Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals demonstrated once again how Stephen Curry can win games on his own for the Golden State Warriors, and all he needs are a couple of minutes of playing the kind of basketball no one in the NBA has an answer for.
Curry finished with 28 points in a 118-91 win for the Warriors over the Oklahoma City Thunder, making it 1-1 in their series, making sure the Warriors will have at least one more game at home in this series, although that was never really in doubt. Most of those points came in the third quarter, scoring 17 of them. More impressively, 15 of those points came in a two-minute stretch, turning an 8-point game into a blowout and sending the Thunder into garbage time.
There’s more to the Warriors than just Curry, obviously. Their defense in the second half was sublime, frustrating Kevin Durant and making Russell Westbrook into the mistake-prone, bad-decision making point guard he too often is, quite the opposite to his game 1 persona. The game was turned and finished the moment Durant was called for a foul on Curry and a technical foul was added. When people mention the Warriors getting preferential treatment, they talk about moments like this. Not because of the common foul, it was one by Durant. But the technical? Soft, weak, name it whatever you want. It’s something Draymond Green does half a dozen times a game if not more, and often is excused. He’s then credited with doing a good job of working the refs by some fans.
But reducing the Warriors success this season to getting the benefit of the doubt on many calls is wrong. They’re a great team, maybe one of the best in NBA history, although no one will talk about them that way without a second championship. The Thunder looked like a team capable of disrupting that run in game 1 and for the first half of game 2. But like many teams before, losing focus for only a couple of minutes against the most deadly basketball player on the planet resulted not just in a loss, but in something that might be a serious moral blow.
Besides Curry, the Warriors shot well from beyond the arc, making sure they don’t have to win the game by going into the paint against Steve Adams, Serge Ibaka and the others. Part of what made the Thunder so successful in game 1 is containing Curry and doing well on defensive switches. Losing him in game 2 made that whole plan fall apart, as the Thunder got outscored by 17 points in the second half. Even without Curry’s shooting, the Warriors made 40% of their three point shooting.
Klay Thompson scored 15 points, Andre Iguodala had 14, four more players finished in double figures. Iguodala pulled off one of the most amazing plays we’ve seen this season with an impossible layup that still somehow went in. When the Warriors are hot, everything works for them. It might be annoying if you’re not a fan, but it doesn’t change the fact that it turns them into something of an unstoppable scoring machine. The key now is having Curry play well in game 3. He still hasn’t had two good games in a row in these playoffs.