Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard kept one-upping one another. They traded threes, drives and dimes as the Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers played out an instant classic in Game 4 of their second-round playoff series on Monday.
It was a battle of two of the league's best point guards, and Lillard was holding his own -- maybe even outplaying the MVP -- through four quarters in Curry's return to action.
Then overtime happened, and Curry entered another stratosphere. He scored the first 12 Warriors points in OT and an NBA record 17 in the extra quarter on his way to 40 points as the Warriors beat the Blazers, 132-125, to take a commanding 3-1 series lead. The Warriors will have a chance to close it out on Wednesday in Oakland -- and with Curry back and in full force, they appear ready to do so.
The Warriors had played well without him as he missed the first three games of the series with a right knee injury. They struggled against a one-man wrecking crew, however -- Lillard led the Blazers to a Game 3 win with a superb fourth quarter as he scored 40 points. It turns out, the answer to a one-man wrecking crew is getting one of your own. When Lillard took over in the fourth quarter again in Game 4, Curry was there to respond. After missing his first nine three-point attempts, he nailed one to give the Warriors a 103-100 lead with 4:35 left.
Lillard and Curry scored or assisted on the final 22 points of regulation. They both take their teams to a different level when they're on -- and Game 4 was a perfect example.
Curry was the better player on Tuesday, leading a charge in overtime that didn't seem possible. After seeming to rush jump shots in the first three quarters, in overtime he looked like he hadn't missed a game in ages.
Curry had to match Lillard, he had no other choice. Once he did, he had an announcement to make: He's back.
3 other things
The Blazers' greatness was overshadowed
Lillard and C.J. McCollum did their best with 36 and 24 points, respectively, but it just wasn't good enough against the NBA's MVP. They fought and fought against the league's best regular season team of all time, and they nearly came out on top -- and they deserve a lot of credit for that. After going cold in the third quarter, Lillard and McCollum could have easily folded. But that's the opposite of what this Blazers team has done all season. They weren't even supposed to make the playoffs, let alone the second round. Now they're fighting toe-to-toe against one of the best teams ever. The Blazers were bettered by Curry on Monday, but the future is bright for Portland. They don't have a Curry themselves, but they don't need one: They have Damian Lillard.
Dwyane Wade has no interest in aging
Vintage Wade was on full display for the Miami Heat in Game 4 against the Toronto Raptors. He went off for 30 points as the Heat evened the series at 2-2 with a 94-87 overtime win. He's averaging 22 points per game in the playoffs, and 27.3 against the Raptors. On Monday, he carried the Heat for the second game in a row. It was an ugly win, but Wade has the Heat in the mix -- and a potential matchup against his buddy LeBron James in the Eastern Conference Finals has to have him excited.
DeMar DeRozan cannot find himself
It was another rough night for the two Raptors stars, as DeRozan and Kyle Lowry combined for 19 points on 6-of-28 shooting. Lowry at least won Game 3 for the Raptors, but DeRozan has struggled to get anything going all series. He didn't even play the first eight minutes of the fourth quarter and is averaging only 17.5 points per game in the series on 35 percent shooting. The Raptors have no creativity on the offensive end of the court and DeRozan isn't helping. He's unable to get into the lane, and he cannot buy a bucket. If the fourth quarter is any indication, the Raptors might not be counting on DeRozan for much longer.
Play of the night
Curry had no business grabbing this offensive rebound and making this bucket. But he also had no business scoring the first 12 Warriors points of overtime and going off for an NBA-record 17 in the extra frame, and 40 in the game. So flex away, MVP.
3 fun things
No one could believe Curry's overtime. Not Charles Barkley, and not Blazers owner Paul Allen.
It was one of the greatest overtime performances in playoff history.
The Heat-Raptors game wasn't so much fun. Goran Dragic got hit in the face with the ball.
Heat 94, Raptors 87 OT (Hot Hot Hoops recap | Raptors HQ recap)
Warriors 132, Blazers 125 OT (Golden State of Mind recap | Blazers' Edge recap)
* * *