Finals Game 2: Strength In Curry’s Numbers

As breathtaking as LeBron James has been in these playoffs—perhaps producing the most prolific performances in postseason history—can we pause a moment to appreciate the record-breaking NBA Finals showcases we are getting from Stephen Curry?

If it was not enough for the NBA’s greatest shooter to give us a Finals-record nine three-pointers in Game 2, the Golden State guard had to give us the 9 treys with a package that included 7 rebounds and 8 assists, making Curry theoretically the first member of the Finals 777 Club for combining long-range bombing (nine three-pointers), with muscle (seven boards) and playmaking ability (eight assists) in a 122-103 Game 2 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Normally when Golden State talks about “Strength In Numbers” it is a motto that praises the team’s depth, which was still the case in Game 2 with fifth man JaVale McGee and sixth man Shaun Livingston providing 22 points on perfect 11-of-11 shooting.

But forgive us if we plagiarize the mantra and apply “Strength In Numbers” to Curry’s metrics in these Finals and this postseason of play.

 

FINALS THREE-POINT RECORD HIGHS

 PLAYER  DATE  MIN  PTS  REB  AST  3FG  +/-
 Stephen Curry  June 3, 2018  38  33  7  8  9/17  +19
 Ray Allen  June 6, 2010  44  32  3  2  8/11  +12
 Ray Allen  June 17, 2008  32  26  4  2  7/9  +23
 Stephen Curry  June 9, 2015  44  27  6  6  7/13  -6
 Stephen Curry  June 10, 2016  40  38  5  6  7/13  +10
 Stephen Curry  June 14, 2015  42  37  7  4  7/13  +24
 Danny Green  June 11, 2013  31  27  4  0  7/9  +23
 Kyrie Irving  June 9, 2017  41  40  7  4  7/12  +7
 Mike Miller  June 21, 2012  23  23  5  0  7/8  +14
 Scottie Pippen  June 6, 1997  40  27  4  4  7/11  n/a
 J.R. Smith  June 12, 2017  41  25  3  1  7/8  -2
 Kenny Smith  June 7, 1995  42  23  3  9  7/11  n/a

MIN minutes; PTS points; REB rebounds; AST assists; 3FG three pointers made/attempts; +/- plus-minus; n/a not available.

SOURCE: Basketball-Reference

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I mean, what other Finals great who averaged 30-plus points can put up the rebound and assist totals of a LeBron James while simultaneously spacing the floor like a Ray Allen?

Nobody.

And when the 2013 and 2014 Miami Heat had that combo, they had to pay two salaries and play two starting positions to get the same job done.

That’s what makes Game 2 performances like Curry’s so special. It gets everybody on the team involved, whether it’s via Curry threes, Curry rebounds, Curry assists or Curry floor spacing.

“When we keep the ball moving and keep bodies moving, good things usually happen,” says Curry at the postgame press conference. “When we’re dialed in offensively, we’re really efficient with getting into the paint, kicking it out, finding an open guy, whether it’s me relocating to the corner, or Klay [Thompson] coming off a pin down, or Draymond [Green] getting an open three. We’ve been pretty locked into that type of offense for sure.”

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From the get-go, the Warriors were in attack mode Sunday and scored a lot of easy baskets because of the extra attention being paid to Curry by the Cavaliers.

In fact, McGee—thrust back into his starting center role—was the early-game benefactor, getting two immediate dunks off slip screens from Curry, which ultimately led to the Warriors giant garnering 12 points on 6-of-6 shooting in only 18 minutes.

Furthermore, when Cleveland bigs like Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson were forced to guard Curry on switched screens, it meant littles like George Hill and J.R. Smith were forced to box out Draymond Green and McGee for loose rebounds which ultimately became early-game extra possessions for the Warriors.

However, as the game dragged on, Curry took to dealing with such mismatches personally, mostly squaring off with Love in isolation one-on-ones in the second half. For the most part, Love moved his feet well and chased Curry off the three-point line, time and time again. However, Curry is a persistent pesk, and right when Love thought he had defended the potential onslaught well, Curry would dish to a screener, receive the ball back and drain an inexplicable three-pointer from 23-to-28 feet, fading away as he did it.

Love could only shake his head in exasperation, especially at the 28-foot backwards heave-ho Curry gave to beat the 24-second clock with 7:54 remaining in the game…only to see it too go swishing through, giving Golden State the insurmountable 103-89 lead.

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

“Steph just kept going backwards,” recalls Thompson, recalling the play at the joint presser he shared with his Splash Brother. “I don’t know why, but he just threw it up and I don’t think it had any chance of going in. But that was kind of like the dagger shot and it gave us all the momentum back. I think we went up 14 points. So that was my favorite.”

Curry would make two more three-pointers for good measure that game, ultimately breaking the Finals single-game record with his ninth trey in Game 2, while also giving him 14 three-pointers in his two Finals games this year.

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

That puts him only 18 Preview (opens in a new window)treys away from breaking his own Finals series record of 32 three-pointers, set in the 2016 NBA Finals by Mr. Curry himself. It took him seven games to set that mark. At the rate Curry is going now, he will break that record in Game 5.

Alas, allow us just to focus on one record at a time.

“That’s a pretty cool deal to accomplish, especially knowing who has held the record for eight years,” says Curry. “But at the end of the day, it’s all about trying to get a win and doing whatever you can to make that happen. I always say if we focus on that, good things happen individually all across the board.

“So I never woke up and was like, ‘All right. Let’s go out and get nine 3s and get the record.’ It was more so about playing the game the right way, having good intentions out there on the court and good things happen.”