scored 22 of his 31 points in the third quarter, including five threes. (Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images Sport)
The Warriors defeated the Nuggets 115-101 in Game 4 to take a 3-1 lead in their Western Conference first-round playoff series. Game 5 is set for Tuesday in Denver.
• Stephen Curry goes off... again. Warriors guard Stephen Curry has emerged as the clear breakout star from a postseason that's been defined by the number of big names lost to injury. Sunday's slate saw the Kobe Bryant-less Lakers swept out of the playoffs and the Rajon Rondo-less Celtics barely stave off elimination in overtime. The struggle-filled lost seasons of those traditional powers felt like a drag compared to Golden State's electric Game 4 defeat of Denver, which saw Curry tear off 22 points in the third quarter on his way to a game-high 31, to go along with seven assists and four steals.
Curry knocked in five three-pointers in the third quarter and hit six-for-11 from deep overall, pushing him to 18-for-39 (47.4 percent) from beyond the arc in the series. The doors blew wide open when he scored nine points in just 42 seconds, and his shots throughout Game 4 were so comically difficult it became unreasonable to expect the Nuggets to mount a response. How many deep bombs, insane floaters, side-step threes and pull-ups can one team withstand before the whole thing starts to feel fruitless?
Warriors coach Mark Jackson said afterward those viewers who are now ready to pencil Curry into the 2014 All-Star Game are simply late to the party.
"Those guys are just coming to the hospital, the baby has been born already," Jackson said. "We've been watching it all year long."
Curry, who played Game 4 on an ankle he sprained in Game 2, is averaging 30 points per game in the No. 6 seeded Warriors' three straight wins over the No. 3 seeded Nuggets.
"The way I explain it is that he's blessed," Jackson said. "He's a great, great guy, who you point to when you try to raise kids, show them how to conduct yourself as a husband, father, man, teammate and professional. It could not happen to a better guy, what's taking place for him right now."
The series is past the point where Denver can be reasonably expected to drastically influence his production through defensive adjustments. Nuggets coach George Karl has used multiple defenders and paid extra attention to Curry, but the shots kept pouring in one way or another. Curry started slow Sunday but his third-quarter burst turned a fairly tight game into a blowout.
"The next 48 hours are going to be difficult to say the least," a deflated Karl said afterward. "They found some magic and we have to figure out how to take it away."
• Andrew Bogut got things started. Golden State is living in a "Winning is contagious" bubble these days. Jackson could surely go up and down the list of rotation players after Sunday's win and find only positive things to say about all of them. Such is life when a lead guard gets into the zone and everyone else gets to hop along for the ride, stress-free. After shooting the lights out in Game 2, Golden State nearly hit those heights again in Game 4, converting 44-for-79 (55.7 percent) overall and 11-for-26 (42.3 percent) from beyond the arc.
This wasn't entirely a perimeter flurry, though. Center Andrew Bogut, who played just 32 games this season due to injury, scored all 12 of his points in the first half, including multiple sensational dunks. The Nuggets seemed to be leaving him in a "pick your poison" scenario, preferring to defend the Warriors wings, only to have the unattended Bogut cut, drive and make noise in the paint behind them.
"He played superb tonight," Jackson said. "Absolutely superb."
Bogut played just 26 minutes total -- and only 10 in the second half -- as Jackson tapped the energetic Draymond Green down the stretch.
• Curry played through ugly eye poke. If there was a single setback on a night that included multiple standing ovations and the release of streamers from the rafters when it was all over, it came when Curry took an unintentional poke to his right eye from Corey Brewer. The jab left his eye swollen and bloodshot but it did not prevent Curry from reentering the game briefly in the fourth quarter, before Jackson later pulled his starters.
"Playoff basketball," Curry said of the injury, indicating it would not keep him out of action as the series continues. "You've got to expect things to happen and just play through it. Excited to get the win and look forward to Tuesday."
The winner of the Warriors-Nuggets series will advance to face the Spurs, who swept the Lakers on Sunday, in the Western Conference semifinals.
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