With Reggie Miller analyzing the Western Conference final for TNT and Stephen Curry playing in it for the Warriors, it is impossible not to think about the similarities between the two most celebrated sharpshooters of their eras.
So, what does Miller think of the comparison?
“The fearlessness and the belief that you can make and take any shot,” he said Tuesday on a conference call with reporters. “I felt once I crossed half court, I was a live option and I felt that way all the way back to high school. He has that belief that anywhere on the court, he’s a threat.
“Teams adjust and play him that way. He does so many things I wish I could have done, especially the ball handling . . . Just being a threat as soon as you cross half court is probably the biggest similarity.”
Miller said the two-time MVP’s development has been based on a combination of experience and preparation.
“It’s going to take some failure to build up the strength to feel you can make those shots,” he said. “You will have moments where you get knocked down and don’t hit game-winners, but that builds strength. He puts so much time into his preparation . . . He’s seen that moment before and played it out [in his head].
“He’s put himself in those moments, and it’s beautiful to watch.”
Miller added, “Sometimes it gets lonely being in the gym by yourself, but that’s how you become good and great – by working when everyone else is sleeping . . . I think that’s what Steph does. He’s working on his craft when guys are doing other things.”
All that being said, the Warriors find themselves trailing the series, 1-0, going into Game 2 Wednesday night.
Miller’s thoughts on what went wrong for the Warriors in Game 1 against the Thunder:
“The Warriors played out of character. What they’re known for, the brilliant three-point shooting, shooting in general, the passing and ball movement and man movement without the ball, that separates them and San Antonio [from other teams]. We didn’t see a lot of that in the second half, especially in the third and early in the fourth quarters.
“They took too many quick shots . . . It’s so valuable when you’ve got four or five guys on the floor that can pass, move and cut without the ball and make plays. [Not doing that] played into the hands of the Thunder a little bit.”
Miller on the Warriors’ small lineup matching up with the bigger Thunder:
“I thought it was pretty much a wash. Small ball had its moments for Golden State, as did the big lineup for the Thunder. The big question mark is the so-called ‘Death Lineup’ - how would it match up with the ‘King Kong’ big lineup of the Thunder? Both teams, at stretches, had their moments.
“OKC rebounded and got extra possessions with their big front court. There were a few times the small lineup [of the Warriors] turned over that big lineup and got out in transition. [The Warriors did] not use Mo Speights enough. I look for him to be a little bit more effective and have more minutes in Game 2. For the most part, I thought both lineups played particularly well in their spots.”
Miller on Thunder coach Billy Donovan handling a high-pressure situation:
“His out-of-timeout plays and in-game strategy have been great, along the same lines of [the Warriors’] Steve Kerr last year. Kerr was the blueprint. He showed you don’t need five, 10, 15, 20 years of [NBA head coaching] experience to be successful. If you surround yourself with good coaches and players committed to winning and committed to one another and that are selfless and want to make those around them better, you can be successful.”
Miller on the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook:
“I’ve always loved Westbrook as a player because he’s a guy that has one mode – to continually be aggressive and come at you and be in attack mode. That works for him and the Thunder – having two guys in that mode in him and [Kevin] Durant.”
Miller on the Warriors’ Klay Thompson:
“Klay’s been fantastic . . . When [he] came in to the league, he was a catch-and-shoot type player, but his lane game and in getting to the rack, he’s become a fantastic part of that one-two punch in that backcourt.”