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Warriors' win on back burner after Curry exits with knee injury

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Curry misses second half, Warriors step up (1:25)

With Steph Curry out in the second half due to a sprained right knee, Klay Thompson scores 12 of his 23 points in the third quarter and the Warriors outscore the Rockets 41-20 in the frame en route to a 121-94 victory and commanding 3-1 series lead. (1:25)

HOUSTON -- The Golden State Warriors fought hard despite a searing, sudden absence, crushing the Houston Rockets 121-94 on Sunday in a game that left few feeling fine.

There was a game that happened, though it has become background noise. The big story going in was Stephen Curry returning from an injury. The big story now is Curry leaving with an injury.

Curry began this Game 4 by missing shots he usually makes, but he more or less looked like himself. Then, in the last, chaotic play before halftime, disaster struck. As Rockets wing Trevor Ariza gathered to shoot, Curry’s left foot slipped and he crashed to the floor. After the buzzer sounded, he hopped up and limped out toward the tunnel.

That was the beginning of an emotional roller coaster that had nothing to do with game action. Warriors players started ambling back in for halftime shootaround and Curry was not in sight. (He’s injured.) Then Curry returned, in uniform. (He’s back!) But he was wearing a knee brace and trundled to the bench as his teammates got up shots. (He’s injured.) Then Curry got up, grabbed a ball and joined his shooting teammates (He’s back!). Then he counseled with coach Steve Kerr, Draymond Green and trainer Chelsea Lane. Out of that meeting, he exited through the tunnel, again, not to return. (Well, he’s certainly injured.)

Official word came early in the third quarter: Curry was out with a knee sprain. More information will come on the ramifications of this, but some space should be reserved to credit Golden State’s response to the immediate aftermath.

Green, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala and, really, the entire team grabbed this game from Houston in that third quarter. Green kicked it off with 3-pointers, Thompson kept pouring it on and Iguodala pressed on defense while pushing the pace on offense. Without Curry, Golden State outscored the Rockets 41-20 in the stanza.

To be sure, this was a humiliation for Houston, but it also was an inspiring response from a team suddenly rocked by a dark reality. It was a reminder of the quality that flanks the MVP, and while not sustainable in his absence, it was a demonstration of the unselfish, competitive team spirit he has informed as their superstar.