Ezra Shaw / Getty Images
Stephen Curry already has an immaculate resume, which would guarantee an induction into Springfield even if he retired at the end of the 2018 NBA Finals
He is the best marksman of all time and a scoring champion, as well as the only unanimous MVP in the history of the league. Just for the kicks, he also has another Maurice Podoloff Trophy in his cape. The regular season numbers he has accumulated are amazing, and two rings adorn his fingers. A third championship could wait soon after the victory of the Golden State Warriors 124-114 in overtime on the Cleveland Cavaliers and a red-hot LeBron James in Game 1.
But a prize has eluded him, and we're not talking about Defensive Player of the year: Unattainable for a 6 & 3; 3 "point guard with a bad reputation who often overlooks his prowess as a positional defender who frequently leads his man in the right places, as he often did against George Hill, Jordan Clarkson and Cleveland other guards on Thursday night.
The hardware in question is the Finals MVP award.
Joe Vardon @ joevardon
Stephen Curry knows that I hope he wins an MVP of the NBA Finals @clevelanddotcom https: //t.co/LnUzBjbsgP
"I took the second question of my first availability of media [Finals] so I'm pretty sure that the narrative will remove life, as it has since 2015, "said Curry, as transcribed by Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com . "But it does not make or break my career or whatever it is you want to say looking backwards … If we win this championship and do not win the Finals MVP, I will be smiling just as big and just as big."
Let's play. How could we not after the show of this general floor during the opening half of the game and the closing minutes of the regulation?
In 2015, when the Dubs won their first title in decades, Andre Iguodala won the accolade for his well-rounded and immaculate defense against James. Two years later, Kevin Durant lifted the trophy, again leaving Curry out, who was relegated to simply celebrating the title that could not have been won without him.
The narrative feels different in 2018, although James, even at a loss, is no doubt a threat to steal the prize after an astonishing 51 points, eight rebounds and eight badists in 19 of 32 pitches.
Ezra Shaw / Getty Images
Curry's last line masks the true impact he had on this game. It does not show the clever defensive plays he made, or the gravitational pull he exercised that opened up open opportunities for his teammates under the basket. Jordan Bell and JaVale McGee do not end with uncontested bunnies, which the latter can still lose in a safe submission of Shaqtin, without the 1-guard drawing two defenders on their own:
The Ringer @ timbre
JaVale McGee flew too close to the sun ?
#RingerNBA #NBAFinals https://t.co/WHmoP1dGRV
But the numbers are still present: 29 points in 11 of 23 shots, including a 5-of-11 showing from beyond the goal. Six rebounds, including an impressive box of Kevin Love, the type of game that can easily be overlooked but that avoids an easy second chance opportunity near the rim. Nine dimes. Perhaps most importantly, only two turnovers, which exemplified the care of the ball he showed throughout the game, only throwing feeds behind his back when they really were the right decision.
This was not an easy contest for the Dubs, particularly in the first half.
Klay Thompson was briefly forced to retire to the locker room with a leg injury after JR Smith (inadvertently) slipped into a close and rolled toward his opponent's lower extremities. Durant disappeared completely during long stretches, inexplicably could not demand the ball or exerted much influence on the side of the stop (and even lift some air balls). Draymond Green seemed reluctant to throw the ball at times.
But Curry started strong by knocking down his first shots from the field and refused to let Golden State fall into a hole too big during those early stages.
Then came the laser feeds:
Golden State Warriors @ Warriors
? @ StephenCurry30 throwing lasers here! #NBAFinals #StrengthInNumbers
? # NBAonABC https://t.co/kDAVmALVQG
Y the remarkable running banks that require incredible accuracy:
Golden State Warriors @ warriors
Pbad fun behind the back and a cube @ StephenCurry30. #NBAFinals #StrengthInNumbers
? #NBAonABC https://t.co/zE6mYDMky8
Y, of course, the cherry on top.
As soon as Smith took the wrong decision to bet on a robbery, the whole world seemed to know what would come next. Indeed, the splash that hit the buzzer tickled the string:
Golden State Warriors @ warriors
You knew I was going to enter! @ StephenCurry30 with # SPLASH? going to the middle. #NBAFinals #StrengthInNumbers
? #NBAonABC https://t.co/BeOUr9x3DV
Although Curry yielded to his teammates during the third period instead of producing another of his patented after-half explosions (except one three towards the end of the quarter), was not After that deep trey.
The Davidson product continued to make the right moves, both of the subtle varieties and those that produce reflections.
The MVP winner of the finals is not just about coming out victorious on the biggest stage in the NBA. It is not determined solely by producing the largest numbers. A player must control the narration of the series, and Curry marked this tone adjustment performance by doing exactly that.
Other shots in this contest were bigger, but we can not forget the triple of nothing he could not avoid after dancing with Kevin Love in the last quarter. The Cavs had not left at that point. James was still James. Some of the Cleveland players were finally shooting down shots. The margin was adjusted.
NBA @ NBA
Steph Curry … I GOT IT! ?
@warriors takes 100-94 lead in 4th at #NBAonABC
#DubNation #NBAFinals https://t.co/GuWNmvjHZt
Going from three to six with less than five minutes remaining is a big problem, even if the Dubs would later give up their advantage. And then, just in case, Curry drove through a porous Cleveland defense with two and a half minutes left to finish a left-handed layup and deny another thunderous thumping of James that had returned the margin to a single possession.
And that still was not enough, so he added drive-1 to take advantage of a point that George Hill would equal by splitting the free throws in the final seconds:
Curry never made a real dagger in this game; he simply did enough to keep [Cavaliers at bay and reached an overtime despite an inspired performance from James, who set a new career record at the finals stage. E come without a single point of the 1-guard, Golden State ran away with the contest in those extra five minutes.
But that will not change the narrative.
Stands a long time in this series, which will inevitably produce more twists and turns after a remarkably entertaining opening. James had such a fantastic individual start that he was able to enter Game 2 as the big favorite for the MVP of the Finals, baduming that voters are willing to reward someone who does not win the title for the first time since Jerry West in 1969. Everyone will want to talk about Smith's inexplicable decision at the end of regulation, when he escaped the basket instead of presenting a possible attempt to win a game in an offensive rebound.
Curry still set the tone for Golden State as the drummer of the organization, while many of his teammates could not take on their typical loads. And if the Warriors simply resisted the best chance James and the Cavaliers could offer (not outside the scope of the possibilities, considering the difficulties involved in the attempted repetitions of a 50-point burst), this could be a short series. In that case, the opening tone matters even more.
Regardless of whether you care, you've never been in a better position to complete your hardware collection.
Adam Fromal covers NBA for the Bleach Report. Follow him on Twitter: @ fromal09 .
Unless otherwise indicated, all statistics are courtesy of Basketball Reference, NBA.com, NBA Math or ] ESPN.com and precise header in Game 2 of the NBA Finals.