OAKLAND — Throughout the course of the 73-win season there was a little-discussed thing around the Warriors:
They had been bailed out a lot by Stephen Curry’s ridiculous shooting.
Yes, they beat most teams handily thanks to an efficient motion offense and elite defense, but on the nights nothing else seemed to work Curry — or sometimes Klay Thompson — would just get incandescently hot and cover up the flaws with highlight reel deep threes. There were times they needed that, such Game 6 against Oklahoma City in the Western Conference Finals, when Thompson saved the Warriors season with bad-shot threes he couldn’t miss. But other times it was the crutch of a team with a few bad habits.
With the NBA Finals on the line, nobody bailed out the Warriors. In the final 4:39 of the game Golden State went scoreless and took nine shots, seven of which were threes.
They didn’t adapt and try to get to the rim, they didn’t take what the defense gave them, they went for the kill shot. The Warriors don’t just want to win, they want to win with flair and style — like draining a deep three. Curry was swinging for the home run when a few singles strung together might well have won the game.
“At home in the fourth quarter, I felt like we could go for that dagger punch and didn’t really put any pressure on the defense getting to the paint and trying to force the issue that way, and really just kind of settled too much,” Stephen Curry said. “That’s something that is tough to kind of swallow with the opportunity we had in front of us.”
No play epitomized that more than when Curry tried to equalize Kyrie Irving’s late three — Curry hunted for a three of his own against Kevin Love, and when it wasn’t there he hunted for it more rather than making the smart basketball play — get two and make it a one-point game with 35-40 seconds left, then if they get a stop they would get the ball back with a chance to win it.
“I was searching for a three and rushed and didn’t take what was there, which was probably better to go around him and try to get into the paint,” Curry admitted. “That’s basically it.”
You can say “but that’s what the Warriors did all season and it worked,” which is true. But it hadn’t worked this series. And it isn’t what the Warriors do offensively.
“I feel like we play all five guys on the court and everyone has their role and that’s how we maximize our talent…” Andre Iguodala said before Game 6. “End of the day you’re taking whatever the defense gives you. It sounds very simple, but there’s a lot that goes into it. You’re in this world of basketball with endorsements, social media, and branding, and guys have a tendency to think ‘me.’ It becomes a me game, and this is a team sport.”
With the season on the line, the Warriors were not five guys, they were one guy isolated — one great player, and that had worked before. But when it didn’t there was no other plan to fall back upon. There was no taking what the defense gave.
For once, the Warriors weren’t the high IQ versatile team. And they paid the price for it.