Warriors vs. Kings: Steph Curry-De’Aaron Fox Game 4 duel gives us instant classic, taking series to epic level

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By Webdesk

SAN FRANCISCO — People often compare back-and-forth sporting events to heavyweight boxing matches, where each behemoth takes turns beating the other into oblivion, only to see the opponent counter by inflicting punishment on their own side. But even that metaphor doesn’t do justice to Sunday’s tense, exhausting Game 4 battle between the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings.

“What a game,” said Kings coach Mike Brown afterwards. “If I were a fan, shoot, what a match to watch.”

The best approach is probably that pirate ship ride at any theme park or local fair. After you buckle in, the ship begins to rock slowly in every direction, building momentum – similar to the 14 lead changes and six ties in the first half of Game 4. Then things get better eventually, with the wooden seaship flying so high swings to one side, the fear of falling out of your chair forces your sweaty white-knuckle hands to desperately cling to the crossbar. Like when the Warriors opened up a 10-point lead with a devastating third quarter capped by a picturesque three-pointer from Klay Thompson in the corner.

However, when you reach the top on one side, you know that things must eventually succumb to gravity and swing the other way. To start the fourth quarter, the Kings went on a quick, surgical 15-2 run in less than three minutes to retake the lead. What happened there can only be compared to the pirate ship that completely fell off its track, whizzing down the thoroughfare with its passengers and bystanders screaming with fear and joy.

Perhaps the worst coaching challenge in NBA history from Steve Kerr left the Warriors with no timeouts in the final two minutes of the game. These things often come back to bite you, and with 42 seconds left Steph Curry, owner of a genius basketball IQ, had a momentary lapse in judgment, joining Chris Webber and earning a technical foul by calling a timeout his team didn’t have.

The tech not only gave Sacramento a free throw, but also possession with De’Aaron Fox pulling down a pull-up three-pointer to cut the lead to one point. Curry’s missed shot on the other end gave the Kings the ball back with 10 seconds left, but Harrison Barnes’ final three-point effort shot over the edge, allowing the trembling Chase Center crowd to take a breather, as Golden State escaped with an ugly , but ecstatic victory.

They came off the pirate ship alive and that’s all that matters.

“If this was a regular season game, you probably walk away feeling a little upset and thinking, man, never should have been this hard,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said after the win. “But it’s not. It’s the playoffs, and every game counts. Whether we win by going away and checking the end or we have to fight to win it like we did today, you take the win and you move on.”

The instant classic featured great and timely performances up and down each roster, but the main characters – the stars who took the game and series from awesome to epic – were Curry and Fox, who showcased their myriad ethereal talents in a fourth-quarter tête- à-tete.

After the Kings quickly cleared a 10-point deficit to give themselves a one-point lead with nine minutes remaining, Curry went to work and scored seven of the Warriors’ next eight points to give them some breathing room. His first basket was pure determination — a straight drive layup that exuded alpha energy and gave the Warriors a lead they would never relinquish.

Then a devastating off-rhythm, head-fake jumper with his toe on the 3-point line, snatching momentum back and forcing Sacramento to call a timeout in a futile attempt to contain the Chase Center madhouse.

Then, with 7:25 left, he picked up a low pass from Green from his ankles and knocked down a 29-foot 3-pointer in one move to extend the lead.

“He has ultimate command of our team and the floor,” Warriors center Kevon Looney said of Curry, his longtime teammate. “So he knows when we were struggling and they got the momentum going, and he decided to grab some buckets and get us back to where we needed to be. That’s why he is who he is.”

Against many teams, that would be the end of the story. But Sacramento has its own petite-built hero who happens to be the NBA’s first-ever Clutch Player of the Year. From six minutes on, Fox scored seven consecutive points through an assortment of free throws, pull-up jumpers, and floaters. He scored 12 points in the fourth quarter alone, highlighted by the late three-pointer that tested the structural integrity of Warriors fans’ cardiovascular systems.

“I think he’s stepped it up a notch from the regular season so far,” Kings rookie Keegan Murray said of Fox after Game 4. “Just goes to show he can be a superstar in this league. He’s in it.”

It was only fitting that the final play of the game came down to the two stars – one on one. Fox caught the ball in the backcourt and purposely chased Curry by getting a screen from Barnes. Fox attempted a crossover, but Curry interrupted and forced him back to his weaker right hand, where he received help from Green. With no choice but to get the right play out of the double team, Fox gifted it to Barnes, whose miss ruined an incredible game winner and story against his former team.

“We know Fox can shoot,” Green said after the game. “He won Clutch Player of the Year. What I don’t do is give him an iso with whoever and just watch him work and live with that. We’re not going to live with that. We know that. You have to let someone else beat you.”

It’s the ultimate mark of respect that the Warriors would rather risk an open shot from an 11-year veteran and 37 percent career 3-point shooter than see Fox take a contested jumper to win the game. Whether it was any doubt after his brilliant, likely All-NBA regular season, Fox has proven in his first playoff appearance that he is worthy of being placed in today’s pantheon of top stars.

Game 4 was about much more than the two superstar guards, but Curry finished with 32 points on 5-for-11 3-point shooting, while Fox put up 38 points and nine rebounds. With them all figuring out what the defense has in store for them over the course of the series, it’s tempting to imagine what they have in store for us in Game 5 of what will be one of the most entertaining NBA playoff series of the season. lately has become.

The best part is that both Curry and Fox are such dynamic goalscorers that they can strike at any time without warning.

“I’m always looking for my shot just because there’s always going to be a double team or a trap or a lot of attention. So just because I don’t shoot doesn’t mean I’m passive,” said Curry after the game. 4 win. “Just means reading the defense to make the right plays and get the ball moving, welcome the attention or the double teams and find open shots for other guys.

“But the more you do that over the course of 48, the harder it is to defend and the more likely I am to find some openings. And then you always have to be ready and confident that you can knock those shots down .”

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