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.