Warriors look to clinch, Heat-Raptors face pivotal Game 5
MIAMI (AP) Stephen Curry will lift another MVP trophy. Dwyane Wade will try to keep lifting the Miami Heat.
And by night's end, the NBA's Final Four may be in more focus.
Curry and Golden State will host Portland in Game 5 of their second-round series on Wednesday night, the Warriors leading 3-1 and one win from another trip to the Western Conference finals. That game will be preceded by Wade and the Heat in Toronto, with their East matchup knotted at two games apiece after four extremely close - though not always aesthetically pleasing - matchups.
''I'm sleeping like a baby,'' Toronto coach Dwane Casey said Tuesday. ''Waking up and crying.''
The night will belong to Curry, announced Tuesday as the league's first unanimous MVP. He'll get to show the trophy to the adoring home fans at Oracle Arena before tip-off of Game 5 of that series.
It's a regular-season honor, but what he did in Game 4 on Monday night in Portland won't be soon forgotten.
Curry scored an NBA-record 17 points in overtime, finished with 40 in his first game back after missing two weeks with a sprained knee ligament, and helped the Warriors put the Blazers on the brink of elimination with a 132-125 win.
Put most simply, the MVP took over.
''When Steph would have a game like this last year, (former Warriors assistant) Alvin Gentry would say I've got two plays for you. `Steph, get the ball' and `Get the ball, Steph,''' Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. ''Those were Alvin's two play calls so in Alvin's honor that's what we ran in overtime.''
A look at Wednesday's games:
Heat at Raptors, series tied 2-2. 8 p.m., TNT.
Wade will likely get a frosty reception in Toronto, with the national anthem faux pas from Game 3 still simmering.
It's what he's done after the anthems that is really troubling the Raptors.
He's been the best player in this East semifinal series. Wade led the Heat comeback from nine points down in the fourth quarter of Game 4, tying the series at 2-2. And with DeMar DeRozan (right thumb) hurting and Kyle Lowry reverting back to slumping form in Game 4 after a tremendous effort in Game 3, the Raptors have problems of their own.
''He was just D-Wade,'' Heat guard Goran Dragic said. ''When you see him so many times, it's normal. He's unbelievable. ... It's much easier for us when he makes those plays in crucial moments.''
Wade is averaging 27.3 points in the series, and in perhaps his best groove of the season - a byproduct of work he did starting last summer when he shed weight and added flexibility. He's remained committed to the new regimen, often working out on his own with a trainer before going to Heat practices.
''These are the times you get most excited about,'' Wade said.
Injured Heat center Hassan Whiteside (knee) didn't travel to Toronto, so he'll be out for the second straight game. And the Raptors still expect to be without center Jonas Valanciunas (ankle).
DeRozan will play, though his thumb is obviously a major issue. His Game 4 started with an airball, and he was particularly frustrated by a missed wide-open layup.
''I'm going to push through it,'' DeRozan said. ''You can't let frustration get to you at all. ... We have a great opportunity.''
Trail Blazers at Warriors, Golden State leads 3-1. 10:30 p.m., TNT
There's no shortage of people likely thinking that Portland is in trouble.
The Blazers were written off in July after massive roster upheaval, probably left for dead in December after an 11-20 start, and certainly not expected to go anywhere when they dropped the first two games of the first round to the Los Angeles Clippers. But now, down 3-1 and heading into Oakland on the night when Curry gets a trophy, this is a very tall mountain to climb.
''The people that were writing us off are the ones talking about it,'' Portland coach Terry Stotts said Tuesday. ''We've always been pretty confident from the beginning of the season that we were going to be a competitive team.
''I don't necessarily think it's served as a chip or anything,'' Stotts said. ''A lot of things came together at one time.''
It all better come together for Portland now, or else.
The Blazers ran out to a 16-2 lead in Game 4 - and then Curry came into the game. Portland led by three with a minute left in regulation, but couldn't finish it off and now need to win three straight to pull an enormous upset.
''Of course I think they're done,'' Warriors forward Draymond Green said after Game 4.
Predictably, that didn't seem to go over that well on the Blazers' side.
''Draymond does a lot of talking. That's what he does,'' Stotts said. ''We'll worry about our business and go about our business. Really, whatever he says doesn't have much of an impact on us.''
AP freelance writer Ian Harrison in Toronto contributed to this report.