In Game 3 of the NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Toronto Raptors, Stephen Curry finished with a playoff career-high 47 points and added eight rebounds and seven assists.
Is there anything else that needs to be said? Cue the all-too-familiar ritual of mourning another helpless opponent struck down by the wrath of the two-time MVP and greatest shooter of all time.
Except this time, it was Curry that was struck down.
Yes, the Warriors lost Game 3. And that’s why it’s hard for fans, regardless of the team they support, to make sense of Curry’s performance in the grand scheme of things. What could this mean for the Warriors chances to three-peat? Does this burnish Steph’s reputation as someone who can’t win on his own – and does that take away a little greatness from his legacy?
What everyone can agree on is that this was a Finals performance for the ages. Curry is only the ninth player in NBA History to pour in more than 45 in the Finals and the only one to do it with more than five three-pointers. He led all players in second chance points and beat his previous Finals career-high in three quarters.
Curry seemed to be wired differently from his usual self, as though he morphed into the kind of NBA superstar we knew he wasn’t: one who thrives when the game gets mucked up and powers his team by sheer force of will and raw talent. That’s a form we haven’t really seen from the already transcendent Curry, and that’s also why I don’t think the game’s result tarnished his reputation too much.
The Warriors are still very much his team, but talk of Andre Iguodala or Klay Thompson constantly bailing him out, Kevin Durant’s arrival relegating him to second-best, and the fact that he has yet to win a Finals MVP have put an asterisk of sorts on his status.
In a game without KD or Klay, a hobbled Iguodala, and a limited DeMarcus Cousins, Steph showed that he had that extra gear – something we’ve only really seen from LeBron in recent memory.
If anything, the loss says more about the greatness of this Raptors team than Curry’s inability to step-up.
It was Curry, relentlessly trying to pull the Warriors back into the game. The Raptors needed an answer for him. For all of Steph’s heroics throughout the game, the Raptors had to conjure up an answer for every big bucket. The Raptors had a ready reply to every Curry flurry.
Yet there was still this prevailing sense of Curry’s, and the Warriors’ inevitable triumph at the death. That feeling seemed to crescendo around the 3:00 mark in the fourth with the Warriors in and around 10 points off Toronto. Curry was everywhere, darting around screens, diving on the floor, gambling on everything in defense. It was like watching a challenger deliver desperate combinations to steal a prize fight deep into the 12th.
In Game 3, Curry was at once, an underdog, and a destroyer of worlds. He delivered a performance that will define his case for Finals MVP and add to his legend, whether Draymond Green’s “fun times” prediction plays out or not.
Photos from Reuters