Steph Curry is an NBA Champion, a multiple regular-season MVP and employs the most dangerous range in the NBA, but is he as good as we think he is?
Two-time MVP Steph Curry received the ball with just over 9 minutes to go in the third quarter. His Warriors were up 8 looking to go up 2-oh in the best-of-seven NBA Finals against LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers. The point guard dribbled down the baseline with James latched on to his hip. With nowhere to go, Curry pulled it back out to reevaluate. James pressed. Curry jab-stepped, gained a little separation, feigned a 3-point attempt and when James bit, Curry knew he had him. He drove hard to the hoop with his head down while Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Kevin Durant all occupied the perimeter leaving only Kevin Love to provide help. Steph split the oncoming defender and James, layed it in just above the block attempt.
The crowd went crazy. Steph began to talk, shimmy and “stunt.” Cleveland took a time-out. The clip would quickly spread like wildfire through social media and sports highlight shows through the night and into the next day. Curry’s secret was safe for one more game. The greatest lie ever sold would not be discovered on this night.
Curry is a phenomenal talent. What Golden State, the NBA and Curry don’t want you to know is in the biggest games, in the biggest moments, the face of the league disappears.
Kyrie Irving fractures his kneecap in game 1 after blocking a Curry lay-up attempt. With Matthew Dellavedova now guarding the regular-season MVP, Curry struggles in game 2. He finishes the game 5-23, 2-15 from three as Cleveland upsets the Warriors in Game 2. With Australian role-player, Dellavedova guarding him, Curry’s numbers dipped in every category while he averages 8 more minutes per game. Despite being the best player for Golden State, Curry did not receive a single vote for Finals MVP.
Golden State goes 73-9 in the regular season and Curry is named unanimous MVP. He averages 30.1/5.4/6.7. In the Western Conference Finals, Curry disappears like a scared turtle through the first six games. In the first four games, when Oklahoma City builds a 3-1 series lead, Curry has a +/- of -40. When the pressure was on in Game 6, it wasn’t Curry who stepped up, but Thompson who scored 41 leading his team to victory.
The Warriors make it to the Finals, but once again Curry does not show the All-Pro caliber excellence we have come to expect. In seven games, he scored 11, 18, 19, 38, 35, 30, 17. Irving outplays him on offense. When Curry is on defense, Cleveland’s game plan was to include him in pick-and-rolls with Curry leaving the Warriors extremely vulnerable. James takes advantage and touches Golden State. Cleveland wins four out of five to dethrone the champions.
To put this into perspective, do you remember how we treated LeBron after his first Finals appearance with Miami? We raked him over the coals for hiding in the corner during the game’s most pivotal moments. Not only has Curry done this, but he has done it consistently when the season is at its most critical.
2017 NBA Finals Game 2
This is the most talented starting five ever assembled. In Game 1, Cleveland opted to guard the three point line which gave way to a barrage of wide-open dunks.
On Sunday, the Cavs opted to force the Warriors to work for their buckets. The strategy affected Curry early on. He had four turnovers in the first half, double his made field goals. In a three point game at half, the starting point guard was shooting 2-for-8, 1-for-5 from three. His lone three coming way of a defensive lapse and an uncontested look. When he attempted to set picks, the various Cavs shoved him away like a toddler wanting to play with his big brother. On defense, he always matches up with the least dangerous perimeter player. Many times, turning his entire back to the action, face-guarding one-dimensional players like Kyle Korver or JR Smith. While Durant filled up the stat sheet shooting 60% for the game, and Thompson shutting down Irving on defense and going 8-for-12, 4-for-7 from three, Curry struggles.
LeBron attacks the rim incessantly in the first half. Curry, meanwhile, makes questionable plays and bad decisions, keeping the Cavs in the game. It wasn’t until Golden State got rolling as a team, and put Cleveland on its heels did we see “regular-season Steph” emerge. There was the spin-cycle he put LeBron through.
There was the 28-foot three pointer with the Warriors already up 19. The no-look pass to Shaun Livingston for the dunk.
Curry is a product of having the right type of game in the right era. His long rage accuracy make for great highlight clips. His baby face disarms you into liking him right away. He has parlayed all of this into people perceiving he is the same player in the post season when all the evidence points to him wilting when competition or pressure increases.
Ultimately, Curry finishes with 33 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists. By all accounts a triple-double is a sign of effectiveness. But Curry is the ultimate front-runner. He gets better when the game becomes more manageable. His confidence grows when the margin gets wider. Once again, he is producing well below his average in The Finals. On Sunday, he shot 41% from the field when he usually averages 46%. Furthermore, he shot 36% from downtown after averaging 41% in the regular season.
More than likely, Golden State will win its second title in three years. Many will consider the Warriors the greatest team in history for its dominance in the postseason. No one will look at #30 and wonder why he continues to underperform in the championship series. They’ll look at the tape of Steph shaking down LeBron. They’ll probably be more videos to be archived in the upcoming game. Yet it’s all propaganda.
Curry is a once-in-a-generation talent with range rarely, if ever, seen before. In addition, his deadly accuracy forces every team to collapse on him when he has the ball. Spots on the floor open up and he has the ability to find his own shot as well as create for others. Golden State is not in this historic position without its leader.
Having said all that, Curry won’t win the Finals MVP again this year, something that usually is a given with the elites who win a championship. He’ll be a multiple championship winner with no individual postseason awards to show for it. Maybe that’s the way he wants it. Curry could possibly prefer team championships over individual awards. His yearly downward trend in the Finals might all be just a product of circumstance. Or maybe, we all might be victims of the greatest lie ever sold.