The Golden State Warriors suffered a crushing defeat in the NBA Finals, losing three straight games after going up 3-1 in the series.
Though the Warriors were genuinely outplayed by the Cavaliers in the final three games, including Sunday night’s 93-89 loss in Game 7, it became increasingly clear that Golden State wasn’t playing with its full deck of cards. In particular, Stephen Curry was not the same unanimous MVP who wowed the NBA world in the regular season.
Many people felt he simply wasn’t healthy after spraining his right MCL in the first round of the playoffs. Though he returned in the second round and played well sporadically, he notably lost his trademark shiftiness with the ball. Curry struggled with side-to-side movement after the injury, particularly on the perimeter, where he couldn’t lose and punish opponents.
This seemed most evident on the biggest possession of the Finals. After Kyrie Irving hit what proved to be the winning 3-pointer, Curry came down the other way and got Kevin Love on a mismatch. Love, a slow-footed big man, normally wouldn’t have a chance at staying with Curry. And though Love did an excellent job trying to stay attached to Steph on the perimeter, the Stephen Curry from the regular season most likely could have shaken Love quickly.
Instead, Curry couldn’t find the airspace then forced a bad 3-pointer and missed.
Again, Love should be commended for playing excellent defense, perhaps the defense of his life. But Curry simply couldn’t get the separation he needed. The miss was essentially the dagger for the Warriors.
After the game, Curry continued to wave off the notion that the injury bothered him. Curry said all that mattered was that he was healthy enough to be on the floor. He did acknowledge, however, that on that play he should have taken it to the basket instead of hunting for a 3-pointer.
Players on both teams are quick to point out that nobody is completely healthy come June. The Cavs won the championship with an incredible comeback, but it’s also fair to question whether they got Curry’s best shot in the series.