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Steph Curry leads Warriors to fourth ring, his crowning achievement

By Yaron Weitzman
FOX Sports NBA Writer

BOSTON — Cigar clenched between his enamel, MVP trophy raised towards the sky, title hat perched on high of his head, Steph Curry pranced off the TD Garden flooring, masterpiece full and an NBA champion for the fourth time.

“This one hits totally different, for certain,” he informed reporters a couple of minutes later from the postgame podium. A champagne-soaked T-shirt clung to his chest, and plastic goggles rested round his chin. “Just realizing what the final three years have meant, what it has been like from accidents to altering of the guard within the rosters … it’s particular.”

He tried explaining why. There was “the three years of luggage we carried popping out of that Game 6 in 2019,” the evening the Golden State Warriors, after dropping each Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant to severe accidents, fell to the Toronto Raptors within the Finals. He talked about the Warriors’ bold — and, to some, misguided — plan of “parallel timelines of creating younger guys and protecting our core collectively.” He reminded us how simply two years in the past “we actually had the worst document within the league.”

And but, right here the Warriors have been — after a 103-90 series-clinching Game 6 victory — and right here Curry was — after main the Warriors to that victory with 34 factors on simply 21 photographs, to go along with seven rebounds and 7 assists, the cherry on high of a masterful efficiency that earned him his first Finals MVP — again on high of the NBA.

“I can say it now,” he mentioned, “I do not know what number of groups may carry that so long as now we have with the expectations of evaluating us now to groups of previous and make it to the mountaintop once more.”

It was a wierd sequence, these Finals. Both groups struggled to rating. Defense reigned. The Boston Celtics have been the larger crew — and infrequently appeared like the higher one, apart from all these moments they spent fumbling the ball across the courtroom, tossing rainbows into the Warriors’ fingers and failing to field out. 

For all of the discuss Curry’s prowess, the Celtics did an admirable job of slowing the Warriors’ assault, even limiting them in half-court possessions to the equal of a bottom-five regular-season scoring charge, in accordance to Cleaning the Glass

On the one hand, the distinction got here on the opposite finish of the ground, the place the Warriors have been in a position to smother the Celtics’ creators, shut down their drive-and-kick blender, power an avalanche of turnovers after which flip these turnovers into factors. On the opposite hand, there was an easier factor separating these two groups. 

The Warriors had Steph Curry, and the Celtics didn’t. 

“He carried us,” Draymond Green mentioned. 

Curry’s ultimate Finals numbers — 31.2 factors per sport, six rebounds per sport, 5 assists per sport, 43.8% capturing from deep and 48.2% capturing total — are outstanding. They additionally, simply as remarkably, don’t do his play and impression justice.

When Curry performed, the Warriors thrived. When he sat, they flailed. His mere presence opens all types of seams for his teammates, whether or not he’s dancing with the ball 35 toes from the ring or scooting round a display 35 toes away from the ball. That’s why each level the Warriors rating when he’s on the courtroom may as effectively be credited to him.

You’d be hard-pressed to discover a dozen gamers in NBA historical past with the flexibility to impression the offensive finish of the ground greater than Curry. This was on full show all through these Finals to a degree that, regardless of Curry’s greatness, we’d by no means seen earlier than as a result of for the once-loaded Warriors, it had by no means earlier than been required. 

But these are usually not the Warriors of outdated. The expertise degree is okay, however the roster is much from stacked. Curry was the crew’s lone participant to common greater than 20 factors by means of the playoffs. These Warriors are one in every of possibly three NBA champs to not boast a second star in his prime.

“To me,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr mentioned after the win, “that is his crowning achievement in what’s already been an unbelievable profession.”

Curry didn’t want this championship. His legacy has lengthy been cemented. However, the victory and the securing of his first Finals MVP do make the conversations about his place in NBA historical past extra fascinating. 

His résumé now options 4 titles, which is greater than Larry Bird and as many as LeBron or Shaq. But it’s if you have a look at the 4 collectively and the position Curry performed on every of these groups that you simply get the total glimpse of his greatness. 

There was the 2014-15 squad, on which a brand new offensive system instituted by then-new head coach Steve Kerr unleashed Curry, remodeling him right into a mega-star on the coronary heart of a deep, egalitarian, never-ceasing Warriors assault. Think of that as Curry 2.0, a participant launched from former head coach Mark Jackson’s ground-and-pound assault and eventually free to hearth away at will from all distances and at a charge by no means seen earlier than.

That model of Curry was the center and soul of the whole lot the Warriors did — and the catalyst of their vaunted Death Lineup — however he wasn’t their solely weapon. He averaged “simply” 23.8 factors per sport through the 2014-15 season, whereas Thompson averaged 21.7 and really led the crew in photographs per sport. Never thoughts the presence of the nonetheless bouncy and rangy Andre Iguodala or the rising Green. 

Curry 3.0 was the participant who willingly ceded a few of his photographs and highlight to Durant and whose equanimity helped maintain the ship regular amidst some tough seas. You assume a crew that includes the personalities of Green and Durant may survive and win two rings if it didn’t have a pacesetter as regular, serene and drama-averse as Curry?

“From a humanity standpoint, from a expertise standpoint, humility, confidence — this excellent mixture that simply makes all people need to win for him,” Kerr mentioned.

This 12 months — particularly throughout this Finals run — we have been launched to Curry 4.0. The Warriors didn’t fully scrap their Beautiful Game offensive assault, however they did lean on Curry to create greater than ever earlier than. More pick-and-rolls from the highest of the important thing. More dancing with the ball in opposition to Celtics bigs. They did this not as a result of they needed to — Kerr has made clear over time that he prefers not to name for pick-and-rolls each time down the ground however reasonably to see the ball pinged across the courtroom — however as a result of they’d to. 

This, the Warriors acknowledged, was their solely manner to win, and Curry, on the age of 34 and in his thirteenth NBA season, responded by principally morphing into a greater and extra environment friendly model of James Harden.

The undeniable fact that Curry may lead the Warriors to titles in every of those roles — the pinnacle of the damaging snake, the benevolent sidekick, the heliocentric star — is what makes him distinctive, within the literal sense of the phrase, and why these Warriors will now be remembered as one of many NBA’s few dynasties. 

Russell’s Celtics, Magic’s Lakers, Jordan’s Bulls, Kobe’s Lakers, Duncan’s Spurs — and now Curry’s Warriors. That’s the checklist.

“Without him,” Kerr mentioned, “none of this occurs.” 

About an hour later, media obligations lastly full and the ultimate bottle of champagne popped, Curry marched his manner by means of the bowels of TD Garden, MVP trophy nonetheless in his grip, championship hat nonetheless sitting on his head, goggles nonetheless round his eyes.

“I’m freezing,” he screamed, his champagne-drenched shirt having dried, a smile stretched throughout his face. He strode towards the exit. His teammates — and one more championship celebration — awaited. 

Yaron Weitzman is an NBA author for FOX Sports and the creator of Tanking to the Top: The Philadelphia 76ers and the Most Audacious Process in the History of Professional Sports. Follow him on Twitter @YaronWeitzman.

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