SAN FRANCISCO -- For the first four games of the series, Steph Curry was basically the John Travolta GIF. Powered by determination, skill and experience, Curry asked his teammates to follow him into the fray with a Western Conference finals appearance on the line.
When he arrived, however, his cavalry was nowhere to be found.
Facing a 3-1 deficit and in desperate need of a complete team effort, Curry's supporting cast finally entered the room to lead the Golden State Warriors to a 121-106 Game 5 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday at Chase Center, living to fight again in Game 6 on Friday.
A rare sighting of bucket-happy Draymond Green, who tends to only show up in the most necessary of situations, was an early sign that help had arrived for Curry. He did it in Game 5 against the Kings, and then again in Game 2 against the Lakers -- the Warriors' only victory of the series prior to Wednesday -- and in Game 5 he scored 20 points on 7-for-11 shooting.
There are few things that get Warriors fans as excited as a Draymond Green 3-pointer, and he delivered early to generate the Chase Center buzz that lasted throughout the game, sending a harbinger of evil intent in the Lakers' direction.
Green scored eight points in the first quarter, finishing the half with 14 -- more than he scored in all but 10 regular season games.
"I loved his approach to the game tonight," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after the Game 5 win. "He was aggressive right from the start -- picked up a foul on the first play and didn't care. Like, made no bones about it. He's like, 'I'm coming. I'm coming.' I thought he was one of the keys, for sure. "
Coming along for the ride was Andrew Wiggins, who in Game 3 , but put up a lackluster Game 4 after which he admitted he needed to be more assertive. That wasn't a problem in Game 5, as Wiggins scored 25 points on 10-for-18 shooting, to go along with seven rebounds and five assists. Since Anthony Davis started on him defensively, Wiggins set a lot of screens to draw Davis out of the paint, leading to playmaking opportunities. Wiggins' aggressiveness as a scorer drew multiple defenders, and he continually made the right read to either score himself, or get the Warriors clean looks.
"It's the best version of who he is and how he can impact games," Curry said of Wiggins after Game 5. "Him getting up 18 shots is huge. We need that every night. And it's on us as a team to feature him, too, at certain points of the game, because he is such an athlete and he can create his own shot. Got to feed it to him and let him do what he does."
Wiggins "did what he does" on the dagger with just under three minutes left that sent the Lakers packing for L.A. He recognized a mismatch against Lonnie Walker IV, got deep post position and made a quick, decisive move for an and-one jump hook. It put the Warriors up by 14, ending any possible thoughts of a late Laker comeback.
Even Jordan Poole, the butt of essentially every Warriors-related joke over the past couple of weeks, showed signs of life during Game 5. He wasn't great, scoring 11 points on 5-of-14 shooting in 23 minutes, but anything that Poole brings is considered icing on the cake after the dreadful series he's endured.
Finally, there was Gary Payton II, who was rewarded with another start after a brilliant Game 4 performance. Davis didn't guard Payton, so he wasn't as involved as a screener -- where he flourished on Monday -- but he used his athleticism for finishes around the rim, kept the defense honest by knocking down a 3-pointer and got Golden State extra possessions with three offensive rebounds. Overall, Payton finished with 13 points, six rebounds and a steal, going 4 of 5 from both the field and the free throw line. To quantify his impact, you need look no further than the team-best plus-25 in the box score.
Green said that it's important for himself and Payton to be "aggressive on both sides of the floor," so it begs the question why he and the other Warriors can't just do that every night. The answer probably lies on the defensive end, where Green, Payton and Wiggins are charged with stopping the Lakers' attack led by the skilled and physical duo of Davis and LeBron James, along with a host of penetrating guards.
"It probably takes quite a bit out of us. But with the adrenaline, and we know what type of game this is, you've got to go," Payton said. "Once we get it, magically we find energy on the other end."
The Warriors finally provided Curry with the help he needed, even with Klay Thompson going 3 of 12 from the field, and that allowed him to pick his spots amid a second straight subpar shooting night. He finished with a team-high 27 points on 3-for-11 3-point shooting, but he went 9 of 13 from 2-point range. Because he didn't have to carry the entire offensive load throughout the game, Curry had enough gas left to hit the two biggest shots of the night when the Lakers cut the lead to nine with just under six minutes remaining.
First, he knocked down a pull-up jumper right out of a timeout, and on the next possession he swished one of his trademark falling-out-of-bounds 3s to thoroughly dishearten the Lakers.
The challenge for the Warriors is now carrying this complete effort into Game 6 in Los Angeles on Friday. Curry's track record tells us that he's certainly going to show up in another elimination game, but which members of the supporting cast will join him? Wednesday's win is a step in the right direction and should provide confidence for Golden State, but taking the show on the road is a different animal, particularly coming off two straight losses at Crypto.com Arena, where the Lakers are 6-0 this postseason.
"Whether that was shooting the three, whether it was going to the hole, whether it was defensively, just attack," Green said of his mentality in Game 5. "And it has to be my same -- will be my same mindset going into Los Angeles. Our job isn't done, we're still facing elimination and we'll be facing elimination for the rest of this series. So, got to have the same mindset. Back against the wall, you got to come out fighting."