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WCF Warrior Wonder: Steph Curry has emerged

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A final retrospective of the Western Conference Finals.

Houston Rockets v Golden State Warriors - Game Three Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

As we’ve done to conclude each series thus far, we’re gonna review the Warrior Wonder polls for the Western Conference Finals to determine a Warrior Wonder for the series.

Yet as I looked back at our poll results, I noticed an interesting pattern: leading up to Game 7, the Warrior Wonder awards were essentially awarded in twos; three players won two Warrior Wonder polls in a row. So we’ll discuss them in twos and then I’d think that the player of the series is wrapped up nicely with a look at Game 7.

Games 1 & 2: Kevin Durant gets thing started with a win

Since I think we can all agree that Game 2 sucked — it was the biggest loss of the series for the Warriors — let’s just talk about Durant’s performance in Game 1.

Duby Dub Dubs wrote about the effectiveness of KD-ISO ball after Game 1 in his Warrior Wonder post.

...like pretty much every team that has come before, the Rockets need to sit down and think of a way to stop Kevin Durant.

He torched everyone the Rockets threw at him. Whether it be the vaunted offseason additions, Luc Mbah a Moute, and PJ Tucker (see video above), or the preferred soft target, James Harden (see video below) Durant was not bothered much by any defender. In the post game interview Harden - who was the frequent target of Durant off of a screen and switch play - didn’t really have much of an answer. You are probably going to want your sound on for this clip:

However, as Ivan wrote in reflecting on Durant’s conference finals performance, ISO ball can ultimately become fool’s gold and after Game 1 we started to see more of the downside of isolations.

Kevin Durant is much less of a stranger to isolation ball than the rest of the squad — 15.5% of his regular-season plays were categorized by NBA.com stats collectors as isolation plays, surprisingly about the same as in his last year playing for OKC. In this playoffs, that percentage is up to 26.3% on almost double the number of possessions... it gave GSW a 2-1 lead against the “favorites,” so: I’ll also take the good with the bad, if offered.

Turns out that offer was pulled from the table, and instead we got the bad with the bad. In Games 4 through 6, Durant shot 36.5% from the field, and the Warriors’ offense showed an uncharacteristic lack of rhythm.

To win this series, the Splash Brothers would have to step up.

Game 3 & 4: Steph Curry awakens

I probably don’t need to say much more about Curry’s performance in Game 3 than this:

But Patrick summed up The Curry Effect pretty well in his summary of Game 3.

Frankly, Steph Curry blew the {insert expletive here} doors off this thing. His 18 third quarter points came at a crucial juncture and turned the game on it’s head. All of a sudden those threes were dropping, and the Rockets ended up losing by a whopping 41 points. Yep, 41.

How demoralizing is it to think all year you’re level with, or better than, the greatest team in the world, battle hard to stay in the series, and then have this happen to you?

Fittingly, I thought something similar when Curry did this to Clint Capela in Game 4:

Unfortunately, Curry’s big third quarter in Game 4 was negated by blowing it in the fourth quarter; I have a lot more to say about Capela, but I’ll come back to that later.

Game 5 & 6: Klay Thompson saves the day in Game 6

Game 5 without Iguodala wasn’t much to write home about, but with the series — and the season -- on the line, Klay Thompson came through for the Warriors.

Duby Dub Dubs already wrote about Thompson’s 35-point explosion in Game 6, but this observation of his might be most interesting as we turn to Game 7:

There has been a lot of discussion recently regarding Kevin Durant and the increasingly isolation-based offense that has taken over. In the first quarter of Game 6, it looked like another chapter in that book. Behind Durant’s heroics, Golden State found themselves trailing by a whopping 17 points.

So to start the second quarter, coach Steve Kerr sat Kevin Durant down and had him watch a four-minute clinic on what “Warriors ball” is supposed to look like. In those four minutes, the Warriors were plus-five - but more important than the scoreboard was the demonstration. The role modeling of how to play...Through a series of off ball movement, pass-first offense, and general trust in the scheme, the Warriors once again showed their identity. We’ve seen fewer and fewer flashes of this style recently, but this is how the Warriors win: by not playing isolation basketball.

And that’s why Steph closing this series out was so perfect.

Game 7: This is Steph’s muthaf****** team

Apricot did such an outstanding job of describing what Curry did in Game 7 that I’ll spare you the words and simply refer you to his article and video:

But I do want to highlight this moment, going back to the point about Clint Capela:

I wasn’t at all surprised when Capela said that the Rockets were better than the Warriors back in January — he was looking a championship-caliber roster, confident about their chances, and of course you want to be optimistic about your own team. The inherent problem with that statement was that everyone with common sense could see that the Warriors were sandbagging their way through the regular season.

But whatever — we can’t sit here criticizing others for confidence when you know #arrogantszn is coming.

Reiterating the point before the Western Conference Finals was a questionable idea when going up against a team that searches for any reason to have a chip on their shoulder.

But directly challenging Curry? Yikes...

While Curry appears to be his old scoring self again, Rockets center Clint Capela wasn’t in awe.

“I don’t think there was a difference,” Capela told The Undefeated. “During the three games [this series], he just kept playing. Tonight, he just had open looks at the 3 and just shot it. But the first two games, he didn’t have open looks from 3. Tonight, he just made them.

“If I’m close to him when he’s shooting 3s, he’s not going to make 3s. Whenever he got a little separation, that is why he made 3s. Not really [worried].”

After quickly dismantling Capela’s claim after Game 3, Curry showed that he could beat Capela off the dribble and baiting him around in Game 7.

It was surgical. It was beautiful. It was Curry’s way.

Hell, you can even call it collaborative, if you like.

And that is the difference between directly challenging Curry vs. directly challenging Durant, as both Apricot and Ivan alluded to. Durant, when challenged, resorted to taking the matters into his own hands to the detriment of the rhythm of the whole; Curry, when challenged, uplifted his entire team when they needed it, beautifully balancing individual excellence with collective dominance.

I don’t actually care to discuss who’s better between the two, as some of you may think this is headed toward. Yet for those who were (bizarrely) still waiting for Curry to have a big postseason moment, he provided a few in this series and capped it off with a beautiful Game 7 performance.

Regardless of who’s more talented, this is indisputably a team shaped by Steph and his leadership. Hopefully, he’s satisfied the doubters.

Poll

Who was your Warrior Wonder for the Western Conference Finals?

This poll is closed

  • 80%
    Steph Curry
    (543 votes)
  • 5%
    Kevin Durant
    (37 votes)
  • 12%
    Klay Thompson
    (87 votes)
  • 1%
    Other (explain in the comments)
    (10 votes)
677 votes total Vote Now