OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Stephen Curry stopped just before leaving his postgame press conference with one final, important thought.
A much-deserved acknowledgment of fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson for all of his tireless work on both ends of the court to get Golden State back to the Western Conference finals, much of it with Curry sidelined nursing a knee injury.
“Oh, wait, I’ve got to say one thing, though: Klay was in here earlier. That dude had the best series I think I’ve ever seen him play on both ends of the floor,” Curry said of Thompson’s scoring and defense against Damian Lillard. “Defending Dame, exhausting all his energy to make it uncomfortable for him, and what he was able to do offensively, hopefully that doesn’t get lost in our series and the way we played as a team. … Shout out to him for elevating his game on both ends of the floor. I had to say that. Thank you.”
The newly minted MVP and the rest of the Warriors sure have a different postseason swagger this year.
They’ve done this before. They plan to win another championship, and said that from the very start after capturing the franchise’s first title in 40 years last June.
They’re one step closer.
“They’re an amazing team. They’ve had an amazing season,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said.
Curry, Thompson and their teammates weren’t even at their best – or healthiest, for that matter – in eliminating the Trail Blazers 125-121 on Wednesday night in five games, and now they will wait on their opponent once more – preparing to face either Oklahoma City or San Antonio in the Western Conference finals.
Once again, Golden State delighted its raucous home crowd at Oracle Arena, where yellow confetti fell immediately after the final buzzer.
“It does feel different, but I expected it to,” Coach of the Year Steve Kerr said. “Last year was the first time through for us, first time obviously getting to the Finals and winning a championship, and when you do that I think there’s a deeper level of confidence that emerges and a better understanding of what it feels like when you lose and what it feels like when people are questioning you and critiquing you and things aren’t going your way.”
Back in the starting lineup for the first time all series, Curry scored 29 points and sealed it with a 3 with 24.9 seconds left a day after becoming the first unanimous MVP in NBA history, while Thompson scored 33 points with seven 3-pointers.
“It wasn’t perfect, but we got it done,” Kerr said.
The Warriors got past Portland without Curry for the first three games as he recovered from a sprained right knee.
“It wasn’t an individual thing when Steph went out,” Thompson said. “We did it collectively and that’s what you’ve got to do to make up for that. You saw tonight how many times he bailed us out and we obviously missed, yet so many guys stepped up and that will pay dividends for the rest of the playoffs.”
Golden State can use a little break before the next round.
Curry insists his knee will be fine, Draymond Green’s left ankle is tender and center Andrew Bogut was lost for the second half with a strained muscle in his right leg.
“Any time off is very much appreciated,” center Festus Ezeli said. “Even Steph is coming back from his injury. Days off are very much appreciated and we also need the extra days to get some practice time and to tighten up some stuff, so it’s going to be good for us.”
The Warriors were pushed in all but one game in beating Portland 4-1, and they figure that will help them going forward. The games had an intensity resembling some Game 7s.
“You have to get better each series and if you don’t you go home,” forward Harrison Barnes said.
So, are these Warriors, who set an NBA record with a 24-0 start and another top mark with that 73-win finish, better than they were a year ago during the postseason run?
“What would you say?” Curry asked Green.
“It’s two complete different years. I wouldn’t say we’re better, we’re more seasoned, so that may make us better because we’ve been through so much, the experience, I think makes us better,” Green said. “We know how to handle things. We know how to stay poised. So I think if anything, that will make us better. Some guys have gotten better individually and when that happens you get better as a team.”
And, this recording-setting bunch earned a much-needed rest day Thursday before returning to work Friday.
No matter the opponent, Golden State wants to keep going on this remarkable run.
“West finals two years in a row,” Thompson said, “it’s been a special, special season.”