Stephen Curry on track for NBA Finals MVP – if Warriors win

Stephen Curry in 2022 NBA Finals - Game Two
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Stephen Curry and Jordan Poole are involved in halfcourt-shooting competition. At each practice and shootaround, the Warriors teammates try their luck from midcourt. All that work paid off in Game 2 of the NBA Finals with Poole sinking a half-court buzzer-beater to end the third quarter.

“If you make one during the game, we count it,” Curry said. “So he took the lead tonight.”

Always a supportive teammate, Curry had a giant smile wash over his face when celebrating Poole’s basket. That shot allowed Curry to let his guard down, relax and begin preparing for his next attempt in their shooting competition – in practice this week.

Curry sat the entire fourth quarter as Golden State cruised to victory, but he still scored a game-high 29 points. Though not as scorching as early Game 1, he continues to carry a huge offensive load. Curry has scored 63 points in 70 minutes this series – the highest scoring rate for rotation regular in the first two games of an NBA Finals in decades.

Here are the players with the most points per minute in first two games of NBA Finals (minimum: 30 minutes)

Everyone to begin an NBA Finals scoring as potently as Curry since the NBA introduced Finals MVP – Jerry West in 1969, Shaquille O’Neal in 2002 and 2000, Michael Jordan in 1992 and 1991 – has won the award.

Of course, Curry has infamously never won Finals MVP. At times in 2015 and 2018, Curry looked poised to win the award. But he let it slip away.

If a Warrior were going to win Finals MVP in 2015 (when LeBron had the best series in a loss), it should have been Curry. But Andre Iguodala won. So, Finals MVP continues to loom as a missing line on Curry’s distinguished resumé.

Not entirely fairly. But not entirely unfairly, either. For a player of his stature – an incredibly high bar – Curry has disappointed in the Finals.

He’s so far changing the narrative this year – including on defense. Curry will almost certainly not win Finals MVP if the Celtics win the title. Voters are extremely reluctant to reward a losing player. So, Curry’s defense is crucial to his case. Surely to Curry’s delight, Warriors coach Steve Kerr and Curry’s teammates gushed in their postgame press conferences about Curry’s defense. And it’s earned. Curry has gotten stronger, no longer as targetable as he once was.

But Curry is really shining as a scorer.

Kevin Durant has departed. Klay Thompson isn’t nearly as explosive after missing two full seasons with torn a torn ACL and Achilles. Draymond Green has devolved as a scorer. Poole hasn’t proven to be dependable on this level.

The Warriors need Curry to carry more of a scoring load than ever.

“Our offense is always a lot of Steph,” Green said. “It all starts with Steph, whether – when KD was here, our offense still started with Steph. And that’s the way it’s going to be.”

Green keeps elevating Curry in juxtaposition to Durant, though not as accurately this time. Durant really asserted himself in the 2017 and 2018 Finals. Golden State is also forcing the ball into Curry’s hands more often than, say, 2015 (before Durant arrived). Instead of quite as much motion offense, the Warriors ran more pick-and-rolls with Curry – especially in the third quarter, when he scored 14 points:

But Green does have a point about how Golden State’s offense operates. So much starts with Curry, and that’s often dictated by opposing defenses. At times Sunday, four Celtics covered Curry:

That attention might wear down Curry.

If he weren’t in such great shape.

If he had to play more than 32 minutes.

This series is far from over. But Curry is off to a roaring start. However capable the Celtics looked to slow him entering the series, that’s out the window now. Curry is a superstar playing like a superstar.

All he needs to do is keep it up and have his team win. It won’t be easy. It’ll probably be darned difficult.

But there’s a clear path for Curry to raise his already-special legacy even higher.