Stephen Curry explodes in 22-point third quarter, Warriors earn a 3-1 series lead (Video)

Stephen Curry explodes in 22-point third quarter, Warriors earn a 3-1 series lead (Video)
Stephen Curry explodes in 22-point third quarter, Warriors earn a 3-1 series lead (Video)

Golden State Warriors sharpshooter Stephen Curry entered Sunday night's Game 4 against the Denver Nuggets with reason to doubt his own ability to carry his team to victory. After two stellar games to help the Warriors to a 2-1 series lead, Curry needed pain shots to cope with his sprained left ankle and struggled to score in the first half, putting in seven points on only 1 of 3 shooting from the field.

It turned out that Curry was merely biding his time for one of the most impressive scoring runs of the postseason so far. After a separate outburst by Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson (15 points in the first six minutes of the second half) helped Denver cut the lead from a halftime deficit of 12 to just four points, Curry caught fire to score 22 points on 8 of 10 shooting from the floor in the last 6:22 of the quarter, with 19 of those points coming in a torrid 7 of 7 stretch from the 4:22 to 1:12 marks. The Warriors held a 91-72 lead at the horn, overwhelming the Nuggets on the way to a 115-101 victory that puts them one win away from clinching their first playoff series since 2007.

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Curry finished the night with 31 points on 10 of 16 from the floor (including 6 of 11 from beyond the arc), further cementing his reputation as the top shooter in the NBA. In his last three games (all Warriors wins), Curry has averaged 30 points per game on 31 of 56 shooting from the field and 14 of 28 shooting from 3-point range. Those are incredible numbers for the postseason, and they might be even better if Curry hadn't had to miss several minutes of the fourth quarter after being poked in the eye by Nuggets wing Corey Brewer. He returned to action despite a very reddened eye, although his status is worth monitoring before Tuesday night's Game 5.

Meanwhile, the Nuggets continue to struggle to limit the Warriors' shooters. Curry has been the clear star, but five other Warriors scored in double figures, including point guard Jarrett Jack (21 points on 8 of 9 shooting), the team's replacement for injured All-Star forward David Lee in the starting lineup. Golden State shot 55.7 percent from the field as a team in their third consecutive game over 50 percent following a 41.3 percent performance in their Game 1 loss. This offensive explosion has been a team effort, and if the Nuggets don't figure out a way to stop it, they will likely find themselves out of the postseason.

Yet, no matter how well the rest of the team shoots, the story will continue to be Curry, who is making a clear statement in his first postseason. It's tempting to call it a star-making series, but Golden State head coach Mark Jackson rejects that claim. In his post-game press conference, Jackson had a simple message for anyone using this series to mark Curry's arrival: "Those guys are just getting to the hospital. The baby has been born already."

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