round, Curry set the Thunder on fire in the third quarter on Wednesday, scoring 15 points over a two-minute stretch of the third quarter that blew the game open and essentially sealed the win.
Curry's individual brilliance was the result of a process the Warriors focused on heading into the must-win: moving the ball and stretching the Thunder's rangy defense for better shots.
"When we're moving the ball around like we were, that's the key," Draymond Green said. "That's when we're at our best. I think tonight we did that. You look and the score is spread out across the score sheet, and that's when we're tough to guard."
Overall, Curry scored 28 points in just fewer than 30 minutes. The performance was what we've come to expect from Curry — when he's healthy.
The only reason it came as any semblance of a surprise was because it's clear he's still not 100 percent — Kerr admitted as much when asked about Curry's health prior to tip-off — which cast doubt over whether Curry was capable of one of his trademark flurries.
But any doubts regarding Curry's health or status as the game's best player were quickly put to rest after his third-quarter takeover.
"He's the MVP for a reason and he know he didn't have his best night in Game 1, and he came out and played exceptionally well," Kerr said.
When asked if anything was surprising about Curry breaking out and scoring 17 points in the third frame, Kerr seemed legitimately stunned by the question.
"Nothing," Kerr said stone-faced, before breaking into a laugh. "Business as usual. This is what he does."
Or, as teammate Festus Ezeli aptly put it, "Steph is gonna Steph."
In a playoff series defined by its unusual starpower, the Warriors likely will need Curry to shine brightest.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are explosive in their own right, and are more than capable of taking over a game or series at any moment. The Warriors are clearly the deeper of the two teams, but that doesn't always matter in the playoffs.
What matters is that once he gets hot, Curry is a force the likes of which the NBA hasn't seen.
Pull-up 3-pointers in transition, staring down Serge Ibaka before his 3 falls, and toying with Steven Adams were just a few of the ways Curry torched Oklahoma City.
Some of his shots were good and some were bad. Again, it's a fine line. But with Curry, the line between a good shot and a bad shot is often so blurred that every shot feels like it has a solid chance — and it typically does.
"He makes bad shots," Durant said. "He makes those shots, and sometimes you've just got to put a hand up and contest. When you're in pick-and-roll, try to put a couple bodies on him, but he made some tough ones. Then we turned the ball over and he got a few in transition, too."
Curry's dominance was the deciding factor, but several other categories on the margins went the Warriors' way as well.
Seven players scored in double figures. Golden State took better care of the ball, turning it over only 12 times. Their bench showed up, scoring 50 points after an embarrassing outing in Game 1 (just 16 points). Instead of losing the rebounding battle (minus-8 in Game 1), they won it in convincing fashion (plus-9 in Game 2).
Defensively, the Warriors did a much better job, holding the Thunder to just 91 points, limiting them to 19 free throw attempts, and forcing 15 turnovers (OKC had 12 in Game 1).
Though Durant went off (29 points on 11-of-18 shooting), Westbrook did not (16 points on 5-of-14 shooting), which was key. One can have a good game — but not both.
All of which brings us to the series-defining question: Which contest, Game 1 or Game 2, was more telling?
Can the Thunder's size and length actually bother the Warriors? Are Westbrook and Durant actually the two best players in this series?
Or can Curry keep this up? Klay Thompson can't shoot this poorly (5-of-16 on 3s) for the rest of the series, right? Do the Thunder have any counter to a Warriors team clicking on all cylinders?
Those are all questions we don't yet have answers to yet, but based on the Warriors' control of Game 1 until the second half of the fourth quarter, and their utter dominance of most of Game 2, it remains to be seen if the Thunder have enough collective talent or firepower to win four games in this best-of-seven series.
Questions aside, one thing is certain after Game 2: Order is restored in the NBA universe, if only momentarily.