Steph Curry became the first player in NBA history to make 500 career playoff threes as he poured in 32 points to go along with eight assists to help the Golden State Warriors defeat the Memphis Grizzlies 101-98 on Monday and move to within one win of the Western Conference finals.
An out-of-sorts Warriors reeled in the Ja Morant-less Grizzlies, taking their first lead of the night with 45.7 seconds remaining to close out victory and take a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Curry scored 18 points in the final quarter, tying the game at 90 with 3:25 to go, and then netted eight straight clutch free throws in the final minute, edging his team ahead.
“Nothing we figured out, it was just don’t let the first three quarters influence the fact that we still had a chance to win the game,” Curry told reporters after the game. “Shoot the shots you think you can make, play aggressive, take care of the ball. We did all of those things.”
Golden State’s task had been made more challenging by the absence of coach Steve Kerr, who tested positive for Covid-19 two hours before tip-off and was unable to take his seat on the bench.
His spot was taken by assistant coach Mike Brown, who is taking over as Sacramento Kings head coach next season and had previously led the Warriors to an 11-0 record during the 2017 title run when Kerr was absent.
“His head coaching record for a Warrior playoff game I think is undefeated,” Warriors guard Klay Thompson said. “We did miss Steve a lot, just his voice, his presence, but we’ve been here before, 2017 when Mike took over and we rolled off a lot of wins, so I reflected on that a lot.”
Both teams missed chances to pull away due to their poor shooting, with neither team hitting 42% from the floor or 26% from beyond the arc.
The Warriors were 0-15 from deep until Otto Porter Jr. drained a three with 3:24 left in the second quarter. Thompson missed all seven of his three-point attempts but still contributed 14 points and seven rebounds.
The Grizzlies’ defense – led by Jaren Jackson Jr. who blocked five shots and had two steals – shut down the Warriors’ offense, holding them to just 38 points in the first half.
Jackson Jr. also led Memphis with 21 points in the absence of star point guard Morant who injured his right knee during Saturday’s Game 3 loss. Tyus Jones added 19 points, six rebounds and five assists.
“It’s a tough one. It’s a tough pill to swallow. It felt like we were leading the whole game,” Jones told the media postgame. “It felt like we were in a good position. It felt like we put ourselves in a good position to win a ballgame and things didn’t go our way down the stretch.”
Game 5 is scheduled for Wednesday in Memphis.
Celtics level series against the Bucks 2-2
In the Eastern Conference, Al Horford scored a postseason career-best 30 points as the Boston Celtics produced a devastating late scoring flurry to down the Milwaukee Bucks 116-108 and level their best-of-seven series at two games a piece.
“I usually just kind of go about my business,” Horford said to the media after the game. “I do get excited, but I guess you kind of pick your spots, your moments. This was an emotional game.”
Despite trailing by 11 points midway through the third quarter, the Celtics rallied with a 10-0 scoring run to drag themselves back into contention before outscoring the Bucks 43-28 in the fourth quarter.
Milwaukee regained the lead 94-92 with 6:02 remaining, but the Celtics responded with a 14-2 run that put the game beyond the Bucks’ reach.
Giannis Antetokounmpo led the scoring for Milwaukee with 34 points in a losing effort, along with 18 rebounds and five assists, while Brook Lopez finished with 17 points and seven rebounds.
“Al [Horford] had a hell of a game,” said Milwaukee’s Jrue Holiday, who had 16 points, seven rebounds and nine assists. “I think we came down and had some shots we usually make, and we couldn’t finish those. But give them credit. They made more plays.”
The Celtics have home advantage in two of the next three games in their series. Game 5 is set for Wednesday at TD Garden in Boston.