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OAKLAND, Calif. — Stephen Curry(Stephen Curry Jersey) became the target Thursday night for the second time during the Western Conference finals of what could be perceived as a slight from Russell Westbrook in the Oklahoma City Thunder guard’s postgame news conference.

Kevin Durant took the question with Westbrook laughing and covering his face after they were asked whether the two-time MVP was an underrated defender.

But Durant wasn’t offering a diplomatic answer, either.

“He’s pretty good, but he doesn’t guard the other best point guards,” Durant said after Curry had five steals in the Golden State Warriors’ series-extending 120-111 Game 5 victory over the Thunder. “I think they do a good job of putting a couple of guys on Russell from [Klay] Thompson to [Andre] Iguodala, and Steph, they throw him in there sometimes. He moves his feet pretty well. He’s good with his hands.

“But, you know, I like our matchup with him guarding Russ.”

Westbrook has averaged 28 points and 11 assists per game in the Western Conference finals, although he is shooting only 41.3 percent from the field and has committed 4.6 turnovers per game during the series. He had 31 points on 11-of-28 shooting with eight assists and seven turnovers in the Thunder’s Game 5 loss.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Westbrook is 8-of-25 from the field and has committed seven turnovers with Curry as his primary defender in this series. Curry has contested 20 of the 25 shot attempts.

Asked about Curry before Game 1, Westbrook said: “He’s a shooter. He’s not nothing I haven’t seen.”

Curry, who led the NBA with 2.14 steals per game this season, acknowledged that Thompson typically draws the tougher defensive assignment when asked about Durant’s comments.

“I’ve got a great teammate that’s obviously a better defender on the perimeter,” said Curry, who received 13 points in voting for the league’s all-defensive team, including three first-place votes. “I like the challenge, and I’ll do my job the best I can. That’s what I’m out there to do. In those situations, I don’t get too caught up in a one-on-one matchup.

“My job is to follow the game plan. I’ve done that the last four years of my career, trying to elevate my defensive presence. I do my job.”

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OAKLAND, Calif. — Among the reasons this — “this” being the 73 wins, the back-to-back MVPs, the return to even footing in the Western Conference finals, etc. — is happening is that Stephen Curry(Stephen Curry Jersey) understands the requirements of superstardom.

Mere greatness isn’t enough. There must be something more. A Next. Always a Next. The best performances always include an encore.

Game 2 of the conference finals Wednesday night was Curry’s followup to his 17-point overtime explosion in Portland during the second round. As sequels go, it was “The Godfather, Part II” to “The Godfather.” Curry scored 15 points in a little under two minutes in the middle of the third quarter, and the Warriors had a 20-point lead they wouldn’t come close to relinquishing.

The numbers didn’t match up to that 40-point night in Portland. However, the impact of Wednesday night’s performance was so much more significant. Had the Warriors lost Game 4 to the Trail Blazers, the series would have been tied 2-2, with home-court advantage in Golden State’s favor. A loss Wednesday night would have dropped the Warriors into a 2-0 hole and required them to win at least two of a possible three games in Oklahoma City to win the series.

In the Warriors’ first moment of necessity, Curry turned the fourth quarter into a formality.

And he did it with a right elbow that had swollen to what he called the size of a tennis ball after he fell on one of the metal plates that ring the court at Oracle Arena while chasing a loose ball into the stands in the first half.

Curry wore a soft white sleeve on the elbow afterward. As he left the postgame news conference, he said he only noticed a little pressure in the elbow while he shot. That was it.

It provided a perfect segue to my next question, about the pressure he felt as the two-time MVP to rescue his squad in this situation. Curry said he didn’t necessarily feel a need to go out and score 30 points, but he did need to make an impact.

He’s focused on the task at hand right now, not his place in history. But it’s obvious that rankings matter to him, or he wouldn’t have come this far. And it’s apparent he understands that coming through when the playoff circumstances require it the most is a prerequisite to being an all-time great.

