OAKLAND, Calif. - His spirits down, his left ankle limp and his team's season hanging in the balance, Stephen Curry wondered whether he could recover for the biggest game of his career until a text message popped up on his phone around 2 a.m. Saturday.
Curry called back his mother, Sonya, and vented his frustrations about his latest — and most inopportune — injury setback. Finally, she spoke up to calm his concerns.
"She just reminded me and battled tested me to rely on my teammates for support," Curry said.
What followed was a Mother's Day masterpiece.
Curry scored 22 points to go with six rebounds and four assists on a bum ankle, rallying the Golden State Warriors past the San Antonio Spurs 97-87 in overtime Sunday to even the Western Conference semifinal at two games apiece.
"It seems like every time you get on a roll and feel somewhat healthy there's a setback," said Curry, who shot 7 of 15 from the floor, including 5 of 10 from 3-point range. "And it just tests you. It changes your routine. It changes your outlook on the game, your preparation. You've got to deal with the injury and the adjustments you're making as a team."
Game 5 is Tuesday in San Antonio.
Curry and the Warriors overcame the obstacles with contributions from all over.
Rookie Harrison Barnes had a career-high 26 points and 10 rebounds, Jarrett Jack added 24 points in reserve and Andrew Bogut grabbed 18 rebounds to help Golden State erase an eight-point deficit in the final five minutes of regulation. The Warriors scored the first nine points of overtime to whip the yellow-shirt wearing crowd of 19,596 into a frenzy and give this topsy-turvy series yet another twist.
Even Warriors coach Mark Jackson doubted whether Curry could play, especially after his star point guard took an anti-inflammatory injection in the morning to ease the soreness in his sprained ankle and still had trouble getting loose. Jackson cornered Curry outside the chapel service at the arena to see how he felt.
"He said, 'I'm going to give you what I got, coach.' That's not the language he speaks. I knew right away that he was not 100 per cent," said Jackson, who conferred with general manager Bob Myers in his office before letting Curry play. "Once again, it's that same spirit flowing through that locker room that refuses to quit."
Even for all of the theatre Curry provided, the Spurs seized control of a sloppy slugfest at the start until going cold shooting when it mattered most.
Tony Parker, wearing a black sleeve around his bruised left calf, poured in 17 points on 6-of-17 shooting but never broke free the way he did in scoring 32 points the previous contest, saying the injury limited his ability to elevate. Manu Ginobili had 21 points and Tim Duncan added 19 points and 15 rebounds as the Spurs ran out of steam in the end.
"We put ourselves in a position to win the game and it's frustrating because we feel like we gave it away," Duncan said.
Golden State outshot San Antonio 38 to 35.5 per cent. The Warriors also outrebounded the Spurs 65-51.
"They did a good job in overtime. Just as simple as that," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.
Ginobili hit a mid-range jumper and a 3-pointer, and Kawhi Leonard put back a rebound for an easy layup to put the Spurs ahead 80-72 with 4:49 remaining in the fourth quarter. With the series slipping away from the Warriors, their home sellout crowd sat down and fell silent for one of the few times in the fourth quarter all post-season.
Jack hit three jumpers and Klay Thompson added another to pull the Warriors even with less than a minute to play in regulation. After Parker provided a jumper to put the Spurs ahead 84-82, Thompson dribbled to his right and banked in the tying shot over Leonard with 30 seconds left.
Both teams missed shots to win in regulation, and the Warriors turned the extra session into a runaway.
Curry capped the overtime spurt with a floating layup, drawing a foul on Duncan to begin a three-point play that gave Golden State a 93-84 lead. San Antonio missed its first nine shots — and two free throws by Danny Green — to start overtime until Green's corner 3 with 1:29 remaining.
By then, it was too late — Curry had taken control again.
"He's a player that you may see him playing on one leg, one arm, and you got to guard him," Ginobili said. "So you got to respect him. He can really go off at any time."
The upstart Warriors are once again on the brink of something big.
The franchise hadn't won two games beyond the first round since 1977, when it pulled even with the Lakers in the conference semifinals through four games before losing in seven. This time, all the odds seemed against them again.
The tight turnaround from Friday night's game to the early afternoon start Sunday surely didn't help Curry's cause.
Curry clearly favoured his left ankle and never showed any burst off the dribble, often getting face-guarded by Spurs defenders and taken out of the offence. Some of his teammates even wondered whether he'd respond.
"Watching him warm up, I said, 'Man, there's no way this kid is playing,'" Jack said. "Then watching him run around on one leg, he looked like Isiah Thomas against the Lakers in the finals, man. The performance he put on down the stretch, making plays, making shots, defensively, I sat back and was honestly in awe."
With Curry quieted on the perimeter early and Bogut benched in foul trouble most of the first half, the Warriors missed 13 straight shots and went scoreless for 7:10. The Spurs scored 14 unanswered points during that spurt, Ginobili made his first four 3s and the Spurs later took a 41-30 lead midway through the second quarter on Green's put-back dunk.
The Warriors had been 0-3 when trailing after three quarters this post-season until Curry and company came back.
Curry hadn't checked in with his family when he spoke to reporters while soaking his feet in a bucket of ice in the locker room afterward. But he knew they were all watching from North Carolina with his brother, Seth, who was graduating from Duke.
"It was," he said, "a big day for the Currys."
NOTES: Warriors All-Star F David Lee, who had five rebounds in a little less than 8 minutes, said surgery is "more than likely" on his torn right hip flexor after the season but plans to keep playing sparingly in the playoffs. Lee, hurt in Game 1 in the first round against Denver, had had been uncertain whether a procedure would be necessary. ... The Warriors had never hosted an overtime playoff game in the Bay Area. ... It was the most points Ginobili had scored since he had 21 against New Orleans on Jan. 7. ... Game 6 is Thursday in Oakland and Game 7, if necessary, would be in San Antonio on Sunday.