When you told me 10 years ago that the first time 2 players from the same team notched a triple-double in a playoff game will come from the Golden State Warriors, I seriously thought you were one of those crazies on the streets of San Francisco brandishing those cardboard signs telling us that judgment day is coming, and that we should all repent.
When you told me even further that those two teammates are Stephen Curry and Draymond Green, I was perplexed, saying that Curry is a solid rookie who should’ve won Rookie of the Year over Tyreke Ev-
“Uhh, about that ... Tyreke will get banned for 2 years because of a drug violation, and Steph will win 3 titles, 2 MVPs, and will become the greatest shooter of all time.”
Which at that point, I was seriously considering bringing you to a mental institution, because those are the accolades I expected Monta Ellis to get (except the greatest shooter of all time part, which is a bit of a stretch for him).
Then you brought up Green, who you said will become the starting point forward for the Warriors. I don’t know who this “Draymond Green” is, but it sure is a weird name, certainly one that belongs on a team that once had names oddly rolling off the tongue, such as Vonteego Cummings and Adonal Foyle.
And point forward? You mean he’ll be like LeBron?
“Yeah, he’ll be a playmaker and distributor with elite court vision. But he’ll do LeBron one better — he’ll win the Defensive Player of the Year award.”
Ohhhh really? So the Warriors will finally have a player who can actually play defense? Now I’ll really think you’re crazy. I’m tying up your hands with rope and driving you to the psychiatric ward myself.
Ten years later, as I absorb what just transpired in front of me — Curry finishing with 37 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists; Green finishing with 18 points, 14 rebounds, and 11 assists — I remember that time you told me all of those things, and I seek you out again, hoping that you’re still in that same ward I sent you to all those years ago.
Because darn it, you proved me wrong.
It wasn’t that long ago that the narratives were wildly skewed against Stephen Curry. The emergence of Kevin Durant as this postseason’s best player — and being crowned by many as the best player in the world — placed Curry in the afterthought category, a second fiddle and complementary piece in a team full of perhaps the best complementary pieces to have ever existed in the NBA.
To say that Curry is a complementary piece is jarring, considering that he is a two-time Most Valuable Player, the first unanimous MVP in the history of the NBA, and already considered as the consensus greatest shooter of all time. His unmatched sharpshooting prowess is the cause of this current NBA revolution, where the post-ups and mid-range shots of yesterday have become the long-range 3-point bombs of today.
But Curry most certainly didn’t help his own case. After dropping 38 points over the 8-seed Los Angeles Clippers in Game 1 of the first round, Durant let everyone know who he was and took over the role of frontman for the Warriors, helped in huge part by Curry’s continued struggles for the rest of the Clippers series.
Going up against the Houston Rockets’ physical brand of defense in the Western Conference semifinals didn’t help either. Durant was again forced to take the role of the Warriors’ best player, taking it upon himself to act as the failsafe against a defense that gave Curry and the team’s motion offense all it could handle.
Once Durant went down in Game 5 against the Rockets, there was no more excuse for Curry to play the role of accommodator, nor was there any excuse for him acting passive and not being aggressive. Sure, he had a dislocated finger and was still feeling pain from its aftereffects; there were still the lingering effects of a rolled ankle he sustained during Game 6 against the Clippers. But no one was about to let him off the hook — not Warriors fans, certainly not NBA fans in general, and not his team. It was time to hold himself accountable, and to dig deep and lead the team once again to victory, just like he did during this dynasty’s first championship.
In Game 5 against the Rockets, Curry led the furious charge that gave them an improbable victory after Durant went down. In Game 6, he recovered from a scoreless first half to score all of his 33 points in the second half, sending James Harden and Chris Paul to another offseason without an opportunity to win a championship.
With Durant being sidelined for at least the first 4 games of the Western Conference finals, the onus was on Curry to continue where he left off against the Rockets, and he didn’t disappoint. In this 4-game sweep to lead the Warriors to their fifth straight NBA Finals, culminating in this latest triple-double performance, Curry averaged 36.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 7.3 assists, with a shooting split of .469/.426/.938 and a true-shooting percentage of 66.3 — a scintillating bounce-back series for a man who everyone was counting out as far back as one week ago.
