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Golden State Warriors v New Orleans Pelicans

Stephen Curry only needed one game to return to center of Warriors' universe

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Warriors guard Stephen Curry (Getty Images)

After the Warriors' 121-116 win over the Pelicans on Tuesday night, Golden State forward Kevin Durant was asked about Stephen Curry's behavior during the long stretch in which he was rehabbing from a knee injury and unable to play basketball.

"Very anxious. A couple days ago at practice, he just couldn't stop running and jumping and making weird noises," Durant said. "So I'm glad he's back. I was a little worried about him for a second."

If Curry's performance in Game 2 is any indication, Durant and the Warriors won't have to worry much more as they continue their playoff run.

In just 27 minutes of action off the bench, Curry scored 28 points on 8-of-15 shooting, including 5-of-10 from 3-point range. Oracle Arena erupted when Curry entered the game at the 4:20 mark of the first quarter and only grew louder after his first attempt from beyond the arc dropped through the net like an Olympic diver perfectly entering the pool.

Curry's brilliance has never been about his individual numbers, though, no matter how impressive they might be. His impact as the center of the Warriors' universe, a sharpshooting planet pulling defenders into his gravitational field, is what truly sets him apart from his contemporaries.

His fingerprints were all over Game 2. His raw plus-minus was plus-26 in a five-point win. Klay Thompson shot 3-of-8 with Curry on the floor and 1-of-12 with him on the bench. The advanced numbers would be difficult to replicate in a video game.

Warriors in Game 2 Off Rtg Def Rtg Net Rtg True shooting %
Curry On (27 mins) 130.0 96.5 33.5 70.0
Curry Off (21 mins) 72.7 111.5 -38.8 40.1

By simply existing on the court, Curry changes the complexion of the contest. Driving lanes widen. Open shots become really open shots. Defenders must pick up the ball immediately or run the risk of Curry sniping from long range.

Curry didn't just come back and electrify the crowd with a spectacular showing - he gave the Warriors a boost when they needed it. Thompson (4-of-20) and Durant (11-of-23) had off shooting nights, and Nick Young didn't offer much as a temporary starter. With the Pelicans relentlessly attacking for four quarters, Game 2 could have been a letdown after a blowout in the series opener. Curry didn't allow that to happen.

A couple of days ago, the two-time MVP was running, jumping and making weird noises. Now, he's running, shooting and making opponents groan at the thought of trying to stop him.

"I think we planned on 24 (minutes), and he got to 27. But he was Steph," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "He doesn't take long to warm up. That's for sure."

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