Stephen Curry takes Warriors to brink of NBA Finals

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DALLAS — Stephen Curry’s past major playoff opponents have been eliminated one by one.

Kawhi Leonard missed the entire season with a knee injury. LeBron James and Russell Westbrook missed the playoffs. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving can’t win a playoff win. Chris Paul and James Harden both faltered in the second round.

Yet Curry is still going — a ball that keeps moving, running, shooting and celebrating like the good old days. Not only has the Golden State Warriors star outlived his peers, he’s also dancing on the next generation.just two months later He hurt his foot Missing him for the final 12 games of the regular season, Curry has returned to full speed and led the Warriors to the brink of the NBA Finals for the sixth time in the past eight years.

“Stephen is the best athlete in this game,” Dallas Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said after meeting Curry for the first time in the Western Conference finals. “He never stops moving.”

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In Game 3 of Sunday’s 109-100 win over the Dallas Mavericks, Curry hit a 3-pointer and turned while the ball was still arcing toward the rim, something he already knew was going in silent signal. He later isolated from Luka Doncic and crept past Dallas’ 23-year-old headliner in a series of crossovers to build a nifty finger roll. Curry’s Warriors roughed up Doncic’s Mavericks to lead 3-0 and they will have a chance to complete the sweep in Game 4 on Tuesday.

Even at 34, Curry’s highlights are still jaw-dropping and commonplace. win the second game, he said “good night, good night” while hitting the dagger three, then resting his head on both hands like a pillow. It’s at least the third time he’s gotten into that particular move in those playoffs, having previously put the Denver Nuggets and Memphis Grizzlies to bed.

Curry’s consistency and focus is astounding. Consider that his 2022 postseason averages (27.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5.9 assists) are nearly identical to his 2015 postseason numbers (28.3 points, 5.1 rebounds and 6.4 assists). At the time, he was a 27-year-old man fighting for his first ring. Now, he’s looking for his fourth title but still doesn’t allow himself to skip steps or steal the ball on defense.

“I’m not going to fast-forward,” Curry said after scoring 31 points, five rebounds and 11 assists in Game 3. “We’re playing well right now. We could play better, but we’re looking for ways to win games. That’s how you piece this thing together. Nothing but the challenge that’s in front of us. Now The challenge is to end the series with a very good team and regain the chance to win the Finals.”

History will remember Curry changing the game with his unparalleled shooting ability, but loyalty and confidence are equally important to his legacy. James, Durant, Paul, Harden, Irving, Westbrook and Leonard have all changed teams many times. In 12 years, Curry never seriously hinted at leaving Golden State, not even during the ugly lottery seasons of 2019-20 and 2020-21.

While other superstars have parted ways with their running mates in search of a bigger market or bigger role, Curry has been changing his game to empower those around him, rather than feeling threatened or taking a territorial response. His three-year partnership with Durant is the clearest example of his willingness to share touches and push the envelope, but Curry has also been instrumental in coaxing Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole to play their best this season.

Wiggins has left his disappointing Minnesota Timberwolves past to transform into a surprise and two-way force for the Warriors in these playoffs. In Game 3, Wiggins scored 27 points, took the lead defensively on Doncic, and grabbed six offensive rebounds using the Dallas Mavericks’ frontcourt advantage.Since Wiggins arrived here with a shaky reputation in 2020, Curry has made it clear he wants to inject positivity into the forward and celebrate his successes, such as He made his first All-Star selection in February And his third game poster dunk in Doncic.

“When the trade happened, his thinking was what he could do to impact our game,” Curry said. “Defensively, his athleticism. He’s a 20-point scorer, so he knows how to get the ball to the rim, but he’s going to be asked to do it differently and be balanced with everyone else. Since he We’ve been promoting this since joining the team more than two years ago. It’s been amazing to see it happen in bright lights. He’s stepping up and it’s just because of his approach, his attitude and that he’s just a game player.”

Curry took Poole one step further, and the 22-year-old shooting guard enjoyed a breakout campaign. Poole averaged 23.4 points per game after the All-Star break and played a bigger role during Curry’s injury, and Golden State was in a somewhat tricky position to start the playoffs.

On the one hand, the Warriors don’t want to derail Poole’s positive momentum. On the other hand, they know that if they’re going to compete for a championship, they’ll need Curry’s physicality and play at his peak. To fix that, Curry came off the bench for the first four games against Denver, gradually increasing his minutes before returning to the starting lineup.

Warriors don’t stop moving or sharing, and enemies can’t keep up

That selflessness set an example for Poole, who played well against the Nuggets and then returned to the second unit against the Grizzlies. By the way, in the last minute of Game 3, it was Poole, not Curry, who blew the Mavericks with a nice 3-pointer.

“If Stephen Curry can come off the bench, anyone can come off the bench,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.

Curry’s longevity and selflessness may get a chance to make serious history in the coming weeks.If Warriors beat Mavericks, he’ll be inaugural champion Magic Johnson Western Conference Finals MVP AwardFrom there, a fourth ring would put him on par with James and give him a title before, during and after Durant’s tenure with the Warriors.

If all goes well, Curry could win Finals MVP for the first time — the last blank on his Hall of Fame resume — and spark a new round of questions about whether he’s ready to replace Johnson as the greatest point guard of all time debate. .

While Curry’s acting never gets old, he knows he’s getting old. The past two seasons have given him a taste of his basketball mortality and a closer look at what life could be like when his calendar no longer revolves around June. Obviously, he wasn’t ready for it all.

“It just wanted to take advantage of the opportunity, knowing they weren’t coming [forever],” Curry said. “You shouldn’t take that for granted. There are limits to how things can develop. “

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