OAKLAND -- The Portland Trail Blazers locker room was quiet before Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals. Maybe it was focus. Maybe it was anger.
Sitting alone in his locker stall sat reserve shooting guard Seth Curry. Reserve has a double meaning when it comes to the younger brother of NBA superstar Stephen Curry. He comes off the bench for Terry Stotts, but he’s also a bit of an introvert.
His annual trip to Oakland to watch postseason basketball this season came courtesy of a team plane. He’s staying in a five star hotel, not at his brother’s house and he’s wearing Blazers red and black, instead of hanging out in the family suite.
“It’s a weird experience for me because I’m usually here hoping these guys win and hoping Steph plays well,” the younger Curry told NBC Sports Bay Area during pregame. “I’m flipping the switch now and I’m trying to knock him off. I’m just trying to focus in on my job.”
Older by nearly three years, Steph has all the hardware. He’s a two-time MVP and three time NBA Champion. He’s led the league in scoring and is widely considered the greatest long range shooter in NBA history.
“Being able to watch Steph and experience his journey over the past five years going to the Finals, the playoffs, whatever it is, I’ve just been able to watch his process and how he prepares for every series in the playoffs and how he blocks out game by game all the storylines, I’m trying to do it as well,” Seth said.
The younger Curry has fought his way into the league. The 28-year-old spent time in the D-League and played for four teams before having a breakout season with the Dallas Mavericks during the 2016-17 season.
He sat out last year with a stress fracture in his lower left leg and signed with the Trail Blazers on a one-year deal over the summer. His play this season has likely earned a longer-term deal next year, whether in Portland or somewhere else in the league.
Curry has carved out a niche as a spark plug off the bench. He has that Curry range, like his brother and his father Dell, who played 16 years in the NBA beginning in 1986.
Seth knocked down 45 percent on the season from long range and boasts a career mark of 43.9 percent from distance.
This is his first chance to make the postseason since joining the league during the 2013-14 season. His Portland team has shocked the NBA with their play in this year’s playoffs, but facing off against his brother and the star-studded Warriors was not exactly what he was looking for.
“No, no, no, no,” Curry said when asked if he was glad his first experience was again his brother. “It’s a weird experience to be here for myself, but they’ve been the best team in the league for a long time. It’s not an easy road, that’s a tough team. It’s never fun playing against Step and these Warriors just matching up head-to-head. But if we can knock them off, it’d be even sweeter.”
Curry came into the night averaging just 5.2 points in 19.2 minutes per game. Starters Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum have carried a ton of the scoring load throughout the postseason, but Golden State has done a nice job against the duo.
In Game 2, Curry was a difference maker early. He posted a +14 in 15 minutes during the first half of Thursday evening’s game. He was aggressive on both ends of the court as Stotts turned to a 3-guard small ball lineup.
After the intermission, Stotts waited to turn back to Curry and paid the price. The Warriors quickly erased a 15-point halftime deficit and took a two-point lead with 2:01 remaining in the third.
Curry entered the game and helped Portland get to the fourth quarter tied at 89-89. He continued his strong play in the final frame, leading the Blazers in scoring in the fourth with nine points on a perfect 3-of-3 from behind the arc.
“Seth was incredible,” Klay Thompson said following the win. “He almost won the game for them. We got to do a better job on him. He had 16 points. That’s a huge impact, plus-13, se we got to try and eliminate his looks in the next game.”
Curry hit 5-of-9 from the field and added two assists in 29 minutes. On the defensive end, he picked up four steals, most of which came off of his big brother.
“It felt good, it felt like I changed the game and put in more energy,” Curry said following Portland’s 114-111 loss. “I just made him work harder to get shots. I mean, he is going to put up numbers, he is going to play well to try and change the momentum.”
The two brothers went at each other with the game on the line. Both hit tremendous shots, which helped their team, although the older, more experienced brother came out on top.
“I thought of their parents at one point,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said. “Can you imagine watching your two boys go head-to-head in a playoff game and both of them hitting huge shots?”
“It’s an incredible story to have two boys in the NBA, but particularly in the Conference Finals, playing head-to-head and knocking down all of these big shots. That must have been fun.”
Fun or gut wrenching. Dell and Sonya Curry have watched their sons battle in the regular season, but never in the playoffs.
“This was like the coolest experience I think I've ever had playing against him,” Steph told media members following the Warriors win. “We talked about the stage and he was -- he was amazing tonight.”
“You know, every minute he was out there defensively, he was a pest,” Steph added. “Made three big shots the fourth quarter that were very timely and for my parents, I know we talked about the whole series, and these last two games, it's probably nerve-wracking as heck for them, but it worked out perfectly tonight: He played well and we won.”
Seth and his Trail Blazers teammates need to regroup. They’ll travel home to Portland and prepare for another match up against the Warriors Saturday at Moda Center. They’re down 2-0 in the series, but they’re home crowd is sure to be raucous.