OAKLAND, Calif. — A year ago, two-time MVP Stephen Curry absorbed his share of criticism for his subpar performance in the NBA Finals as the Warriors blew a 3-1 series lead to the Cavaliers. He was the clear loser in the battle of superstars as four-time MVP LeBron James dominated the final three games, including a block of a Curry layup at one point followed by some serious trash talking.
That was then, this is now. Curry had his first playoff triple-double in the Warriors’ 132-113 Game 2 victory Sunday night at Oracle Arena, but that was a mere footnote compared to the series of dipsy-do moves he used on James before scoring a third-quarter layup in the process of breaking the game open. It’s destined to become an iconic play since ESPN basically put it on a loop in its highlight shows.
Following a Cleveland turnover, James got back on defense and matched up with Curry as the Warriors’ point guard drove all the way to the baseline, where he was cut off by James, then doubled back to the 3-point line, where he faked right as if he might go up for a jumper and then drove left, splitting James and Kevin Love as he went up for a layup to give the Warriors an 83-73 lead. Curry exulted along with the crowd.
“Honestly, I was rushing to begin with because I felt like there was an angle here, and angle there, [but] there wasn’t because of a huge crowd on that right side of the floor,” Curry said. “I was able to kind of reset back behind the 3-point line, and you kind of just give a little hesitation that makes them think you’re going to shoot and just try to go around him.
“At that point, I was a little more composed than earlier in the possession. I was just kind of like a chicken with my head cut off, just running circles.”
Asked if he relished the rare chance to go one on one with James, Curry said: “You don’t get into one-on-one matchups, especially on this stage because you get distracted from how you’re supposed to be playing. Obviously, he’s a great defender, so if you have opportunities, you know you have to do something pretty special to score.
“But you can’t focus on like you’re on the playground, it’s just y’all two out there. That doesn’t do you any good in these situations.”
Despite scoring 32 points to go with 11 assists and 10 rebounds, Curry had a so-so 7-for-17 shooting night but made up for it by getting to the foul line, where he hit all 14 of his free throws. He faulted himself for nearly making it a quadruple-double with eight turnovers.
“There’s an eight on the stat sheet that I need to correct when we go to Cleveland because the points I gave up off turnovers, in their building, will electrify the crowd and their team. That’s something that I can control, just being smarter with the ball.”
After winning the first two games by a total of 41 points, the Warriors are rolling, and Curry credited it to the “amazing” defense they are playing.
“Playing with a lot of energy, playing smart, trying to make them work for everything they get,” Curry said of the Cavs. “But there is another level we can get to, and we’re going to need it in Cleveland to get a win.”