Curry certainly looked like his old springy self against the Blazers. His shooting from beyond the arc returned to him. His aggression, necessitated by Durant’s absence, consistently put the Blazers on the back foot. Possessions such as these, where Curry is at his most dangerous, gave Warriors fans plenty to cheer about.
The sequence above is the very definition of the perils Curry presents to his opponents, the reason why his presence on the floor necessitates a ton of attention. When Damian Lillard, who is lulled into a false sense of ease while guarding Curry, takes his eyes off of him for a split second, Curry gets away from him and relocates to the opposite wing to catch and bury a 3.
Down by as much as 17 in the second half, Curry played his part once again in leading the Warriors to another come-from-behind victory. These two 3s and a layup past the slow-footed Meyers Leonard were part of a furious 26-9 run to tie the game at 104-all.
“As much as we’ve been here and nothing’s been really new at this point, we still don’t take anything for granted,” Curry said after the game. “We understand how hard it is to win at this level. We don’t want it to end for as long as we can control this.
“A night like tonight where you’re up 3-0 and they go on a crazy run in the second half, a lot of teams would’ve said, ‘We’ll just get them Game 5 and go home and rely on our home crowd.’ But the trust in terms of knowing that everybody was going to play till the horn sounded at the end of the 4th quarter or tonight in overtime allowed us to dig deep and find a way to win.”
Curry most certainly wasn’t alone in being the leader of this Western Conference finals victory over the Blazers. Draymond Green continued his stretch of incredible playoff performances, notching his second-straight triple-double and joining an exclusive club in the process.
Draymond Green recorded back-to-back triple-doubles in the past two games of the Western Conference Finals. The last player to record consecutive triple-doubles in the Conference Finals was Jason Kidd in 2002. pic.twitter.com/cvmZn5UrUP— NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) May 21, 2019
Green’s renaissance has been a marvelous sight for everyone to see. After a year wrought with personal struggles as well as internal strife, Green got out of his own way just in time to revert back to his identity as perhaps the most indispensable member of this Warriors team, with playoff averages of 13.6 points, 9.9 rebounds, 8.2 assists, 1.4 steals, and 1.7 blocks.
As usual, Green was a defensive juggernaut, using his mastery in help defense and rotation to stifle any attempts by the Blazers to muster any kind of sustained offensive attack.
Despite Green’s shooting struggles during this postseason run, where he has made only 8 of his 38 attempts from beyond the arc (21.1 percent), Green was able to knock down 1 of those 8 shots in Game 4, which came off of an assist from Curry in overtime, giving the Warriors a 4-point lead with 39.6 seconds remaining in overtime.
With a subsequent block on a driving Lillard to showcase another instance of his clutch defensive play, Green put the cherry on top of his dominance over the Blazers, averaging 16.5 points, 11.8 rebounds, 8.8 assists, 2.3 steals, and 2.8 blocks in the Western Conference finals.
As I sat 10 years ago listening to you in the back of my car ramble on and on about how Curry and Green would become one of the best tandems in the history of the league, you casually drop this gem of a line:
“They didn’t even need Kevin Durant to sweep the Blazers.”
I stop you right there. Kevin Durant? The number 2 pick in the 2007 draft and the 2008 Rookie of the Year? He’s going to be on the Warriors? Hold on just a darn minute.
I stop the car, ponder about what you’re saying, and wonder if you’re not just making all of this stuff up. You’re being oddly specific about this, and while it sounds ridiculous — I mean, this is the Warriors we’re talking about here, the same team that for all of my life I’ve only known to be perennial punching bags — you could be telling the truth. That small believer in me, one that has perhaps placed too much faith in the Warriors being somebodies instead of nobodies one day (and too much faith in all of the science fiction I’ve consumed during my childhood), could very well take you at your word.
But then again, you’re just a crazy wannabe time-traveler/psychic who probably has a few loose screws in your head. So I grab you out of my car, take you inside the mental institution, and leave you there, hoping to never see you again and shaking my head at the time I just wasted listening to your tall tales of a Warriors dynasty.
Ten years later and here I am, still shaking my head at the Warriors making their fifth straight NBA Finals. It’s all so surreal. Stephen Curry and Draymond Green did become one of the best tandems in the league. And yes, they didn’t even need Kevin Durant, who has become arguably the best player in the world — and he’s on the Warriors.
Twelve down, 4 more to go.
Stay Golden, Dub Nation.