OAKLAND — Remember when everyone was asking what was wrong with Stephen Curry? You should, it was only a week ago.
Yet after Curry sunk 33 points in the first three quarters of the Golden State Warriors’ 116-94 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday — and 36 overall — his difficulties in the Western Conference semifinals feel like an eternity ago.
With Kevin Durant out injured, Curry took over Game 1 of the conference finals at Oracle Arena, quashing all the convenient narratives in the process.
This was Curry vs. Curry. Not Stephen against his brother Seth on the other team, but the NBA’s best pure shooter against the limitations of his own motivation and willpower. It wasn’t about whether Portland talisman Damian Lillard could go head-to-head with him, but about how Curry once again looked, felt and acted like he was simply unstoppable.
The Trail Blazers are a courageous, resilient and vastly underrated team who fully deserve their place at this late stage of the season. However, even with the Warriors missing Durant the Blazers looked outgunned here, with it being increasingly hard to see how they can hope to either blunt or mimic Golden State’s myriad offensive weapons.
The home side got on top early, leading by four after the first quarter and nine at the half, though it felt like much more. Lillard had a quiet night — and what also looked like a painful one — appearing to tweak his hamstring in the first half and looking restricted thereafter.
It wasn’t flawless basketball, but the Warriors are rolling now and beginning to look like a juggernaut once more as they prowl in search of a third consecutive NBA championship. Despite their occasional difficulties against first the Los Angeles Clippers and then the Houston Rockets, reality states the Warriors now need just seven more wins to maintain their modern streak of dominance. It would take either bravery or foolhardiness to bet against them.
Whenever Portland got anywhere close, the long-range shooting of Curry and Klay Thompson carved out a healthy buffer. Thompson contributed 26, while Draymond Green was the only other Warriors player in double figures with 12.
It didn’t matter. Lillard was the top scorer for the Blazers with 19 points, but he also had seven of their 21 turnovers in a poor performance for them.
This is a quick-turn series and Game 2 is on Thursday night. For Portland, much more will be needed. It still might not be nearly enough.