Stephen Curry is (really) back and now it's the Thunder's turn to counter
Stephen Curry was on the court, sure. And yes, he was scoring. But in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, he wasn't himself.
He was missing a step. He was lacking his characteristic swagger.
Returning from a sprained MCL in his right knee, Curry admitted that he wasn't at 100 percent entering the series with the Thunder, and it looked that way in the Warriors' Game 1 loss and for all but a few plays in the first half of Game 2.
The question had to be begged: Were the Warriors going to play without the best version of the league's best player?
That question was unfounded. Oh was it unfounded.
In the third quarter of Game 2, Curry found that step he was missing. He took over — the rhythm and verve so synonymous with his singular style were in tow — and in the blink of an eye, the Warriors were blowing out the Thunder.
Curry — just Curry — went on a 15-2 run in that third quarter, sinking long-range shots with ease and swagger. The one-man show tilted the court so that the Warriors were running downhill the remainder of the game — Golden State led by as many as 29 points in a 118-91 victory which tied the best-of-seven series at 1-1 ahead of Game 3 Sunday in Oklahoma City.
With his 17-point third quarter, Curry affirmed that he is absolutely the best player in a series that includes three of the four or five best players in the NBA, and in the process, he pulled the Warriors out of a precarious spot and put them in the driver's seat of this series.
To be fair, the victory wasn't just a byproduct of Curry's incendiary quarter — the Warriors made tremendous adjustments from Game 1 as a team. They exploited Oklahoma City's preference to switch everything on defense by running effective high pick-and-rolls with big men, not Draymond Green, and that created big-on-small mismatches throughout the contest. They turned Oklahoma City's embarrassing rebounding advantage into a Game 2 deficit with 15 offensive rebounds. They won in the post (48-42 points in the paint) and manufactured more second-chance points (15-5). They locked down Russell Westbrook both in transition and in the half-court (Westbrook was a game-worst minus-27). They turned the ball over only 11 times and allowed only 19 free-throw attempts. They rattled Kevin Durant, whose foul of Curry on a 3-pointer and subsequent technical foul resulted in a four-point play that was the catalyst for Curry's third-quarter takeover. They used the energy of the Oracle Arena crowd as an advantage.
But ultimately, it was Curry who was the difference . He changed the series. So what adjustment did the Warriors make do to get the back-to-back MVP going?
Steve Kerr was asked just that after the game.
"Nothing," Kerr said with a shrug.
It's now the Thunder's turn to counter. OKC's two-big system might have seen its end Wednesday — Steven Adams and Enes Kanter played nine minutes in Game 2 and were a minus-7, and the Thunder will need to find a second kind of smoke to throw at the Warriors, because the MVP has, without question, arrived.