OAKLAND -- To think, the legendary performance by Warriors point guard Stephen Curry on Sunday almost didn't happen.
Before Curry went off for 22 points in the third quarter -- powering the run that turned a close game into a 115-101 Warriors win over the Denver Nuggets in Game 4 of their playoff series -- coach Mark Jackson considered shutting him down for the game. Still bothered by his sprained left ankle, Curry wasn't looking too good early on.
"It was almost like a boxer who knew he was on the ropes," Jackson said. "I guess he realized and sensed it. He captured the moment. He embraced the moment. ... It was almost like he had been waiting for this his entire career, and he wasn't going to allow his body
With a shooting display befitting a video game, Curry led the Warriors on a 25-10 run to close the third quarter and turn a close game into a spectacle. He scored 19 points in the final 4:22, knocking down seven straight shots.
Curry finished with 31 points and seven assists. His memorable display gave command of the series to the Warriors, who are now a win away from upsetting the No. 3 seed and advancing to the second round to take on No. 2 San Antonio.
"I was just able to get good looks," Curry said. "I felt a little warmer, body-wise, in the third quarter and was able to get a rhythm."
Curry, who sprained his ankle in Game 2 and was still feeling the effects in Game 3, was much slower and more passive than normal on Sunday. He confirmed he had a painkilling injection before the game but it wasn't working in the first half.
Fortunately for Golden State, center Andrew Bogut had it going early. His inside presence set the tone in the first quarter. After taking eight total shots in Games 2 and 3, Bogut took six shots in the first quarter Sunday.
With Denver trapping the guards, Bogut was the outlet at the free throw line area. It led to two dunks, including his revenge against JaVale McGee, who made a YouTube-worthy dunk over Bogut in Game 1.
Curry, trapped on the right, found Bogut in the middle. Spotting McGee waiting at the rim, Bogut charged in and threw it down with one hand over McGee, sending Oracle into a frenzy.
"I'm sure when he went up to dunk on McGee," Jackson said, "he remembered when McGee dunked on him."
Bogut and forward Carl Landry combined for 24 points on 10-of-18 shooting in the first half. Their inside presence did more than give Golden State much-needed offense while Curry struggled, sending the Warriors into the locker room up 56-44.
It forced the Nuggets to focus on protecting the paint. It also prompted them to stop trapping.
"When we (trapped) the ball, they got the ball to Bogut and he made good decisions," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "When we didn't, (Jarrett) Jack and Curry had a lot of good control."
With the Warriors' lead cut from 15 points early in the third quarter to four, and facing one-on-one defense, Curry got aggressive. First it was Nuggets forward Corey Brewer defending him. Curry twice came off screens and knocked down a 3-pointers, the first at the 6:22 mark, then the other at 4:22 to put Golden State up 74-65. Then Denver put Andre Miller on Curry. That made things worse.
Curry got into the lane for a finger roll, then at the 2:59 mark pulled up for an 18-footer in transition over Miller.
About a minute later, he was officially hot, drilling a 3-pointer from Antioch to give the Warriors an 82-71 advantage.
The next time down, after a stop, he bounced in a runner for a three-point play. He followed that by stripping Denver guard Ty Lawson on the defensive end and starting the fast break.
Curry was losing control of his dribble and had two Nuggets on him. So he stopped on a dime and pulled up from 27 feet. Splash. For good measure, after finding himself inexplicably wide open, he drilled another 3-pointer from the left corner in front of the Nuggets bench.
"I know this one thing, and I know this for sure," Jack said, "when they start having these best-point-guards-in-the-NBA conversations, I don't know who has to get out of the conversation for him to get in, but he's definitely kicked the door down."
Notebook: Jarrett Jack should draw interest on free-agent market. PAGE 6
Bogut: Center sets the tone with big first half. PAGE 6
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A quarter to remember
Stephen Curry's statistics for the third quarter.
FGA FGM 3FGA 3fgm FTA FTM REBOUNDS Assists POINTS
11 8 8 5 1 1 1 2 22