More than LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Billions, or Westworld, Sunday night belonged to Steph Curry. Game 2 of the NBA Finals, therefore, belonged to the Warriors, who slow-burned the Cavaliers before torching them altogether in a 122-103 victory.
Curry is the third-best player in the Finals—which is not a knock on him; he’s sharing the court with someone who very well could go down as one of the greatest scorers of all time and someone else who could go down as the greatest, period. But there is no answer for Curry, especially when he goes full Curry. It’s near blasphemy to watch him on the perimeter—or, on occasion, quite far behind the perimeter—hitting the deep shots that he has helped popularize around the league.
On the way to 33 points, Curry broke the record for the most 3-pointers ever made in a Finals game—his nine beat out Ray Allen’s eight with the Celtics in 2010. Curry took 17 3-point attempts to get there, which is, (a) more shots than he averaged from the entire field this regular season, and (b) more shots than any other Warrior took Sunday, from everywhere. Durant was closest, going 10-for-14 from the field. KD was far more efficient than Curry, but it was a quiet one next to Curry’s performance, literally, as Oracle exploded each time he winked at the fawning crowd.
If someone does this to you in 2K, you toss your controller at the screen. Steph Curry is unfair. pic.twitter.com/YgcECOQhwq— The Ringer (@ringer) June 4, 2018
A Steph Game is so enjoyable that it’s easy to forget it’s also crucial. The show he puts on is unique. It’s serious business for LeBron, vengeful for Russell Westbrook, and petty for James Harden (in the best way possible). The Warriors offense depends on Curry for much more than shooting—he had eight assists, and grabbed seven of Golden State’s 41 boards, a key factor against Cleveland’s big frontcourt—but shooting is how he’ll be remembered, especially in this Finals. Curry is shooting 50 percent from 3 through two games and averaging 31 points, which puts him as an easy favorite to be named Finals MVP for the first time. “The guy is the best shooter probably in the history of the Earth,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said postgame. (I guess the NBA wasn’t a big enough pool.)
Curry has been the lifeblood of the Warriors dynasty since its 2015 title, but he’s never been acknowledged as the best player in the Finals. Sunday night put him one step closer to being recognized as such, but it was also something of a full-circle moment from the star of the regular season. When Curry was healthy, he posted an astounding 14.7 net rating—numbers usually reserved for players at the end of the bench who have one or two moments in garbage time. When Curry wasn’t healthy, Durant, the reigning Finals MVP, didn’t slide into the position of fearless leader quite like expected. KD was inarguably fantastic in Game 2, but Curry feels, at this moment, more essential. Durant offers the steady performance on both sides of the ball that’s imperative to the Warriors’ success, whereas Curry can’t offer as much defensively. For instance, without Andre Iguodala, whose defense earned him the 2015 Finals MVP over Steph, Durant has had to guard LeBron more. But Steph brings them over the top with his ability to warp spacing and overwhelm an opponent by racking up points in short order.
The Cavs rallied in the third, but couldn’t keep it going because of Curry. He was the chaser to every Cavs shot, finishing with 16 points in the fourth quarter alone. “Nine 3s,” Kerr said, “and seemed to hit a big shot every time we needed one.” When LeBron, Kevin Love, or George Hill pulled up from deep, I might have thought: That looks good. I thought differently watching Curry’s release. He cut out the middleman: That’s good.