Attack-mode Curry makes statement vs Blazers: 'Should've had 45 or 50'

Attack-mode Curry makes statement vs Blazers: 'Should've had 45 or 50'

OAKLAND -- The sequence of the night, without question, belonged to Kevin Durant, who in eight exquisite seconds managed to showcase his two-way impact.

The loudest statement made by the Warriors in a 125-117 win over Portland, however, was that conveyed by Stephen Curry, who for most of his 36 minutes on the floor looked like the guy with which the NBA has become familiar.

The guy who won back-to-back MVP awards.

Curry attacked early, with a comprehensively strong first quarter (9 points, four rebounds, four assists), and then came back in the second half to do most of the offensive heavy lifting that kept the plucky Trail Blazers at bay.

He totaled 35 points on 12-of-25 shooting, including 5-of-13 beyond the arc, but also added seven rebounds and five assists. Curry was not perfect (five turnovers, utterly shocking back-to-back misses at the free throw line), but he was forceful and productive.

When Curry brings that combination -- along with the bounty delivered by Durant -- the Warriors are nearly impossible to beat.

“Tonight, he was amazing,” Durant said. “He should’ve had 45 or 50; he missed some easy ones. But for the most part, 25 looks, I’m living with it. Five turnovers? That shows that he’s being aggressive. In order for us to get where we need to go, we need him to do that. And everybody is going to follow suit. He’s going to open it up for everybody.”

The 25 shots are the second most this season for Curry. Such assertiveness is something his teammates seem to have been urging of him.

“At some points in the game,” Draymond Green said, “I was like, ‘Yo, shoot that.’ There’s not like texts or side conversations where it’s like, ‘Shoot the ball.’ He knows to shoot. Everybody makes a big deal of him not taking a lot of shots in certain games or here and there. He’s a smart player. He plays within the flow of the game. Tonight he took 25 shots. I don’t think it was because someone went up to him and said, ‘Hey Steph, shoot the ball tonight.’ “

The Warriors didn’t create much separation until the third quarter, when an 11-0 run turned a four-point deficit into a seven-point lead at 81-74 on a dazzling reverse layup by Curry with 8:18 left in the quarter. He scored 12 points in the quarter.

For perspective, Portland’s starting lineup scored 11 points in the quarter. So, yes, Curry was looking for his shot while also being mindful of his teammates.

“I’m not going to fall into temptation of abandoning what makes us successful just to say I shot more,” Curry said. “I have to be aggressive and not turn down shots that I usually take and make. The way we’ve been flowing and especially down the stretch, you have to be able to rise up for those kinds of moments. So it’s a little bit of both.”

Seeing Curry in attack mode is, to be sure, a welcome sight for the Warriors and their fans, some of which are still trying to shake Curry’s languid performance in the marquee game at Cleveland on Christmas Day.

“I’m not going to overreact because he’s not getting 40 every night,” said Durant, who scored 30 points. “I just told him to be aggressive. Don’t even worry about anything else. If you’ve got a big guy on you, go to work. That’s what we want you to do, especially me. It’s fun when he gets everybody else going, when he’s aggressive.”

Which brings us to Durant and his sequence, in which his own aggression provided more fun for the sellout crowd than anything Curry or anyone else did.

The Blazers were seeking the go-ahead basket late in the first quarter, and CJ McCollum went up for a layup. Durant blocked it. The rebound went to power forward Noah Vonleh, who took it right back up, only to be rejected by Durant.

Two blocks in three seconds, with the ball going to Andre Iguodala and Durant sprinting ahead on the right wing. Iguodala took four dribbles and zipped a pass to Durant just beyond the 3-point stripe. Bucket.

“It just ignites the crowd and ignites our offense and sends a message to the other team,” Curry said of Durant. “It just brings another level of energy.”

There was no shortage of energy. Not from Durant and certainly not from Curry. It was, in the end, too much for the Blazers.

Jazz hold off Clippers in Game 5, take 3-2 series lead

Jazz hold off Clippers in Game 5, take 3-2 series lead

BOX SCORE

LOS ANGELES -- Gordon Hayward scored 27 points, Utah controlled the paint, and the Jazz beat the Los Angeles Clippers 96-92 on Tuesday night to take a 3-2 lead in their first-round playoff series.

Hayward returned after missing most of Utah's win in Game 4 because of food poisoning that caused him to lose weight and energy.

Chris Paul's 3-pointer drew the Clippers within two with 5 seconds left. After George Hill hit two free throws, Paul struggled getting the ball under control near the sideline and couldn't do anything as time expired.

The Jazz made five 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, including three by Rodney Hood, who finished with 16 points.

Paul led the Clippers with 28 points and J.J. Redick added 26 with injured star Blake Griffin watching from the bench, his right foot encased in a black walking boot.

The Jazz can clinch the series with a victory in Game 6 on Friday night in Salt Lake City.

The Clippers rallied from an 11-point deficit early in the fourth to tie the game. They made 12 of 15 free throws in the final period, but never managed to take the lead.

Paul and Hayward were called for double technical fouls with 40 seconds to go. Paul had already pushed Hayward in the back after they got tied up scrambling for a rebound in front of Utah's bench. Hayward made both shots for a 90-85 lead.

Joe Johnson's step back jumper extended Utah's lead to 92-87.

Neither team shot well, but the Jazz were better at most everything else. They owned a 34-28 edge in the paint, and the team that has done so has won each of the first five games in the best-of-7 series.

Utah outscored the Clippers on second-chance and fast-break baskets.

Utah took the game's first double-digit lead early in the fourth on a 3-pointer by Hood that made it 69-58.

The Clippers clawed back with an 11-0 run featuring five straight free throws by Redick and two consecutive 3-pointers from Paul that tied the game at 69-all.

Suddenly, the quiet crowd was on its feet cheering and Utah called time out.

The Jazz regrouped to take a 77-69 lead. They ran off eight straight, capped by Haywood's 3-pointer after the Clippers' defense shut down Hill inside and forced him to pass out to the perimeter with the shot clock winding down.

TIP-INS:
Jazz: Neither team has won by more than eight points so far in the series.

Clippers: Griffin's injured big right toe needs further evaluation before it's decided whether he'll require surgery. ... G Austin Rivers played 17 minutes in his return from a strained left hamstring. He was 0 of 4 and had two points. ... They fell to 1-11 all-time in Game 5 of a playoff series that was tied 2-2.

 

Blazers GM: Former Warriors big man will not play for Portland next year

Blazers GM: Former Warriors big man will not play for Portland next year

Festus Ezeli will not be back with the Blazers next season, Portland GM Neil Olshey said on Tuesday.

Last summer -- after the Warriors let Ezeli walk in free agency following the addition of Kevin Durant -- he signed a 2-year contract worth just over $15 million.

But Year 2 was essentially a club option with a $1 million buyout.

A knee injury prevented Ezeli from ever suiting up for the Blazers this season.

He underwent cadaver ligament replacement surgery in early March.

The Warriors drafted Ezeli 30th overall in 2012.

Over 46 games (13 starts) with Golden State in 2015-16, he averaged 7.0 points and 5.6 rebounds over 16.7 minutes per contest.