Matthews took Curry match-up personal
The Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors went blow for blow in a heavyweight bout Sunday night at the Moda Center with playoff seeding and momentum implications on the line.
Pound for pound, the game was evenly matched.
Both playing with a sense of urgency, the game was a winding roller coaster as the twists and turns saw each team go on streaks and lulls.
As Portland looked to find an answer in trying to stop Stephen Curry, who went off during the first half while Klay Thompson sat on the bench with foul trouble, it was in the bowels of the Moda Center in the Trail Blazers locker room that this game may have already been decided during Portland's pregame regimen.
While All-Star power forward and his teammates got dressed, footage of past performances, sets that Golden State likes to run, played in the background. It was at that moment that something caught LA's eye in the film, and he sent a challenge to teammate Wesley Matthews.
"It was a clip of a flashback when he was first here. He was guarding [Curry], fighting through screens, blocking shots... And I was like 'Man, that's the old Wes.' He was like 'What do you mean, the old Wes?' So he took it personal."
For those who follow Wesley Matthews' game, he plays at his best when there is a tremendous chip on his shoulder. He loves playing the underdog, the spoiler. He has joked in the past that his shooting woes come at the behest of no one in the media "pissing me off for a while."
It looks like LA's comments were all that was needed to ignite the shooting guard both offensively and defensively.
"He's one of the better third quarter players in the league," Matthews said of Curry. "And he had six points in the third quarter. I think that just really tired him out. Granted he found his groove a little in the fourth quarter... at some point, it's got to weigh on him."
How was he able to guard Steph Curry and still score 24 points? "That's what we get paid to do," he said with a smile on his face met with a cadence of laughter from the media. "I love this game. That's what gets me going. LA challenged me before the game even started. He challenged me to be a dog on defense. He got off a little bit in the first half, and even though I wasn't really matched up against him that much, I still took it personal. And the times I was matched up against him and he scored, it got to me."
Matthews stepped up to the plate, scoring 11 big points in the third quarter to help the Trail Blazers climb out of the abysmal first half finish and regain the lead heading into the final quarter.
Portland and Golden State exchanged blows. For every three that dropped for the Blazers, a Steph Curry led charge would come back and fire another one, finding the bottom of the net.
Curry, who played the entire second half and overtime, surged while Matthews sat on the bench.
Wesley Matthews enters the game for Dorell Wright with 6:28 to play in the fourth with the task of stopping Steph Curry.
Fresh into the game, Curry nailed a long jumper in Matthews' face just 27 seconds later, closing the gap to 95-93.
What happened after that shot may have been the fire LA lit in Matthews pregame.
In the final 6 minutes, Curry only attempted three jump shots and missed all of them. He also committed a turnover and gave up the game tying shot.
During overtime, Curry missed 3 of the 4 of his jumpers and gave up a possible game winner.
"We have a lot of fun going against each other, Curry said of Matthews. "He's obviously a great defender, took on that challenge. I just wanted to continue to be aggressive and try to make plays. It was a fun back and forth."
Despite the loss, Curry finished 16-29 from the floor (7-14 from 3pt) for 47 points. With the loss, Golden State is now locked into the 6-seed and will play the LA Clippers in the first round of the playoffs.
The Trail Blazers got the last laugh Sunday, with Matthews probably laughing the hardest, in the end. "Me and Steph, we go back since before the draft," Mattews said. "We've got the same agent. We're friends, we're competitors. I know he's mad that he lost. I'll remind him that we won. Not tonight, but later."