Another Huge Third Quarter from Curry Not Enough
By Brian Martin
It happened again on Monday night in San Antonio. Stephen Curry caught fire in the third quarter, exploding for 22 points on 9-12 shooting from the field and 4-of-6 from behind the 3-point line.
It was his second 22-point third quarter performance in this year's playoffs, and part of a career-playoff-high 44 points for Curry on Monday in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals.
The third quarter has been special for Curry the entire playoffs. He is shooting 65.6% from the field and 65.4% from 3-point range during the period, over seven games.
He's averaged 12.3 points to lead the Warriors to an average of 30.6 points in the quarter, outscoring their opponents by an average of 6.2 points.
Stephen Curry and the Warriors -- 3rd Quarter -- Playoffs
As great as Curry has been in the third quarter in the playoffs, the period was statistically his worst quarter in his 78 games during the regular season. He shot his lowest percentages from the field (42.0%) and 3-point range (41.3%), and averaged his fewest points (5.4) coming out of halftime. During the regular season, Curry was at his best at the beginning of the game, shooting his best percentages from the field (49.1%) and 3-point range (50.4%), while shooting his second-best percentage from the line (93.5%).
Stephen Curry -- 3rd Quarter -- Regular Season
His scoring by quarter was rather even, but peaked in the fourth quarter. Although he didn't shoot his highest percentage from anywhere on the floor or the free-throw line, he attempted more threes and more free throws in the fourth compared to any other quarter.
Coming into Monday's game, Curry had scored in double figures in three third quarters in the playoffs, with the Warriors going on to win each game. But this time it was not enough, as the Warriors fell to the Spurs in double overtime, extending their road losing streak to San Antonio to 30 games. The last time Golden State won in the Alamo City was Feb. 14, 1999 -- a month shy of Curry's 11th birthday.
While the Warriors welcomed another outstanding third-quarter performance from Curry, it was an encore performance of another kind that sealed their fate. For the second time in their last two games, the Warriors squandered a double-digit fourth-quarter lead. In the series clincher against the Nuggets in the first round, the Warriors held an 18-point lead with just over nine minutes left to play.
After the Nuggets cut the lead to four with 4:14 left to play, the Warriors responded with a 6-1 run over the next two minutes to extend the lead to nine with 2:10 to play. Just when it appeared that they had weathered the storm, here came the turnovers. The Warriors committed five turnovers in the final two minutes of the game as the Nuggets cut the lead to two and had two good looks at tying the game before a pair of Jarrett Jack free throws sealed the win and the series for Golden State.
Four days later in San Antonio, it happened again. Only this time their opponent was able to catch them and tie the game. After a pair of free throws from Jack, the Warriors had a 16-point lead with 4:31 left to play in the fourth quarter. The Spurs ended the period on an 18-2 run to force overtime. During that stretch, the Warriors missed eight of nine shots, had two turnovers and two missed free throws.
Warriors -- Late Leads -- Last Two Games
|Final 9:07 vs Denver||3||10||30.0%||0||3||0.0%||9||0||9||12||26||-14|
|Final 4:30 vs San Antonio||1||9||11.1%||0||1||0.0%||3||0||2||2||18||-16|
After scoring the first five points of the extra period, the Warriors allowed the Spurs to run off seven straight points to take the lead. Curry was able to tie it on a left-handed fast-break layup off of a steal, hitting the 40-point plateau for the first time in his young playoff career, but San Antonio answered quickly with a Kawhi Leonard jumper in the lane over Jack.
A layup by Jack with 21 seconds to play evened the game, but gave the Spurs the final shot a game-winner in the overtime session. Manu Ginobili handled the final possession for the Spurs and shot a fallaway 18-foot jumpshot from the left wing that missed badly and sent the game to a second overtime.
In the second overtime, it was the Warriors' turn to make a late run to try to steal the game. A Danny Green 3-pointer gave the Spurs a 126-121 lead with 1:06 left to play. But Curry had an answer. It started with a pair of free throws with a minute to play. Then following a missed 3-pointer by Ginobili that had Spurs coach Gregg Popovich infuriated, Curry struck again, this time with a finger layup to cut the lead to one with 32.8 seconds to play.
A missed jumper by Parker with 10 seconds left led to a great play by Curry, who did not take a time out and instead pushed the ball up the floor and found Kent Bazemore for the go-ahead reverse layup with 3.9 seconds left. It was Curry's 11th assist of the night and Bazemore's first playoff basket. He had played just nine minutes in the entire Nuggets series and had gone 0-4 prior to that basket.
Then a Warriors defensive miscue on the Spurs's ensuing inbounds play led to a wide-open Ginobili at the 3-point line and the veteran redeemed himself for his prior 3-point attempt. Ginobili sank the long ball with 1.2 seconds to play and a final attempt by Jack at the buzzer missed, sealing the improbable win for the Spurs.
Curry finished the night with 44 points -- the highest single-game scoring performance of the playoffs thus far by any player -- on 18-35 shooting from the field and 6-14 from three, to go along with a game-high 11 assists, while playing all 58 minutes of the contest.
Game 2 is Wednesday night at 9:30 ET on TNT.