Stephen Curry shows his greatness in loss

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Stephen Curry finished his post-game press conference and set down the microphone. “Thank you, Steph,” an NBA official announced. “This concludes the session in here for tonight.” Reporters filed out. With that obligation finished, most players can’t wait to leave.

But Curry lingered at the table and stared at the box score.

There are so many statics that tell the story of Game 3 of the NBA Finals, and he could have been inspecting any of them. But only one number on that sheet was truly eye-popping:

47

Curry scored 47 points in the Warriors’ 123-109 loss to the Raptors on Wednesday. That was eighth-highest-scoring Finals game ever.

Only LeBron James (51 points in 2018 Game 1) scored more points in a Finals loss. Just Michael Jordan (55 points in 1993 Game 4), LeBron (51 points in 2018 Game 1) and Allen Iverson (48 points in 2002 Game 1) scored more points in a Finals game since the NBA-ABA merger.

Here are the highest-scoring Finals games of all-time:

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Curry is one of the best players in NBA history.

That statement shouldn’t be controversial. But great teammates and selective memory have undermined appreciation for a legend.

Curry won back-to-back MVPs before Golden State signed Kevin Durant. Curry’s 2015-16 season is one of the best individual seasons ever. There’s no telling how his résumé would look now if he continued on that track.

But Curry held back to give Durant room to thrive. Curry also sometimes defers to Klay Thompson, who is one of the NBA’s best scorers when hot. That’s best for team success, not Curry’s individual production.

Curry has also produced some duds deep into the playoffs. Yet, he has performed excellently in the postseason overall, even later rounds. The larger sample reflects very well on him, though some dwell on his lows.

Wednesday was a clear high.

With Durant and Thompson sidelined, Curry took over.

As late as midway through the third quarter, Curry was outscoring his teammates. In addition to his 47 direct points, he assisted another 16 points. Everything ran through him.

This was against an elite Toronto defense, too.

The Warriors just didn’t have enough outside Curry. Maybe that changes if Thompson and/or Durant return for Game 5 Friday. If they do, Curry can slide right back into his previous role – a role he played on consecutive championship runs.

But Curry is comfortable as the overwhelmingly ball-dominant superstar, too. He flourished as Golden State swept the Western Conference finals without Durant. It’s much harder against the Raptors than Trail Blazers, but this can work. Curry is that good.

The debate about Curry’s ability to rise to the occasion on the biggest stage was always silly. Of course he can. There should be no more question now.

The only question left: Will the Warriors get healthy enough that Curry doesn’t have to play like this anymore?

This was the optimal formula for a night. It’s not a good formula for beating Toronto, and Curry knows it. That’s why he usually doesn’t play this way.

But when pressed, he can – and darned well.