I’m not going to lie, I wanted Steph Curry to get the Finals MVP, I think he wanted it too. But above any of that, this was a game (and a Finals) that showcased just how special Stephen Curry really is and how his unique brand of specialness is integral to the team’s success.
In his post game interview, Kevin Durant was quick to shut down any question of Curry’s impacts:
We’re not winning the basketball game without Steph. We’re not winning the championship. We’re not even close. Awards, that stuff, we know. We know what Steph brings to us. The Bay Area knows. The coaches know. Everybody in the game really knows.
Looking at his stat line from last night, it’s impossible to come away with anything other than respect for how Curry helped push this team over the finish line for the third time in four years: 37 points (including 7 of 15 three pointers and 6 for 6 from the charity stripe) 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, and (somehow) 3 blocks.
Kevin Durant quickly shuts down Mark Schwarz's question about Steph Curry not winning Finals MVP pic.twitter.com/DX4Y1yT7bR— gifdsports (@gifdsports) June 9, 2018
People are going to write millions of words about the debate surrounding the Finals MVP, but there should be no argument about one central fact: this is Steph Curry’s team. It’s his willingness to share that ownership with others that makes the entire machine go.
Everything that we have built here starts with Curry; from his outrageous shot-making skills to his self-assured yet humble leadership style - he is the foundation on which this greatness is rooted.
Like Babe Ruth calling a homerun, Curry pointed to the outfield nearly a decade ago.
Promise to all the Warrior fans...we will figure this thing out...if it's the last thing we do we will figure it out— Stephen Curry (@StephenCurry30) November 12, 2009
It was halfway through the first quarter of Game 4 when Steph Curry was the recipient of an errant pass from LeBron James to Kevin Love. The Warriors were up five at this point and fighting back an early Cavs push to regain momentum.
Curry pushes the ball up hard trying to force a fast break. Running with Andre Iguodala, Curry stops short at the three point line and drills a three pointer that punches all the confidence out of the defender’s body language. They should have known to cover Curry all the way out past the three point line, and these are exactly the sorts of mistakes that eat up all of the precious slim margin of error that anyone has when it comes to knocking off the back-to-back champs.
Just a few plays later, you can see how the Cavs adjusted, and “blitz” Curry. As Apricot already pointed out, the Warriors have re-discovered the slip screen - where a defender just dives to the basket rather than interfere in the ball handler’s play. With Curry such a known danger, any miscommunication in these instances are bound to leave the roll man wide open.
I made a couple of gifs that may not show for you, but the highlight video below is likewise queued up to this sequence.
And Curry’s gravity extends beyond the court as well; his personality has been a defining characteristic of Golden State’s transformation. Look at Andre Iguodala’s response to Marcus Thompson’s semi-related question last night:
“People always ask,” Iguodala said, pausing to gather his thoughts as he walked to the locker room, “what do you enjoy most about this? It’s got nothing to do with the rings. You get a true human being like that who really represents something that’s larger than the worldly things we see every day, you appreciate those type of things. He’ll never be appreciated for that but I see it every day. Time with him, I really cherish that. Just being around him. Like golf. I’m always like ‘I can’t wait to golf with Steph.’ He’s just a humble dude.”
Making people better
Curry’s greatness isn’t properly measured without consideration of his impact on the rest of his team. We talked about it when the season was just starting, so it’s fitting then, that this comes up now at the successful zenith of the 2017-18 season.
In game three, Kevin Durant went nuts, scoring a playoff career-high 43 points in 43 minutes. If anything, it was probably that game that cost Curry the Finals MVP. But just like David West slipping to the rim in the plays above, it was the attention drawn by Curry that helped set up everything that subsequently happened on the court.
Coming off of an epic game two outing (in which Curry scored 16 of his 33 points and set a yet another new record for three pointers) the Cavs vowed to blitz Curry, pressuring him off of the three point line, taking the ball out of his hands. It opened up the court for Durant, who was masterful in earning another well-deserved Finals MVP nod. But it was the Cavs’ attempt to counter Curry that split game three wide open for Durant.
This isn’t some weird quirk; this is what it looks like when you have a transformative basketball talent packed into a personality that can lead teams with style and grace. Where Lebron’s teams tend to be ephemeral ponds, the Warriors dynasty feels more like it’s been etched into gold.
This isn’t going away. Teams across the NBA are plotting and planning, but at the crux of the matter is Steph Curry. How can you stop him, and Durant, and Klay Thompson, without opening up the rest of the floor? For the Warriors, it’s the most wonderful problem to cause - and it starts with this guy right here.
Other notable performers
As Steph would want, we run a democracy around here, so you can vote for any of these other guys as Warrior Wonders for game four.
Durant: (+30) 20 points 7/17 FGs 0/3 three pointers 6/6 FTs 12 rebounds (1 off.) 10 assists 2 turnovers 1 steal 3 blocks.
As much as many of us wanted Curry to get the one award he’s missing on his resume, it’s really hard to argue that Durant didn’t deserve his second consecutive Finals MVP. His size and skill set make him nearly impossible to stop - a fact proven out by how hesitant Lebron James is to take on the defensive responsibility.
Also, let me just say that in a world that is increasingly aware of mental health, Durant seems to be a largely unrecognized demonstration of how to be happy. He has the personal accolades, but with the Warriors, it feels like he’s found a home where he can happily settle into his own skin while still working to be the best every year. That’s pretty cool.
Thank you for reading, and sharing this season with me!
Plenty of other guys were worthy, but I’m at 900 words so you can just vote below.
But I do want to steal this platform for a moment and thank the GSoM community for being so awesome. From the comment section, to the mod Slack chat, to all the fantastic articles my fellow writers put out here - everything about this places improves my enjoyment of my favorite team. I hope you’ve enjoyed what I’ve contributed.
Just like the Warriors, I expect to be right back here again next season, aiming for greatness. None of that would be possible without the readers - so thank you, sincerely for reading.
Who was your Warrior Wonder in Game four of the Finals?
This poll is closed