NBA: Hot Curry spices Warriors bid to end title drought
OAKLAND, United States – With Stephen Curry taking NBA Most Valuable Player honors and rookie coach Steve Kerr setting the tone, the Golden State Warriors are on the verge of their first title since 1975.
The Warriors led the league with a 67-15 record, setting a team record for wins, and used deadly 3-point shooting, skilled passing and persistent defense to ignite a moribund team.
Golden State had not won more than one round in the playoffs since taking the title in 1975, and their 40-year gap between trips to the NBA Finals is a league record.
But none of that will matter if the Warriors can conquer the Cleveland Cavaliers, led by four-time NBA Most Valuable Player LeBron James, in the best-of-seven championship series that opens Thursday in Oakland, where Golden State is 46-3 this season, including a 7-1 home mark in the playoffs.
Home court advantage
“We’ve got home-court advantage that we need to capitalize on,” Curry said. “It’s going to be a battle and it’s going to be fun. This is what every player dreams about when you come into the league, playing for a championship. You’re four wins away from your goal, and we’re excited about it.”
Kerr, 49, was a shooting guard on three Chicago Bulls NBA championship teams from 1996-1998 then helped the San Antonio Spurs win their first NBA crown in 1999 and another in 2003.
The Warriors had reached the playoffs only once in 17 seasons before prior coach Mark Jackson arrived and when Kerr was hired a year ago, he built upon what Jackson had started.
“We feel like we are building something that will be special for the next decade,” Kerr said.
Curry has averaged 29.2 points, 4.9 rebounds and 6.4 assists in the playoffs, his ability to score in spurts and from 3-point range simply baffling defenders.
Curry, whose father Dell was an NBA star, made 286 3-pointers this season, 14 more than the former NBA record he set two seasons earlier. Golden State’s Klay Thompson was second in the NBA, 47 3-pointers behind.
The Warriors made 883 3-pointers, the third-most in NBA history. And Curry already has made an NBA one-playoff record 73 3-pointers.
So how do you stop him?
“Same way you slow me down,” Cleveland’s James said. “You can’t.”
Curry averaged 23.8 points during the season, when he raised his game from impressive to elite and lifted the performance of those around him, as Thompson averaged 21.7 points, forward Harrison Barnes averaged 10.1 and Draymond Green averaged 11.7 — all career highs.
In addition, the Warriors led the NBA with 27.4 assists a game.
“That’s the secret to this team, the unselfishness,” Barnes said.
That’s also the key to defending him, says Cleveland guard Kyrie Irving.
“It’s a total team effort,” Irving said. “I will be starting it off. Whatever happens during the game, we’ll see. But it’s a total team effort to limit his touches. He’s a tough player. He knocks down shots. It will take a total team effort.”
No Finals experience
Curry becomes the first NBA first-team All-Star to face the other four members of the select squad in the playoffs, having already dispatched Anthony Davis of New Orleans, Marc Gasol of Memphis and James Harden of Houston with James yet to come.
Golden State has no players with NBA Finals experience. Not since the 1991 Chicago Bulls has such a team won the title. James alone has played in five NBA Finals, including the last four in a row with Miami, winning two of those.
“He has been here plenty of times before,” Curry said. “We’ve got to bring our ‘A’ game if we’re going to beat a great team and a great player like that four times.
“We’re excited about the challenge. He had to win his first one at some point, and nobody on our team has experienced that, so we’re going to be fighting like crazy every night.”
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