Stephen Curry’s theme for this postseason, clearly, is bedtime.
Against Denver, after which Memphis, he adopted his dagger buckets by laying his head on the pillow of his arms, his manner of claiming goodnight. Perhaps it’s the daddy of three in him, even the uncle of two, who on this season of his life finds achievement in stories and prayers before sweet dreams. Or perhaps he’s closing an endorsement cope with ZzzQuil.
Whatever the rationale, it was Dallas’ flip to be tucked in Friday. But that is the Western Conference finals. The stakes introduced a brand new ritual. He side-stepped Luka Dončić and launched an open 3 from the left wing. While the ball was nonetheless within the air, Curry verbally punctuated the second with two phrases.
To the Mavericks in Game 2. The Warriors had already erased a 19-point lead. Curry’s 3-pointer, placing Golden State up 10 with 1:04 left within the sport, turned the lights out on Dallas because the Warriors rallied from behind for a 126-117 win. Then he pressed the hand-pillow in opposition to his cheek.
“Just having fun,” Curry stated. “You talk about having kids, you know how bedtime routines are important. It’s the final signal for a job well done that day.”
“Night, night.” — @StephenCurry30
— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) May 21, 2022
As anticipated, Dončić introduced his finest for Game 2. After getting locked up by Andrew Wiggins and the Warriors collage of schemes in Game 1, managing simply 20 factors on 18 photographs with seven turnovers, the Mavericks’ star was decided to reply. That he did Friday with 18 within the first quarter. He completed with 42 factors on 23 photographs. He had eight assists and simply two turnovers. His 3 was falling (5-for-10), and he obtained to the free-throw line (13-for-15).
What’s extra, his aggression and early dominance produced a ton of open photographs for his teammates. They capitalized, making 15 of 27 within the first half because the Mavericks went up by as many as 19.
Coach Steve Kerr promised his group on the half if it performed with poise the remainder of the best way, it could get again within the sport. Not solely may Dallas not defend the Warriors’ offense, but in addition Kerr was banking on the Mavericks not duplicating their sizzling taking pictures within the second half.
The Warriors discovered their poise and methodically broke down the Mavericks. The 14-point deficit at halftime was all the way down to 85-83 getting into the fourth. Curry missed all 5 of his photographs and had simply two factors within the third. He sat for the primary 5:36 of the fourth quarter. The Warriors led 102-95 when he returned to the ground.
Golden State merely wanted him to shut. Dončić was nonetheless cooking. He scored Dallas’ subsequent 11 factors after Curry checked in, hitting 3s on back-to-back possessions — the latter chopping the Warriors’ result in six.
Golden State led 114-108 with 2:48 left when Curry determined it was bedtime.
To the idea of taking Curry out of the motion with double-teams.
The Warriors have been heading to a well-known dance with Dallas: a decent sport, buying and selling large possessions with one of many sport’s nice younger stars in crunch time. In a March 3 sport, they misplaced as Dončić picked them aside in isolation, getting the switches he wished and punishing them. And Curry was helpless to cease it as Dallas double-teamed him to get the ball out of his arms. He performed 12 minutes with out making an attempt a shot.
Not Friday. He wasn’t going to accept such an final result.
First he drove for a reverse layup. Then, after two free throws from Dončić, Curry drove in for one more layup, getting fouled for a three-point play. The Warriors led 119-110 with 2:07 left.
Jalen Brunson answered with a layup and a foul however missed the free throw. Curry adopted with a turnover, dribbling right into a nook lure. But Dončić missed an opportunity to capitalize, his 30-foot pull-up lacking the mark. This time, Jordan Poole introduced the ball up, getting the ball to Klay Thompson. In a reversal of conventional roles, it was Thompson driving-and-kicking to Curry.
The sport was over the second Dončić closed out laborious. Curry took one dribble as he stepped to his left, nearer to the Mavericks’ bench. He was unfazed by Dončić grabbing his arm as he flew by.
It was time to place a cap on the night. The focus was there. The rhythm. The second. Curry knew what time it was. Time to finish the back-and-forth that will hold Dallas alive for some late-game magic. Time to tug out the large dagger after beforehand driving round and previous the Dallas protection for 3 layups, persevering with the dismantling Poole started along with his penetration. Time to take this sequence on the street.
“I thought Steph kind of smelled blood in the water those last five minutes,” Kerr stated, “and he got to his spots. We had good spacing, and he got in in the middle of (the) paint, and he finished. … So Steph did what Steph does, something like that.”
To all of the narratives that appear to overlook his postseason observe report. Curry has heard lots of them for years — about him now not being elite, about him being in decline, in regards to the below-his-standards taking pictures percentages this season being proof he’s now not him. Curry is scarcely talked about nowadays when the dialog covers the best-remaining gamers within the postseason. Some nonetheless don’t take into account him a kind of playoff performers. Two years away from the stage, out of the radius of this postseason highlight, is sufficient time for folks to overlook. Two MVPs, three rings, 5 NBA Finals, they don’t fairly stand as much as the rhetoric of recency bias. Even as coach after coach dedicates his group’s arsenal to stopping Curry, the narratives persist.
But Curry’s been placing them to mattress in these playoffs. Game 2 was the fifth time this postseason he’s scored double-digits in the fourth quarter. All of them shut video games. All of them at occasions his group wanted him to ship.
His 104 factors in fourth quarters are essentially the most of anybody within the 2022 playoffs. They’ve are available in 79 complete minutes. Only two gamers within the prime 20 in fourth-quarter scoring have performed fewer than 80 minutes: Curry and Memphis’ Dillon Brooks, who ranks twentieth with 43 factors within the fourth. (Side be aware: Poole and Dončić each have performed 93 fourth-quarter minutes. Dončić has scored 71 factors, Poole 69.)
Curry toyed with Denver down the stretch of a five-game sequence. Staved off Memphis in a six-game battle. Now, within the first shut sport of those West finals, he answered Dončić and the Mavericks’ finest punch.
The Warriors are midway to a sixth journey to the finals, and he nonetheless hasn’t put collectively one in all his monster video games. He was environment friendly in Game 2 — 11-for-21 from the sector, 6-for-10 from 3 — and nonetheless rebounded the ball nicely (he now has 20 in two video games). He was nice defensively in Game 1 and held up solidly in Game 2 as Dallas put him in a gazillion pick-and-rolls. His 32 factors on Friday marked the sixth sport in these playoffs he’s topped 30. The Warriors are 5-1 in these video games.
He’s tried for the large video games, unable to seek out that sizzling streak in opposition to the pressuring defenses, however the Warriors haven’t been damage by his lack of 1. Because once they’ve wanted him down the stretch, he’s come by.
Headed to Dallas, which has already come again from down 2-0 in a sequence, the Warriors put their streak of 25 straight sequence profitable a street sport on the road. If Curry does provide you with a kind of classic video games, and even once more matches Dončić down the stretch, you recognize what which means?
To this sequence.
(Top picture: Harry How / Getty Images)