OAKLAND, Calif. — His Warriors teammates were shooting a scorching 69.8 percent through three quarters of Game 2, but when Stephen Curry opened the fourth quarter with two missed layup attempts on the same possession, he found himself in a 6-for-20 funk. At the other end, Cavaliers superstar LeBron James hit a three-pointer that cut the Warriors’ lead to seven points.
That’s when Curry’s clutch gene kicked in. He responded with back-to-back three-pointers to trigger a 21-10 run that included him hitting a desperation 29-foot heave just before the shot clock expired and a corner three that became a four-point play that helped build an 18-point lead. Curry hit one more three in the final period to finish with 33 points, including 9-for-17 three-point shooting, which marked a Finals record for three-point makes and attempts.
Describing how he stepped up after the James three essentially called him out, Curry said, “It was big. We were up 10 at the end of the third, and he hit a big shot off an offensive rebound. Any of those moments when you can come down and answer and keep the momentum on our side, it’s big.”
Thinking ahead to Game 3 Wednesday night at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Curry added, “We have to find ways to combat their mini-runs, especially on the road because we know how loud it is in that building. Just keep our composure no matter what the score and find ways to assert ourselves offensively.”
Curry’s composure and ability to respond under extreme pressure is what has made him a two-time NBA MVP. Some might say he had no business making that 29-foot three. He was backpedaling and practically threw it toward the ceiling like a shot put.
“Every shot that he takes that goes in, he has the business of making them,” James said. “That’s what he does. You shouldn’t be surprised or deflated. Take the ball out, move forward and try to execute on the other end.”
Of course, the Cavs failed to do that. Warriors teammate Klay Thompson didn’t think Curry’s prayer had any chance of being answered until it hit nothing but net. A “dagger shot,” he called it.
Cavs forward Kevin Love was the one applying the pressure that put Curry into his backpedal, trying to create space. “No matter where you are on the floor, especially past half court on their side, he always has a chance to make a miraculous shot,” Love said, citing the 38-foot buzzer-beater Curry hit just before halftime of Game 1 as an example. “I felt like it was well-contested. We played 23 ½ seconds of defense, and he turned around and hit a moon ball.
“He’s 11-for-26 from the floor, but 9 of 17 from the three-point line. Anytime he has it going from the three-point line, you have to make him shoot contested twos and do the best you can from the three-point line as well. It’s really tough to guard Steph anywhere on the floor because he’s just so good at finding himself open.”
Curry’s display left Cavs coach Tyronn Lue shaking his head. The Cavs even tried switching coverage to have a center contest Curry’s shot. “But once he releases it, he sees the basket,” Lue said. “He usually makes it. He’s going to make tough shots. That’s what he does.”
Curry took pride in knowing the previous record of eight three-pointers was set by the Celtics’ Ray Allen in Game 2 against the Lakers in the 2010 Finals. “That’s a pretty cool deal to accomplish,” Curry said. “But it’s all about trying to win and doing whatever you can to make that happen . . . Pretty special night, and hopefully some more special things happen and we get two more wins.”
Four of the top 10 all-time leaders in NBA playoff three-pointers made are taking their best shots in the 2018 Finals:
1. Ray Allen385
7. Kobe Bryant292