His 28 points Wednesday night weren’t even the most in the game. Kevin Durant snagged that honor with 29. Twenty-five of Durant’s points came in the first half, though. When Curry got going, Durant couldn’t turn this into a duel. His colleague Russell Westbrook, who owned the third quarter in Game 1, didn’t have an answer this time, either. This game belonged to Curry, even if the box score showed an equitable distribution of numbers among the Warriors, even if the postgame news conferences were surprisingly devoid of Steph Superlatives.

When Draymond Green was asked about Curry, the forward mentioned everything but Curry. He talked about ball movement, getting stops, defense leading to offense, stuff like that. All of that was nice. The Warriors held their own on the boards against the bigger Thunder lineups, outrebounding them 45-36. The second unit had a defensive stand against the Thunder on Oklahoma City’s first possession of the fourth quarter that ended with a blocked shot and a 24-second clock violation, signifying that there would be no miracle comeback. But Curry had already broken the Thunder’s spirit.

The only reason he played at all in the fourth quarter was because of Steve Kerr’s understandable paranoia about sitting his stars with too much time left on the clock. Kerr actually did a better job of explaining 96 seconds in the fourth quarter with a lead hovering around 30 points than he did describing Curry’s game-deciding flurry.

What was different about this one?

“Nothing,” Kerr said.

“Business as usual,” I pressed.

“Business as usual,” Kerr said. “This is what he does.”

Festus Ezeli said, simply, “Steph is going to Steph.”

Curry made it sound as simple as a byproduct of better ball movement and screens by his teammates.

If Curry has made this seem routine, it’s because he’s doing his job, fulfilling the duties of a superstar. He’s not finished, of course. Now comes the hard part. To win this series, the Warriors will have to win in Oklahoma City. The Warriors can’t count on 50 bench points on the road, which they received at Oracle Arena on Wednesday night. This is on Curry. He will need to score 30. He’ll have to go into the dragon’s lair and take the most valued possession.

“Obviously, it’s a team game,” Curry said. “But leaders have to be at their best on the road.”

He understands. He also exudes no doubt that he can live up to the requirements. One attribute that makes him the most unique superstar the game has seen: He’s the first to have higher expectations for himself than from anyone else.

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Stephen Curry(Stephen Curry Jersey) picked up an additional piece of recognition Thursday: a Twitter photo of a handshake from the commissioner.

Adam Silver light-heartedly told the Golden State Warriors star he was sorry for failing to acknowledge Curry’s handshake attempt during an MVP ceremony at Oracle Arena on Wednesday night.

Curry was awarded the MVP award before Game 5 of the Warriors’ Western Conference semifinal series against the Portland Trail Blazers in Oakland, California. As Silver went to present it to him, Curry extended his right hand, but the commissioner — seemingly focused on grabbing the trophy — didn’t see it, leaving the league’s top shooter grasping for air.

Curry quickly brought his hand back in and laughed to himself.

Video of the awkward moment quickly spread on social media.

Later Wednesday, after the Warriors clinched the playoff series by beating the Blazers 125-121, Curry and Silver made sure they got the handshake right.

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SAN ANTONIO — As the lights came back on following some strange halftime show, Kevin Durant(Kevin Durant Jersey) walked out of the locker room to midcourt and stopped. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

Ahead was the biggest second half of his season, and one of the biggest of his career. So much was on his shoulders as the Oklahoma City Thunder clung to a three-point lead in the cauldron of the steamy AT&T Center, a place where the San Antonio Spurs had lost only once this season (and that was to the greatest regular-season team of all time, mind you).

Just two days ago, the Spurs blitzed the Thunder in a 32-point evisceration that left plenty of doubts not just about OKC’s chances in the series but about their future in general. As free agent-to-be Durant absorbed that fourth quarter from the bench, what could he be thinking? And if more of the same was to come in Game 2, as so many expected, what then?

