Curry's explosion lifts Warriors to 3-1 series lead

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson keeps reminding everyone that Stephen Curry did not make the Western Conference All-Star team this season.

The guard might not get the fans' vote next winter, but rest assured of this: He's got George Karl's endorsement.

Curry put on one of the most spectacular displays in Golden State playoff history Sunday, exploding for 19 points over the final 4:22 of the third period, almost singlehandedly thwarting a Denver Nuggets comeback and leading the Warriors to a 115-101 victory in Game 4 of the teams' Western Conference first-round playoff series.

Curry, who needed a pain-killing shot before the game to soothe a sprained right ankle, finished with 31 points and seven assists. He hit 10 of his 16 shots, including six of 11 3-point attempts.

"The best shooter I've ever played with, hands down," Warriors center Andrew Bogut said on a night when he recorded a career-postseason-best 12 points. "You scratch your head sometimes. As long as he keeps shooting the ball like he is, the sky's the limit for us."

The Warriors, making their first postseason appearance since 2007, the year they upset top-seeded Dallas in the first round, can close out the third-seeded Nuggets in Game 5 on Tuesday night in Denver.

A Game 6, if necessary, would be Thursday in Oakland, where the sixth-seeded Warriors swept a pair from the third-seeded Nuggets over a three-day span after gaining a split in the first two games in Denver.

"It's huge. This is a big stage," Curry said of his third 20-point quarter this season, the first in a win. "We had a great opportunity tonight to protect the home court and go up 3-1 and take command of the series. Any play that leads us to winning is huge for us."

Just when the Nuggets appeared to be positioning themselves for a second-half run, Curry took over the game with a shooting display rarely seen under the postseason spotlight.

It had to be something special to outshine what Denver point guard Ty Lawson was doing at the other end of the floor, but special it was.

Lawson poured in 15 points in fewer than six minutes to help the Nuggets trim a 12-point halftime deficit to 69-64 near the midpoint of the third quarter, a surge that was followed shortly thereafter by the Curry show.

"The third quarter was going their way. We talked about it at a timeout," said Warriors coach Mark Jackson, who admitted he considered benching Curry for good when the guard's ankle was hampering his play in the first half. "(Curry) captured the moment. He embraced the moment. It's almost like he was waiting for this moment for his entire career and wasn't going to allow his body to tell him that he was too hurt to match the moment.

"It was an incredible, incredible performance."

Jarrett Jack hit a 15-footer to extend the Warriors' lead to six at the 4:50 mark of the period. Then Curry took over.

Having scored just seven points in the first half and only three more in the first seven-plus minutes of the third period, Curry began his flurry with a 3-pointer, a driving hoop and an 18-footer as Golden State's lead reached 78-68.

It was still just an eight-point game as the clock went under two minutes remaining in the period, and that's when Curry applied the knockout blow to the Nuggets.

First he buried a step-back 26-footer and turned a rare drive into the lane into a three-point play on a floater for a 14-point lead.

Then he stunned the Nuggets twice in transition with quick-trigger shots from well beyond the 3-point arc, nailing his second and third 3s of a personal 12-1 run that busted the game open at 91-72.

"They have a way of punishing your mistakes," said Karl, whose team committed 23 turnovers that produced 33 Warriors points. "They don't punish you with jumpers. They punish you with 3-balls."

Curry buried eight of his 11 shots in the decisive period, including five of his eight 3-point attempts.

"I played with Reggie Miller," Jackson said. "He did it so many nights when the lights were brightest. When it would leave his hand, you knew it was nothing but net.

"Steph had one of those quarters, one of those nights."

Meanwhile, it was anything but a memorable night for the Nuggets, who got 26 points from Lawson but made only six of their 20 3-point attempts, getting outscored 33-18 by the Warriors from beyond the arc.

The poor long-range shooting, combined with the turnovers, ruined a night in which Denver outrebounded Golden State 37-29 and enjoyed a 29-16 advantage in free-throw points.

"The next 48 hours are going to be difficult to say the least," Karl said. "They found some magic, and we have to somehow take it away.

"Our competitive pride is going to be tested Tuesday night. It's a basketball game; it's not an impossible task. The great gift of NBA basketball is, it takes just one game to turn around your confidence. We're the team with no confidence right now."

Andre Iguodala committed seven of Denver's 23 turnovers. He also had 19 points. Corey Brewer added 14 points, and Andre Miller had 12 for the Nuggets, who shot 46.5 percent.

The Warriors, meanwhile, had six scorers in double figures. Supporting Curry's cause were Jack with 21 points, Carl Landry with 17, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green with 13 apiece. Bogut scored all 12 of his points in the first half.

NOTES: Curry had to leave the game briefly after getting scratched in the right eye by Brewer with 9:36 remaining in the final period. The eye was bloodshot after the game, but Curry said it was functioning fine. ... Curry entered the game having become just the fourth player in NBA history to record as many as 78 points and 33 rebounds in the first three games of a playoff series, joining Oscar Robertson (1962), Kevin Johnson (1989) and Chris Paul (2008) in the distinction. ... Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried, the night's leading rebounder with 12, kicked a hole in wall in the visitors' locker room at Oracle Arena after the game. ... The Nuggets have a recent history of dealing with a 3-1 series deficit. They trailed the Los Angeles Lakers 3-1 last season, then won twice, including once in L.A., before getting eliminated in Game 7. ... The Warriors scored 31 and 35 points in the middle two periods Sunday, the seventh and eighth time in the series that they've tallied 30 or more in a quarter. ... Jackson's wife, Desiree, sang the national anthem before the game. ... For the third consecutive game, the Warriors intentionally submitted an incorrect starting lineup before the game, announcing Landry would start instead of Jack. Asked why he was doing it, Jackson said with a smirk, "It has worked. So there's my reason. Undefeated."