Stephen Curry, the best shooter basketball has ever seen, smashed John Starks’ seemingly unbreakable mark of eleven 3-pointers missed in an NBA Finals game, set back in Game 7 of the 1994 Finals.
Curry wound up 2-for-15 from beyond the arc, while Starks was famously 0-for-11 (2-for-18 overall), part of a deciding game that still lives in infamy in New York in blowing the franchise’s best chance for a title since winning in ’73.
It’s now indisputable that on Sunday night, with seemingly the entire country watching due to an early start and little else besides Game of Thrones and a Dateline doubleheader to pass the time, Curry did his best to fool the casual observer into wondering what the big deal was all about? MVP? More like MLC, most lacking conscience.
Curry was off, bothered by Matthew Dellavedova’s ball-denial and a perimeter defense that was as impressive as anything on display this NBA season. Though it wasn’t all Delly – Curry helped considerably – the guy that ran away with the Most Valuable Trophy was 0-for-8 when defended by an Australian guard most deemed too nonathletic and ordinary to consider out of college. Even in OT, there was nothing to be had from Curry to steal a game Golden State had no business being in.
As mind-numbing as that is, Curry is fortunate that unlike the former Knicks guard, he at least gets an opportunity to redeem himself. Not that he’s to blame for costing his team a 2-0 lead entirely.
First off, it’s 1-1, so a championship hasn’t been blown. Pump the brakes there. Beyond that, he was not the only one who performed well below expectations.
Curry was clutch in forcing overtime, turning an ankle-breaker of a handle into a sweet finger roll that improbably sent the game to an extra period. After James missed a contested drive to the rim and Tristan Thompson’s tap-in went awry, the Warriors had a second opportunity to take Cleveland’s collective heart out of its chest, toss it callously on the ground and stomp on it. That was what Game 2 was supposed to be all about.
Killer instinct went out the window. To be fair, the fans at Oracle, as they always seem to, did their part. Golden State lost its way. Cleveland persevered in an arena where it became the fourth team 51 games to find a way to win because it wanted more, which can’t happen in a home game during the league’s championship round. If you wondered whether NBA Finals experience would matter in a series where both coaches were rookies and most of the guys with rings wouldn’t play a single minute for the Cavs, you just got your answer.
Without Kyrie Irving available, this was supposed to be the game where the Warriors ran away with a win. As to why the Warriors, 8-point favorites and most everyone’s choice to win an unexpected championship this season, fumbled away Game 2, the easy answer lies in the math. If Curry makes two or three more 3-pointers, Golden State wins. If Marreese Speights can have back that missed bunny at the end of the third quarter, the Warriors would’ve been a bucket closer and may not have needed J.R. Smith’s nonsense to open the door.
The easy answer isn’t the right answer, though. Curry’s incredible Starks’ level futility isn’t why they lost. Klay Thompson scored 34 points, picking up some of the slack. The game was there to be had in spite of the often poor shot selection and inaccuracy, factors you live with because the greatest shooter the game has ever seen is simply like no other, someone worth trusting even in situations where you know he’s making the wrong choice. He should have done a better job getting to the rim instead of forcing looks that weren’t there on the perimeter, but that will become clear after watching film.
Equally frustrating was the fact a ball went through his legs after Draymond Green’s save of another blocked shot against LeBron James in the OT. It fell in line with other bad breaks that were ultimately self-inflicted. The Warriors shouldn’t have lost the rebounding battle so decisively (55-45), especially after winning it in Game 1.
Unofficially, the Warriors passed the ball 217 times in Game 2, 86 less in an OT game than their playoff average. Despite 9-for-27 shooting from the Cavs, the visitors managed to outperform GSW from beyond the arc, the first time that’s happened since March 24 at Portland, snapping a steak of 27 games.
Green didn’t have his first basket until late. Centers Andrew Bogut and backup Festus Ezeli were clearly outplayed by Timothy Mozgov. The Cavs wound up with 14 offensive rebounds, half of them coming from Tristan Thompson.
So where does that take us entering Game 3? The Warriors have a flight and a grueling day of watching painful video to pump them up before a road atmosphere that promises to be daunting. I covered the last two Finals games that the Cavs played at home in 2007 and remember a raucous crowd that nearly drove a team that had no business being on the same floor with the Spurs to victory in back-to-back games. Both times, Cleveland lost to San Antonio by 3. Both times, the Cavs overachieved.
James is older now. Judging by Game 2, he leads the more driven team. As far as the spread goes, Cleveland being a 1-point favorite (in some markets) is a nod to James, because the Warriors have only closed as an underdog once during these playoffs, winning that game in Houston 105-80.
To call Game 3 a virtual pick’em and still favor Golden State to win the series is contradictory, but as usual, oddsmakers are trying to make sense. It remains to be seen how the Warriors respond to such glaring disappointment, especially since Game 3 will see a venue change fueled by a drastic difference in crowd support. If they take on the us-against-the-world mentality that was clearly missing in Game 2, fighting for loose balls and diving without care, the more talented Warriors should win.
Tony Mejia is a national sports writer and senior contributor at VegasInsider.com. He’s also the owner and operator of Antony Dinero, the most successful documented volume handicapper in the industry. View his analysis daily at VegasInsider.com. Contact Tony at [email protected].