The second half was about to start and Durant walked back on the floor, patting his chest, then his back, then pointing to where his friends and family sat courtside, as he always does. Twenty-four minutes ahead to try and dodge every haymaker the Spurs were about to throw. Twenty-four minutes to try and wipe away Game 1 and leave San Antonio with the desired result.

In the aftermath of Game 1′s embarrassment, Durant was steely, not sharing his emotions, not letting anyone know what he was feeling. His message was simple: That’s over — we move on. He didn’t go around and try and coach up his teammates. He didn’t have any rah-rah speech planned. He had an expectation of his teammates and a hope that they’d follow his lead. His demeanor in Game 2 toed the line between “odd” and “focused.” His first real fist pump didn’t come until Dion Waiters splashed a corner 3 to put the Thunder up five with 2:29 left.

He let out a slightly bigger one when he hit what appeared to be the dagger, an awkward leaning jumper with 33 seconds left to put the Thunder up five.

But knowing what the Thunder have endured down the stretch in close games this season, with the well-known stat of 14 blown fourth-quarter leads and their negative clutch-time plus minus, Durant didn’t release his emotions until that final horn sounded. With a manic final 20 seconds that featured Serge Ibaka fouling LaMarcus Aldridge on a 3, then an OKC turnover that gave the Spurs a chance to win it, the Thunder nearly unraveled.

Instead, with the ball rolling all over the floor, the buzzer sounded, allowing the Thunder to walk away with their split, 98-97, Durant balled both fists and unleashed a roar. In the locker room, before he walked to the podium, he joked to Russell Westbrook about wanting to be asked about how he was feeling after this one. The first question granted his wish.

“I’m not telling you,” he said, before cracking a small smile, a call back to his response following Game 1.

“It was an up-and-down game, all game, it was a grind-it-out,” he said. “I don’t really know what happened on that last play. I just know we were able to come out on top.”

There’s no way to really summarize how the game ended. Calling it chaos is like calling preschool recess organized. It was a complete malfunction of basketball, starting with Manu Ginobili crowding Waiters, who as the inbounder pushed Ginobili. Waiters’ arching pass to Durant was stolen, with jerseys being grabbed everywhere, before the Spurs failed to convert on a 3-on-1 with Patty Mills air-balling a corner 3, sparking a rugby scrum for the rebound as the clock expired.

Those last 15 seconds are the conversation, they’re what will be digested throughout the news cycle Tuesday. But they’ll overshadow the brilliant bounce-back performance from the Thunder, responding to one of the franchise’s lowest days with a resounding road win.

They led by one entering the fourth quarter, and expanded the lead to nine after the first five minutes. Danny Green hit two 3s to trim the lead to three with 6:40 left, and it was on Westbrook, Durant and the Thunder to conquer one of their greatest enemies. Not the Spurs — crunch time.

Those final six minutes are what they’ve worked all year for. Those final six minutes are a primary reason why Scott Brooks was fired and Billy Donovan was hired. The Thunder have always stalled into a predictable isolation offense, watching tight postseason games get away from them in the final few minutes. But on Monday, behind brilliant shot-making by Durant, the trust of an extra pass to the open man in the corner, and the hyper-speed transition jets of Westbrook, the Thunder found a way.

“We never say ‘Here we go again,’ because honestly we don’t think we gave away leads in the fourth quarter as many times as you may think,” Westbrook said. “We came out and competed at a high level like we’ve been doing all season long. Made plays, made shots and came out with the win.”

It’s one win for the Thunder, and now the series transfers to Oklahoma City. They’ve accomplished the toughest part of the quest, winning the required one game in San Antonio. But even with the brief celebration and exhale of emotion, Durant and Westbrook were quick to reset focus. Asked if they feel like they accomplished their mission by walking away with a split after a 32-point loss in Game 1, Westbrook sarcastically laughed. Then Durant joined in with a chuckle.

“Yeah, good win,” Westbrook said.

“Good win,” Durant echoed. “We move on.”