The return: Steph Curry crushes it, lifts Oracle Arena in victorious comeback


OAKLAND -- Of course Stephen Curry commanded the room. It’s his room.

When Curry rose from his seat on the Warriors bench with 4:20 left in the first quarter Tuesday night, the sellout crowd at Oracle Arena rose with him. This was the moment they’ve been waiting for, and they were going to let Curry know how much they missed him.

Curry had not played in 38 days. He was anxious and eager to show Warriors fans how happy he was to be back on the court. One problem: the two-time MVP had to wait, because he was not in the starting lineup.

“It was an eternity, it felt like, for sure,” Curry said after he sparked a 121-116 win over New Orleans in Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals.

“You know, when the lights come back on, starting lineup, (I’m) usually in that ‘go’ kind of mind frame. And then had to pace myself and be patient with it. Seemed like it took forever. But it was a good feeling to get back out on the floor and just let loose and have fun.”

Checking in to replace Klay Thompson, Curry entered to a standing ovation and a roar as loud as any at Oracle this season.

It took all of 11 seconds for Curry to launch a 3-pointer, firing from 29 feet and getting nothing but net. Another roar. Curry was back. The Warriors were back. Let the party commence.

“It was pretty loud,” Draymond Green said. “Just him walking on the floor, you know, it was kind of electric in there.

“And for him to hit that 3 that fast, it brought a lot of life to the building and a lot of light, spirit.”

The Warriors could not have known how badly they needed Curry until they realized Game 2 would be nothing like Game 1, when they threw the Pelicans in a cage and waltzed to victory. New Orleans came to play, and neither Kevin Durant nor Klay Thompson was able to offer much of a reply.

Durant managed 11 points on 5-of-12 shooting in the first half and was 6-of-17 with 14 points after three quarters. Thompson was 4-of-13 at the half, 4-of-15 after three quarters and had a total of 10 points in 26 minutes.

Curry had 12 points in 11 first-half minutes, on 5-of-10 shooting, then poured in 13 points in the third quarter to keep the Warriors treading water. He entered the fourth quarter with 25 points, on 7-of-13 shooting, in 19 minutes.

Thompson understood Curry’s value on a night when the Warriors were trying to control of the series, a conceding that his backcourt partner gave the team “a whole lot of stuff” in his first game since March 23.

“His ability to just get easy baskets for us,” Thompson said. “I think he uplifted the crowd as well. That was fun to hear the ovation he got, well deserved, and he just bailed us out at times when we were stagnant.”

The Warriors, with Curry on the bench tapping his feet and yearning to break a sweat, scored 11 points in the first 7:40.

They scored 16 points in less than four minutes once Curry entered the game.

“The guy is a two-time MVP,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “He came in and made his first couple of shots. I felt for the most part we did a good job on him trying to chase him off screens and obviously he got seven free throws off us chasing him off screens and him attempting to shoot jump shots but he's going to score.”

Though Durant, with a dazzling 15-point fourth quarter, came along to extinguish New Orleans down the stretch, it was Curry’s presence and production that had the building shaking with joy.

Curry totaled 28 points, eight rebounds, three steals and two assists in 27 minutes. None of his teammates was better than plus-7. Curry was plus-26.

“I’ve been real eager as of late trying to get back out there and be with my teammates and do what I love to do,” he said. “To get back out there on the floor, play some playoff basketball and get a big win tonight, it was huge. It was a good feeling. The crowd was crazy and obviously we did what we needed to do in these first two games, going up 2-0.”

Kerr naturally was quizzed about his decision to start Nick Young for the second consecutive game, and bring Curry off the bench. His answer was no better than partially convincing.

“Well, we knew we wanted to play him 25 minutes or so, not so much based on his knee but based on his conditioning,” Kerr said. “And we played really well in Game 1, so we decided to stick with Nick in the starting lineup, and then just play Steph in Quinn Cook's minutes, and then just kind of pick it up from there and see how it went.”

It went quite well, when Curry was on the court. So well it is safe to presume he won’t have to wait so long to take the court Friday in New Orleans, where the teams convene for Game 3.

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