Down by 20 and threatening to show the basketball world that they were not invincible, the 67-win Golden State Warriors were on the verge of a bad road loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday night.
The team wasn’t playing well. It looked flustered for the first three-plus quarters in its first road test of the playoffs. And while one loss to an upstart Pelicans squad wasn’t going to end the team’s season, it was definitely a wake-up call for first-year head coach Steve Kerr and company.
Then something happened.
The Warriors actually started playing Warrior basketball. It wasn’t subtle. There wasn’t any nuance needed. This squad knew it could come back from being down 18 points with less than six minutes left. It had the confidence most teams wouldn’t have had at that point.
We could point to Draymond Green’s overall stellar play in the final stanza. We could double check the box score to see Golden State’s double-digit offensive rebounds in the fourth and overtime. We could latch on to the common (and probably true belief) that New Orleans choked the game away.
Or, we could look into the eyes of one Stephen Curry and draw a conclusion from there.
From the point that Curry nailed a top-of-the-key three with 5:50 left in the fourth to pull Golden State to within 15, it was on. The Warriors would end up scoring 40 points in the final 10:50 of the game, overtime included. And it was this one play from Curry, who had just checked back into the game, that lit a flame under the best squad in the Association.
It’s not the 40 points that Curry scored. It’s not even the game-tying three-pointer with less than three seconds left.
Okay, that was sick.
Instead, it’s the swagger that this Warriors team possessed to pull off one of the greatest comebacks in NBA Playoff history.
Curry missed his first attempt to tie the game mere seconds before nailing that ridiculous three, but he was given another opportunity by a player in Marreese Speights who had been a castoff on multiple teams throughout his career.
Leandro Barbosa, another veteran castoff, came up big with a couple shots of his own in the fourth. Heck, long-forgotten former top-five pick Shaun Livington added a cool 12 points and four rebounds off the bench.
The true sign of an MVP is getting those around you to play better than their talent level suggests.
Michael Jordan turned Luc Longley and Steve Kerr into valuable role players. Kobe Bryant helped Rick Fox and Devean George turn pedestrian talent into lengthy NBA careers. And Tim Duncan has been upping the game of his teammates since Lindsay Lohan was that little girl in Parent Trap.
Good players step up when it’s needed the most. Curry did this. Generational talents, Hall of Famers and MVP’s up the game of their teammates when it is needed the most.
This is what Stephen Curry did on Thursday night.
And while MVP voting closed prior to the playoffs, there’s no reason to believe Curry isn’t the Association’s most valuable. Game 3 against the Pelicans proved this to a T.
Photo: USA Today Sports