Stephen Curry had to wait one year. Ever since Kyrie Irving hit the dagger 3 to send the Golden State Warriors reeling, he has had something to prove. His two MVP awards and firm command of the best-shooter-ever conversation weren’t enough to prevent last year’s Finals disappearance from staining his résumé. That is why he had to do this, with an 11-point lead and 44 seconds left in the season.
Irving may be the finisher in the NBA, but Steph Curry is the best shooter in the league right now, and he doesn’t want anyone to forget that. He ended all the narratives over his team’s 16–1 postseason run, and this was the exclamation point.
If last year’s postseason was the nightmare — a fluke slip in Round 1, playing hurt through the conference finals and Finals, getting overshadowed by a nemesis — this year’s was the dream you don’t want to end. Curry escaped nearly two months of playoffs without controversy, without injury, without incendiary sound bite (though the last one is hardly his style).
Golden State’s one postseason loss made the case for Curry even stronger. It was his one off game of the Finals, scoring just 14 points in 38 minutes, going to the line five times, and recording a team-worst minus-25. That’s not enough for Golden State — and it’s not just what he does with his jump shot. Game 5 was decisive because Curry was aggressive from the opening tip. He got to the free throw line seven times in the first quarter, and did his best to embody the Warriors’ unselfish motion offense by finding Andre Iguodala for a sure 2 instead of launching a 3 for himself.
All season, I’ve been looking for signs that the Warriors belonged to either Curry or Kevin Durant. With two elite scorers, it seemed impossible that they could coexist without friction, but the last 17 games have proved me wrong. Durant may be the Finals MVP, popping up every time the Warriors’ cushion dwindled, but Curry is the propulsive force that keeps them afloat and positions them for the Durant kill shot. He even became a rebounding force. The Warriors’ success is because Steph has no demons. He just plays.