Sports-Column Repost #7

On the Mark: Stephen Curry Is a Bad, Bad Man
By Mark Lorenzana

(Originally posted on June 13, 2022, in PNM)

The Golden State Warriors tied the National Basketball Association (NBA) finals on the night of Friday, June 10, against the Boston Celtics at two wins apiece — in front of a hostile crowd, on the road, at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.

It took an otherworldly game from Warriors superstar guard Stephen Curry, who essentially put his team on his back and carried them to the win, scoring a game-high 43 points, shooting 14 out of 26 from the field and burying seven of 14 shots from behind the arc. He essentially outscored the rest of the Warriors starters, who only managed to produce 39 points in the 107-97 win against the Celtics.

Needless to say, all finals games are must-win games, but this game was particularly important for the Warriors, who lost the second game of the series at Chase Center in San Francisco, California, thereby giving up homecourt advantage to the Celtics. If they lost this game, they’d be down three games to one, and only one team in NBA finals history has overcome this seemingly insurmountable deficit — the Lebron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers who, incidentally, beat the Warriors in seven games to win the 2016 NBA championship.

But these Warriors didn’t lose game four; Curry simply wouldn’t allow them to go down three games to one — even if that meant singlehandedly producing 40 percent of his team’s points, and with a gimpy ankle at that. With the game-four win, Golden State has also wrested back homecourt advantage from the Celtics.

There’s this curious thing, though: Curry, for all his accomplishments — three-time NBA champion, two-time regular season MVP, eight-time NBA All Star, two-time NBA scoring champion (among many others) — hasn’t really been given a fair shake by some NBA fans outside of the Warriors fan base. They believe that Curry hasn’t really been that great in the finals, something that just boggles the mind.

It’s a narrative that doesn’t make sense, really, considering that Curry’s performances in six (six!) NBA finals appearances since 2015, with the Warriors — to reiterate — has had Golden State winning three titles so far in that span, and include averages of 26.5 points, 6.2 assists and 5.7 rebounds per game, with 39 percent shooting from three-point range.

As far as I’m concerned, this hogwash argument has been debunked by Curry’s finals performance so far. Just check out his averages over four games against the Boston Celtics, the number-one defensive team in both the 2022 regular season and playoffs: 34.2 points, 3.7 assists and five rebounds per game.

I suspect that this disrespect for Curry’s finals performance has to do with the fact that the only missing hardware from his résumé is a finals MVP. He has had the misfortune of losing the finals MVP to teammate Andre Iguodala in 2016, who had an excellent defensive performance against LeBron James in that series, and losing twice to fellow all-time great Kevin Durant, in the two years that Durant helped them win back-to back championships — 2017 and 2018.

Another thing going against Curry was that in the three championships that he won, all against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Warriors were the stronger team. He didn’t need to carry the Warriors on his back because the team had a multitude of options that it could rely on. In this finals series, however, Curry and the Warriors are facing a younger, bigger and extremely physical team in the Boston Celtics. And with Draymond Green not playing up to par, as well as Klay Thompson playing his first healthy postseason after several career-threatening injuries, Curry has had to resort to playing lone gunman — and it’s been working so far.

Curry, if they win it all this year, will be — no doubt — the deserving finals MVP.

But even if the Warriors fall short in this series — owing to a hungry Boston Celtics team that has youth and size on its side — there’s one thing that cannot be denied:

Curry, the greatest shooter in the history of basketball, is also — undoubtedly — one of the baddest men in the NBA finals.

Just ask the Boston Celtics, whose supposedly stifling defense hasn’t worked against chef Curry, who has been cooking for a total of four games now.

 
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