OAKLAND -- When Stephen Curry is officially anointed the greatest shooter of all time, they will talk about this game, and they won't have to say much else.

When and if the Warriors finish off Denver in this series, they will point to the final 4 minutes, 22 seconds of the third quarter Sunday night, and it will all be explained.

When thousands of Oracle Arena fans suffer from partial hearing loss for days and weeks, maybe years ... well, they will know what happened.

Curry happened, like a thunder clap, over and over and over again.

Was this the birth of a superstar?

"Those guys are just coming to the hospital," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said of newcomers to the Curry-is-a-Superstar Bandwagon. "The baby has been born already.

"We've been watching it all year long. He's put this team on his back. ... Here's where you recognize where the great players are."

And from that, there might be no turning back.

The practical result is that Curry's magical 22-point third quarter -- and 19-point storm in the final 4:22 -- pushed the Warriors to a 115-101 victory in Game 4 of this first-round series.

"I was feeling a little warmer, bodywise, in the third quarter, just get a rhythm," Curry said after his ankle pain led to a sluggish first half. "The goal kind of looked a little bigger."

The series impact is that the Warriors now have a commanding 3-1 lead over Denver with the comfort of knowing Game 6, if necessary, is back at earsplitting Oracle.


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And the big-big-picture development is that Curry, who made 8 of 11 shot attempts and seven in a row at one point in the third period, forever put himself into the all-time NBA playoff memory bank.

That's alongside Michael Jordan, Isiah Thomas, Reggie Miller and the Warriors' own Sleepy Floyd.

That's a lot of things to accomplish, especially when Curry was struggling so much on a sore left ankle that Jackson told Curry he might shut him down in the second quarter.

But Curry didn't get shut down. And he was ready to take flight in the second half.

"It was almost like a boxer that knew he was on the ropes, because it was just a matter of time," Jackson said.

"I told him I didn't need him to be a hero -- talk about smart coaching. And I guess he realized and sensed it. And he captured the moment."

Curry finished with 31 points on 10-of-16 shooting. The performance was that special, the game was that significant and the effect it could have on Curry and the Warriors is not yet calculable.

Now the series moves back to Denver for Game 5 on Tuesday, and it would not be surprising if the Nuggets regain some balance and avoid elimination that one time.

But can they stave off Curry -- and Andrew Bogut, Jarrett Jack and Klay Thompson -- for three consecutive games?

No, that does not appear possible, not with Curry apparently able to summon baskets from the far reaches of any arena, court or possibly mountain range.

"They've found some magic, and we've got to somehow take it away from them," Denver coach George Karl said.

That the Warriors are doing this without David Lee is yet more testament to Curry's arrival as a main-stage player, and to his teammates' guts and energy throughout this series.

They were the underdogs, but they have the best player in it, his name is Curry, and that has toppled over all expectations.

Before the Curry flurry, the Warriors put themselves in position for the Curry drama to seize total control of this series with a stirring, highlight-film first half that featured only a single Curry basket.

In the first half, Bogut led the way with behind-the-back assists and one tomahawk slam over JaVale McGee, and the Warriors played tremendous defense.

The Warriors closed the first half on a surging 11-0 run to give them a 56-44 halftime lead, as the crowd hit a crescendo.

Then the third quarter started, Curry found some openings, started shooting, and it got only louder.

"I just remember that we were chasing a double-team, and they found him at the top of the key, boom," Karl said. "And then he decided he could make one from 30 feet, and then boom.

"And then he made one out of the corner looking at the bench. He has this incredible rhythm."

Boom, boom, louder and louder each time, so loud that the entire basketball world heard it, and will hear of it for decades.

Contact Tim Kawakami at tkawakami@mercurynews.com.