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Coming off bench, Warriors' Stephen Curry shines in return to action



OAKLAND, Calif. — During his first trip to the free throw line in the third quarter Tuesday, Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry received “MVP” chants.

“Our crowd is crazy in general,” Curry said after the Warriors’ 121-116 win over the New Orleans Pelicans. “And whatever opportunity they have to kind of pick us up and create that home-court advantage that we rely on, that’s big for us.”

In his return from a Grade 2 MCL sprain that he suffered on March 23, the two-time MVP played like his usual self, as he went for 28 points and seven rebounds in his postseason debut in Game 2 of the second-round series against New Orleans.

It was the most points scored by a Golden State reserve this postseason — after the surprising announcement 20 minutes before tipoff that Curry would be coming off the bench.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr chose to work in his franchise guard gradually during the game, although Curry wasn’t on a minutes restriction. Fans had to wait a little bit longer to see No. 30 compete. That moment finally came with 4:20 left in the opening quarter and Curry said it “felt like an eternity.”

Curry checked into the game and was immediately greeted to a roaring standing ovation. It was the second time in his postseason career that he came off the bench.

“That was a special moment,” Kerr said.

“[It was] pretty loud,” Draymond Green said about Curry’s reception. “Just him walking on the floor. You know, it was kind of electric in there and for him to hit that 3 that fast, it brought a lot of life to the building and a lot of light, spirit. Pretty fitting for sure.”

It didn’t take the two-time NBA MVP long to remind the fans what they’ve been missing for a month and a half. After only 11 seconds, Curry came off a flare screen and swished a left-wing trey. The sold-out crowd erupted with cheers and applause.

“Eleven seconds is all it took?” Curry responded to ESPN. “Wow. I didn’t know that. But when it left my hands, I knew it was good.”

Kerr said it “didn’t surprise me. That’s who he is.”

And then a little over a minute later, the marksmen dribbled the ball off of his foot and was close to catching a backcourt violation — however, he chased it down, took three dribbles and drilled a deep 32-footer.

He was back.

“We missed him and I was happy we were able to go 5-1 [in the postseason] in his absence,” Klay Thompson said. “And it’s great to have him back.”

Curry registered 12 points in the first half on 5-of-10 shooting and was the team’s leading scorer going into the break. He finished 8-of-15 from the field and 7-of-7 from the foul line in 27 minutes of play.

Toward the end of the third quarter, Curry raced the ball up the floor and pulled up for a contested 3-pointer over Darius Miller that found the bottom of the net.

Curry then held a pose with his body slumped over to take in the moment. It was the third time fans leaped for joy uncontrollably following a Curry highlight.

His fifth and final 3 came with 1:47 left, and it was the dagger, giving the Warriors a 15-point advantage.

Curry recorded a plus-minus of 34, the highest mark in the matchup.

He told ESPN, “I knew I was going to feel it” after his knocked down his tunnel shot on his second attempt during his pregame shooting routine.

He had tried convincing the medical staff to clear him for Game 1 on Saturday, but in the end, it worked out perfectly for the Warriors.

“It felt great,” Curry said of his return. “Real eager as of late trying to get back out there and be with my teammates, and, you know, do what I love to do. To get back out there on the floor, play some playoff basketball and get a big win tonight, it was huge. It was a good feeling. The crowd was crazy and obviously we did what we needed to do in these first two games.”

Golden State is up 2-0 in the series, which will now shift to New Orleans for Games 3 and 4.

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Coming off bench, Warriors' Stephen Curry shines in return to action

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