He didn’t start, but it didn’t matter. He didn’t even have to say anything.
But once Stephen Curry hit a 3-point shot with 1:51 remaining in overtime Monday night, he emphatically said what fans in the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon, already knew.
Curry, who missed the last three weeks after suffering a sprained MCL in his right knee, came off the bench to score 40 points — including an NBA-record 17 in overtime — in the Golden State Warriors’ 132-125 win against the Portland Trail Blazers to take a 3-1 series lead.
“I love this game and love playing and love competing and really, really missed being out there with my teammates,” Curry said after the game. “To help our team get a win tonight in that kind of fashion and whatnot, that was a good feeling in that moment to be back on the floor and be playing.”
The Warriors could advance to the Western Conference finals as soon as Wednesday should they win Game 5 in Oakland, and that’s potentially not the only upcoming Curry news this week.
The NBA MVP Award could be announced as early as Tuesday, and Curry — who led the Warriors to a record 24-0 start and finished the season with a record 73 regular-season wins — is a shoo-in to win for the second year in a row. He would be the 11th player to win back-to-back MVP awards. The last player to do that was LeBron James, who was with the Miami Heat when he got the award in 2012 and 2013.
There’s another bit of history looming: Curry could be the first player in NBA history to receive a unanimous vote. James (2013) and Shaquille O’Neal (2000) both came one vote shy of a unanimous selection.
And if there ever was a year for a unanimous MVP, it’s this year for Curry. He’s the first player in NBA history to average at least 30 points a game despite playing less than 35 minutes per game (his exact numbers: 30.1 points, 34.2 minutes). Curry also obliterated the NBA single-season record for 3-pointers scored with 402. To put into context, he set the record last season with 286.
“I’ve been telling him congratulations, because I felt like I knew since December,” forward Draymond Green said Monday. “So it didn’t feel like this monumental occasion. It didn’t feel that way because I’ve been knowing for six months now.”
The reigning MVP admitted it took a while to get back into the flow Monday night. In his first game since April 24, Curry, who played 37 minutes, missed his first nine 3-point shots, but that slump was temporary. Muscle memory kicked in.
“My confidence never wavered,” Curry said. “I don’t think you shoot nine shots from 3 without making one if you don’t have confidence.”
Curry’s performance shocked even his coach, Steve Kerr.
“I expected what I saw early,” Kerr said. “I expected a lot of rust. I don’t think anybody could have predicted the explosion. I figured he’d find his stroke and make a few shots, but that was crazy.”
Curry said he will continue to receive treatment on his knee — which he conceded was sore after the game — during the playoffs. And while he noticed it while playing Monday, he said the knee didn’t limit him from being aggressive.
After Game 4, Kerr started his press conference with an announcement.
“Steph will start on Wednesday night, in case anyone was wondering.”
There was audible chuckling by the media. Kerr then smiled.
“No? Nobody was wondering?”