June 12, 2018 — Stephen Curry rolled triumphantly through the streets of downtown Oakland on top of a double-decker bus clad in his likeness-hoisting the Golden State Warriors’ latest Larry O’Brien trophy over his head. As his bus crept to a stop in the parade’s procession, Curry hopped off and immersed himself in a royal blue and gold shower of confetti and the screams of adulation from thousands of fans.
This was the beginning of Curry’s golden summer — a glistening culmination of a season that wasn’t easy for him individually.
Curry showed patience and endurance of biblical proportions as he battled and overcame multiple injuries this past season. A series of ankle sprains and a Grade 2 MCL sprain limited Curry to only 51 regular games, marking the first time since the 2011-12 season that he played fewer than 78 games.
Luckily for the Dubs, Curry returned to form in the heat of the postseason, balling out of control and reminding everyone with multiple stand-out performances why he’s among the top three players in the NBA, and helped the Warriors muscle their way to their third title in four years.
Never In Doubt
Curry is unanimously the most confident and self-assured of the superstars in the NBA. He can go stone-cold from the field or miss his first nine shots and have the confidence in himself and his skill set to keep shooting, and go on a torrid scoring binge.
When faced with the injuries, Curry also keeps that same confidence, that same energy and that same faith that he would not only overcome them but thrive.
After missing most of December with the first of four right ankle sprains, Curry returned and exploded against the Memphis Grizzlies. During his first game back into the lineup, Curry torched the Grizzlies’ for 38 points and 10 3’s. In that game alone, Curry lifted his three point percentage from an all time career low of 38.1 to 40 in just three quarters.
Bringing that three-point percentage up to his standards is something that Curry wasted no time doing in his return.
“I obsess over that because I work on that every single day.” Curry told the Athletic’s Anthony Slater. “It’s kind of the low end of where I want to be. Shooting 40 percent from three is kind of the well established (line) of above average.”
In his first five games in January, Curry averaged 35.2 points on 58 percent from the field and 52 from deep. Despite missing two more games with a few ensuing tweaks and sprains that either kept him on the inactive list or with the trainers during the games that he played in, Curry continued his steam of dominant performances to work his way into the MVP conversation.
Curry’s exploits during the first half of the month could not compare to the 49-point masterpiece against Kyrie Irving and the Boston Celtics. In this epic point guard duel, Curry went bucket for bucket against Irving, scoring 33 points in the second half, including a personal 7-point run with the game tied at 95 at the two minute mark.
The dagger came at 1:45 remaining as Curry nailed a transition 3 to ice the game.
Eventually, a Grade 2 MCL sprain derailed Curry’s regular season and sidelined him in the playoff’s first round. Was he disappointed? Yes. Frustrated? Absolutely. However, Curry’s faith, resolve and confidence assured that he would once again return still remained.
Per request, here is Steph Curry's synergy screenshot pic.twitter.com/w8GLaOIyHr— Duncan Smith (@DuncanSmithNBA) July 14, 2018
Resiliency in Western Conference Playoffs
After missing six weeks with a Grade 2 MCL Sprain, Curry returned to the lineup in Game 2 of the second round against the New Orleans Pelicans.
Just like in January, Curry once again cooked in his latest return from injury. He scored 28 points off the bench. The adrenaline of Game 2 waned in Game 3 as Curry had an off night offensively-scoring 19 points on 6-for-19 shooting that contributed to a 19 point loss. For Games 4 and 5, Curry poured in 23 and 28 points respectively to close out the series against a tough New Orleans Pelicans team.
In four games in the Western Conference Semifinals, Curry averaged 24.5 points per game on 48 percent shooting in addition 5.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists. Those numbers were solid numbers considering that they came after Curry returned from injury.
There were a few defining moments for Curry in the Warriors’ conference finals against the Houston Rockets. But the two moments that really stood out for me was Curry winning the war of attrition on defense and ripping out the Rockets’ hearts with a 14-point third quarter rampage in Game 7.
Curry knew that he would be targeted on defense and defiantly said that he hope the Rockets would target him every single play. The Rockets did just that, but garnered mixed results. In Game 2, for instance, the Rockets shot 7-for-15 against Curry. He was relentlessly attacked on defense-getting beat off the dribble and knocked down. But Curry remained undaunted by the challenge of guarding Harden and Paul. Eventually, Curry found success on the defensive end.
Steph Curry was attacked in isolation more than any other player in the playoffs last season (5.4 Poss/G; 2nd was Harden at 3.8). He held his matchups to league average PPP marks (0.91 PPP; 50.0th %ile). That's an insanely impressive showing.— Frankie (@FrankieNoonan) July 30, 2018
What worked well for Curry was guarding against Harden’s tendencies. He’d crowd Harden and force him to drive. Curry found his flow on defense by playing up to his strengths as a help defender later in the series. Which explains him surrendering .88 points per play in the series.
Offensively, Curry found his stride in Game 3 and it culminated into a 14-point third quarter in Game 7. The Warriors trailed by 15 at one point, and looked like they were ready for Cancun. That was until Steph STEPHED and Stephed when it was needed. He splashed 4 3’s during the Warriors favorite stanza where they outscored Houston by 68 for the series and it was all because of Curry going supernova when they needed buckets to chip away at late game leads and surges.
The Case For Finals MVP
The notion that Curry doesn’t show up in the Finals is a myth that needs to die and die fast. For three of the four games in this quckie of a series with the Cavs, Curry played phenomenally well. In fact, in the minds of many, Curry deserved Finals MVP over Kevin Durant.
The numbers and performances solidified Curry’s case.
For the series, Curry averaged 27.5 points per, six rebounds and 6.8 assists. He lead the way in game one with 29 and followed that up with a record breaking performance in Game 2. Curry set an NBA Finals for 9 threes in a game, and torched the Cavs for 33 points in the process.
Curry was on his way of securing the award until a horrid offensive showing in Game 3 crushed his chances. He shot 3-for-16 from the field and could not buy a bucket. Until hitting his lone three of the night late in the fourth quarter which clinched the game.
Curry also held his own defensively during that game-forcing LeBron James to be more of a passer and facilitator on a few possessions.
Putting his Game 3 slump behind him, Curry rebounded with 37 points in the series closer where he was the reason why Game 4 was a wire to wire beatdown of the Cavs. Curry splashed 7 of 15 threes and also continued to play solid defense, recording 3 steals and 3 blocks, clinching back to back championships for the Warriors.
Curry’s patience in his regular season suffering was more than just a virtue — it has become a necessary aspect of what makes him one the NBA’s all-time greats.
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