We’d been patiently waiting for “The Stephen Curry Game” in these NBA Finals. While Curry had solid numbers through the first four games of the Finals, he hadn’t had that signature performance, and he also put forth that dreadful 5-of-23 debacle in the stunning Game 2 loss that had everybody proclaiming the greatness of Matthew Dellavedova.
Well, we finally got that signature Curry game in Game 5 on Sunday night.
Curry put to rest any notion that Dellavedova is some mystical “Curry Stopper,” torching the nets to the tune of 37 points on 13-of-23 shooting overall and 7-of-13 on three-pointers in a 104-91 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers. With those seven three-pointers, the MVP now has a whopping 95 in these playoffs, 37 more than the previous postseason record of 58 held by Reggie Miller.
Curry was especially magnificent in the fourth quarter, pouring in 17 points and hitting some truly ridiculous threes in the process that took the already raucous Oracle Arena crowd to another level. He hit three three-pointers in the final frame, the first of which was a response to a LeBron James 34-footer that actually gave the Cavaliers a stunning one-point lead with 7:47 remaining.
The fact that Cleveland held that lead at that point was truly remarkable considering the circumstances. It was once again LeBron against the World (with some help from Tristan Thompson), and the four-time MVP was on the verge of another massive upset.
But unlike Game 2 when Curry folded at Oracle, the MVP delivered in a way the MVP should in front of his home crowd. His three-point response to LeBron was perfect, and Klay Thompson buried a long three-pointer one possession later to send Oracle into a frenzy. The Splash Brothers hadn’t worked much in concert throughout the series, but their back-to-back threes in the fourth quarter was reminiscent of so many moments from this season where they took the life out of their opponents with long-range bombs.
Andre Iguodala got in on the fun with a three-pointer and circus layup before Curry put the finishing touches on his masterpiece. First, he officially ended Delly with a nasty step-back three-pointer:
Moments later, Curry nailed a 30-footer over the outstretched arms of Delly, twisting the dagger just to make sure Delly and the Cavaliers were dead:
We were all wondering what was wrong with Curry when he struggled through that woeful Game 2 and didn’t do anything at the start of Game 3. Was it really Delly’s defense that locked him down? The Cavaliers’ defense as a whole? Just missing shots?
As it usually is with these things, it was a bit of all that. Delly and the Cavaliers’ defense did a great job making Curry uncomfortable and taking him out of his game. They blitzed him hard on pick-and-rolls and forced the ball out of his hands. They did a good job being physical and denying him the ball. That in turn helped lead the MVP to simply miss shots he normally makes. It happens, just like it happened in Games 2 and 3 against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Even though the Cavaliers won Game 3 at home, Curry’s outburst in the fourth quarter seemed to signal that he’d gotten out of his doldrums. And while he “only” had 22 points in Game 4’s big victory, he still shot 8-of-17 overall and 4-of-7 from three. That set up his dominant Game 5 performance, which has the Warriors on the brink of their first championship in 40 years.
It would take a miracle for the undermanned Cavaliers to come back in this series at this point, especially with Curry cookin’ again. Perhaps LeBron has another level to reach, which would be insane, but it sure feels like this thing is over. It’s likely just a matter of when, and another big Curry performance could earn him a Finals MVP trophy to go along with his regular-season MVP award.