The most glaring takeaway of the 2016 NBA Finals, besides the Cleveland Cavaliers being down 3-1 and coming back from insurmoutable odds to win the title, was the way Stephen Curry played. The 2-time MVP and first ever unanimous MVP played (arguably) the worst series of his career. How could the greatest shooter (this is not up for debate anymore) to ever lace up his sneakers perform so poorly on the grandest stage the Association has to offer? Was he hurt? Was it all mental? There’s a bevy of questions left to be answered, but what’s apparent was how Curry struggled to find his place within a game, that up until the Finals, was a game he played using a cheat code.
Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors spent their entire 2015-16 campaign burying the opposition. They destroyed every competitor (including the Cavaliers), as they ran through the season and finished with the best regular season record in NBA history at 73-9. They were upset that many thought their championship run from last year was accompanied with an asterisk. The Golden State Warriors were so dominate this year that it made people just concede the fact that this NBA season was indeed theirs and not even LeBron James, the San Antonio Spurs, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook could stop them.
Everyone outside the state of Ohio was ready to hand over the league to Curry–hell, could you blame them? Steph produced one of the greatest single-season performances of all time. He shattered records, he redefined the art of shooting, and was on the verge of having the best player efficiency rating ever. When the playoffs rolled in, it was a no-brainer that they would be in the Finals, but it wouldn’t be that easy. Curry missed games (six to be exact) due knee and ankle injuries. Not one to rely on excuses, he battled through, had classic Chef Curry moments of greatness, but that’s because teams still hadn’t figured the Warriors out yet. The Oklahoma City Thunder came close, I mean really close to figuring out how to dismantle an atomic bomb faster than any U2 album could suggest. The Thunder blew a 3-1 lead and a trip to the NBA Finals in one of the biggest collapses ever–or was it?
“Steph produced one of the greatest single-season performances ever. He shattered records, he redefined the art of shooting, and was on the verge of having the best player efficiency rating ever.”
On the other side of the map, the Cleveland Cavaliers basically simulated themselves to the championship round. With little-to-no competition standing in their way, the Cavs were on cruise control. The odds were stacked so heavy in favor of the Warriors that many believed LeBron James would once again lose to the New Face of the League, Stephen Curry. Not only did LeBron James make those doubters eat their words, his sidekick, Kyrie Irving outplayed Curry on both sides of the court. What really is alarming is that even if the Warriors had won the title, the Finals MVP wouldn’t be given to Curry. Last year it went to his teammate Andre Iguodala. This year is was all but a foregone conclusion who would win it for the Warriors this year.
The Cavaliers exposed not only the Warriors, but Steph as well. They were physical, they put bodies on him, and made him work on the defensive end. They also played mind games–better yet, LeBron James played mind games. LeBron James got under Curry’s skin like no other player did this whole season. The end result found Curry being ejected after fouling out for the first time ever in his career, and not before throwing his mouthpiece in the stands that hilariously struck a fan in the shoulder. ‘Bron had a block party that he invited Curry to on several occasions, which only made Curry fade and fade, and continue to fade down the stretch. Irving was so impressive against Steph Curry, that it made people wonder what would’ve been the outcome if a healthy Kyrie Irving would’ve been available to play the rest of last year’s Finals?
“The Cavaliers exposed not only the Warriors, but Steph as well. They were physical, they put bodies on him, and made him work on the defensive end.”
Draymon Green credits the series loss to himself. His game 5 suspension was costly after the altercation with James in game 4, but Green showed up for game 7 when it mattered the most. He poured in 32 points and led all scorers, but his point guard failed to secure the victory that was staring them right in the face. Curry made ill-advised decision-making in the most crucial parts of the game. That careless behind the back pass to Klay Thompson in game 7 was costly as equally as it was unforgiving. The Warriors barely made adjustments, that vaunted Death lineup that ran so many of their opponents in the regular season and the first two rounds of the playoffs off the court, eventually killed them in the long run. When the three-pointers stopped falling, they looked like a team that was out of sync, with Curry being the most out of sync.
The Golden State Warriors had an impressive year, but 73-9 means nothing if a championship was not the end result. Steph Curry had a nice run of making us believe that this league was his. Not to say that one day it wouldn’t be, because Curry’s talents prove this notion to be a strong possibility. It’s just on that night and in this series, that notion wasn’t the case.