Stephen Curry’s final three-pointer in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals didn’t come at the buzzer, but it all but decided the outcome against the Oklahoma City Thunder and set off a celebration at Oracle Arena.
It also quieted those wondering if Curry was healthy after he missed six games in the first and second rounds of the playoffs because of injuries.
So as Curry turned to the crowd Monday night, yelling with joy, there were at least two reasons for Golden State Warriors fans to be ecstatic.
One, the defending champions were back in the NBA Finals. Two, Curry reminded everyone he no longer was bothered by his knee injury and when he’s on his game, he’s virtually unstoppable.
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This whole playoff run has kind of been a roller coaster ride for me specifically, but for our team. We never lost confidence, and every game just played with fearlessness and that confidence that we could get back to the Finals however we had to get it done.
Warriors guard Stephen Curry
“It was a cool moment, just knowing we came back and with like 20 seconds left we’re up 10, so a little breathing room,” Curry said of his elation. “Obviously there was still time on the clock, but that was a moment to kind of just take in the atmosphere.”
Curry’s postseason has been filled with joy and pain. The Warriors earned a Finals rematch with the Cleveland Cavaliers beginning Thursday, even though Curry sprained his right ankle and right MCL in the first round against the Houston Rockets.
So instead of the carrying the Warriors through the playoffs, the reigning two-time MVP had to rely on his teammates while he was on the mend.
Curry was in top form Monday as Golden State completed a comeback from a 3-1 deficit. He scored 36 points, 15 in the fourth quarter, and averaged 32.7 points in the three consecutive victories.
“This whole playoff run has kind of been a roller-coaster ride for me specifically, but for our team,” Curry said. “We never lost confidence, and every game just played with fearlessness and that confidence that we could get back to the Finals however we had to get it done.
“So it was just a roller coaster from the time I got hurt to coming back and dealing with injuries and whatnot, and now we’re four wins away from our goal, and that’s a pretty special accomplishment.”
Curry was the catalyst for the Warriors’ record 73-win regular season and became the league’s first unanimous MVP. But he was criticized during the postseason, especially when the Warriors fell behind in the series against the Thunder.
Cynics pointed out a unanimous MVP shouldn’t let his team fall behind 3-1 in a series or shoot a combined 13 for 37, as Curry did in two blowout losses at Oklahoma City.
32.7Stephen Curry’s scoring average in Golden State’s three consecutive victories over Oklahoma City to win the Western Conference finals
But Curry is tough, something coach Steve Kerr joked the guard doesn’t get enough credit for “because he looks like he’s 12.”
And when the pressure was greatest, Curry was at his best.
“Well, the one thing with Steph is he understands that with all these accolades, MVPs, commercials, with all that comes great responsibility to his team, to the organization, the fans,” Kerr said. “He gets that. He understands that if you play poorly, you’re going to get blamed if you’re the star.”
So Curry fittingly received plenty of praise after the Warriors became just the 10th NBA team to overcome a 3-1 playoff deficit.
“He’s had a rough playoff go because of the injuries,” Kerr said. “I think he finally felt right physically the last couple games. And this is who he is. Having a clutch performance in a Game 7. That’s Steph Curry.”