Steph Curry has been on quite the roll.
The Warriors star followed up his dominant second-round series-ending performance with a 36-point effort in Tuesday's Game 1 of the Western Conference finals. Curry led Golden State in scoring in its 116-94 win over the Portland Trail Blazers, and has scored 30-plus points in consecutive contests for the first time this postseason.
The two-time MVP also matched a playoff career high, draining nine 3-pointers for the second time in his playoff career.
After scoring 17 points in a Game 3 loss to the Houston Rockets back in the second round, Curry has picked up his play in the meantime. Over the last four games including Tuesday, Curry is averaging 31 points per game on 46.2 percent shooting from the field and 39.2 percent from 3-point range.
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In the last two games, the Warriors have been without reigning NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant because he strained his right calf in Golden State's Game 5 win over Houston on May 8. But as NBC Sports' Tom Haberstroh noted, Curry has picked up his pace when Durant's not on the floor.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Durant is not yet close to returning, so Golden State will have to rely on Curry in order to secure a fifth consecutive NBA Finals berth. Tuesday's performance was just the latest indication he is capable of handling that responsibility.
Publicly, the Warriors have no rooting interest in the Eastern Conference. Why would they?
They're one win away from reaching their fifth straight NBA Finals and in the midst of one of the greatest sports dynasties of all time.
What they should want, however, is a long series between the Bucks and the Raptors. That's exactly why Golden State should be happy Toronto beat Milwaukee 118-112 in double overtime in Game 3 of the best-of-seven series on Sunday.
After the Bucks dominated the Raptors in the first two games of the series by a combined 30 points in Milwaukee, Toronto held them off north of the border. This series is guaranteed to go at least five games now. Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo played 45 minutes before fouling out and the Raptors were led by Kawhi Leonard's 36 points over 52 minutes.
A longer series and more minutes played by the two superstars is a win-win for the Warriors.
Despite winning five straight games and being ahead three-games-to-none over the Blazers in the Western Conference finals, the Warriors are without two of their top players. Forward Kevin Durant is rehabbing a strained right calf and center DeMarcus Cousins is on his way back from a torn left quad.
Durant didn't travel with the team to Portland and will be out for Game 4 on Monday night. Cousins, however, is said to be closer than KD in making a return to the Dubs.
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Even without the two stars, the Warriors have been on a roll. But players, and even one mother, know how important Durant and Cousins are in the team's attempt to three-peat.
The NBA Finals don't begin until May 30. The Warriors can have over a week to rest and get healthy if they sweep the Blazers. At the same time, their opponent could be significantly less rested, especially if the Raptors keep winning.
The Warriors are rolling right now. Whether it's the Splash Brothers heating up from deep, or Draymond Green doing it, the Blazers have had no answers for them in the Western Conference finals.
And they're doing it all without Kevin Durant, the back-to-back NBA Finals MVP.
Without Durant, the Warriors are looking like the squad that won a ring and set a NBA record with 73 regular-season wins without him. None of that matters, though. When you can have one of the greatest to ever play the game on your team, you welcome him with wide open arms.
Draymond Green's mother, Mary Babers-Green, agrees.
Like mother, like son.
With Durant rehabbing a strained right calf in the Warriors' last four games, all wins, Draymond has averaged 14 points, 10.8 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game. Don't tell him the Warriors are better without KD, though.
“That’s idiotic,” Green said to The Athletic's Tim Kawakami Thursday after the Warriors' 114-111 win in Game 2 over the Blazers. “It’s very idiotic. I don’t think there’s one person in this locker room, one person in this organization that thinks that. And I know for damn sure that any idiot that does possibly (say) it don’t believe it.”
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Durant will miss Game 4 on Monday. A Warriors win would give them a sweep and well over a week of rest before the NBA Finals begin on May 30.