We had some late breaking news just before Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals between the Blazers and Warriors — Stephen Curry was going to play.
Curry became the first reigning MVP to ever come off the bench on Monday. To me it was a red flag that something wasn’t right. If Steph was healthy then why bring him off the bench? Clearly he was reacting to the Game 3 loss and rushing his recovery.
I was wrong.
In celebration of Steph and his improbable 40 points (17 in overtime), let’s take a look back at some of the most legendary bench player performances in NBA Playoff history…
(Honorable Mention: Dell Curry dropping 27 off the bench against the Celtics in 1993)
10. Scottie Pippen
Phil Jackson made the switch to bring Pippen off the bench in the 1990 playoffs and it worked. Scottie dropped 29 points in a Bulls’ victory over the Sixers. Chicago went on to upset Philly, but fell to the Bad Boy Pistons in seven games before finally overtaking the East in 1991.
9. CJ McCollum
Maybe we should have seen C.J.’s breakout season coming? He had 33 and 26-point games against Memphis in last year’s playoffs, but unfortunately the Blazers came up short in both games. However, it clearly was a preview of what he’s capable of doing … as we saw all season when he earned a starting role.
8. James Harden
It’s always so scary to think about if OKC still had Harden as its sixth man. Harden was crucial to the Thunder’s 2012 Finals run, coming up with 29 points in this particular game to sweep the defending champs out of the postseason. Harden also had a 30-point game in the same playoff run against the Spurs.
7. Latrell Sprewell
So Spre actually started the game you see above, dropping 35 on the Spurs in the Finals. However, he was bumped into the starting lineup because the Knicks were in such desperate need of scoring. Sprewell actually had back-to-back 31-point games in his usually spark plug role off the bench earlier in the ’99 postseason. Pretty good depth for an 8-seed that snuck into the Finals.
6. Sam Cassell
Kenny “The Jet” Smith was the starter on the 1995 Champion Rockets’ squad, but Cassell made his impact felt off the bench. He had three games of 30+ games in that postseason run, highlighted by his 31-point performance in Game 2 of the Finals.
5. Nate Robinson
Robinson was always a jolt of electricity when he entered the game throughout his career. Not many 5’9” guys can come into a game and ignite the crowd with a thunderous dunk or a fadeaway triple. Nate had it all going on in this win over the Nets with 23 of his 34 coming in the fourth quarter.
4. Jason Terry
Terry may have been the Mavs’ second best player, but he still was the sixth man of the 2011 champions. His best game of that postseason came in Game 4 of a sweep of the defending champion Lakers when he dropped 32 points after connecting nine times from downtown.
3. Manu Ginobili
Manu’s fingerprints are all over the list for bench scoring in the postseason, but this performance against the Suns is probably his most memorable outburst. 33 points, 11 boards, six dimes and one (almost) full head of hair.
2. Nick Van Exel
Van Exel was the king of bench scoring in the 2003 playoffs. Everyone remembers the Dirk/Nash combo carrying the Mavs in the early 2000’s, but even more forget how good Van Exel was. He had three games of 35+ points in this postseason, including this 40-point outburst.
1. Stephen Curry
Call it an unfair advantage when the MVP is coming off the bench but hey it still counts! Honestly though, Curry wasn’t even having a good game. OT rolled around and he dropped SEVENTEEN points giving him 40 on the night. This was supposed to be a game to ease Steph back in and it turned into an all-time classic. As Steve Kerr has confirmed, Curry will be starting in Game 5.
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