CLEVELAND – Then the reigning back-to-back MVP, Stephen Curry texted Kevin Durant nearly two years ago. Curry told Durant he didn’t care who’d be the face of the Warriors, who’d receive more recognition, who’d sell more shoes. Curry said he just wanted to win titles and that Durant would help.
That’s why after shooting 3-for-16 from the field and 1-for-10 on 3-pointers – his worst field-goal field-goal percentage (19%) and 3-point percentage (10%) in a playoff game – Curry said, “This moment is great.”
It was great because Durant posted 43 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists – a trio of marks nobody had ever hit in an NBA Finals game during the modern-postseason era (since the NBA adopted a 16-team playoff in 1984).
It was great because Golden State beat the Cavaliers 110-102 in Game 3.
And it was great because the victory put the Warriors up 3-0 and on the cusp of their second straight title.
“We all have an opportunity to do what we do and do it well and put ourselves in position to win championships,” Curry said. “…Tonight was not my night offensively. It was his night.
“You encourage each other along the way, and we appreciate what we bring out of each other. We could talk about him all night. He was amazing.”
Curry showed his amazement after Durant scored in the first quarter, skipping and air-kicking along the sideline:
And again in the fourth quarter, howling in Durant’s face after he made the dagger 3-pointer:
“A lot of yelling, unnecessarily, Curry said. “Just enjoying the moment. He was so stone-faced that somebody had to yell and show some emotion.”
Said Durant: “We all just support each other with a real childlike approach to the game.”
Of course, there’s nothing childlike about the Warriors’ production. LeBron James called Durant an “assassin” – for good reason. Durant shot 15-for-23, including 6-for-9 on 3-pointers, carry Golden State on off nights by Curry and Klay Thompson (4-for-11).
“Holding Steph to 11 points and Klay to 10, you would think you would win that game,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said.
Even Curry’s high-volume, low-efficiency game alone would sink most teams.
Other teams are 0-15 in the NBA Finals with a player who shot 20% or worse on at least 14 field-goal attempts in the modern-postseason era. The Warriors with Durant are 2-0.
Thanks to Durant scoring 38, Golden State also beat Cleveland in Game 1 last year despite Klay Thompson shooting 3-for-16.
“This is the beauty of this team and the luxury that we have,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.
Durant didn’t come to Golden State just to soak up the positivity. He has ingrained himself in the Warriors’ culture and become an active participant.
Curry didn’t make a 3-pointer until late in the fourth quarter, and though Durant received far more praise for his clutch 3-pointer, he called Curry’s the biggest shot of the game:
It certainly mattered to Curry, who fell even deeper into a mindset of a more innocent time.
“Me and my brother, we always – growing up shooting and playing, we always said you’ve got to make your last shot before you leave the gym,” Curry said. “Got it done tonight.”
Then, Curry smiled slightly. It didn’t matter that was his only make on 10 3-point attempts. He was satisfied.