CLEVELAND—After it was over, which was long after it seemed over, Stephen Curry took his long, slow walk from the Golden State Warriors’ locker room to his postgame press conference. In some arenas, this is a short, lonely walk, but random people always mill about the tight hallways of Quicken Loans Arena after a game, and so assorted Cavs fans watched Curry respectfully, saying nothing. Then a few finally expressed mock sympathy—from behind a glass door.
If Curry keeps playing as poorly as he has for much of these Finals, the critics will get closer and louder. The Cavaliers are two wins away from shocking Golden State and ending Cleveland’s championship drought, and we can give 1,000 little reasons for this, but ultimately it comes down to one: LeBron James has played like a MVP, and Curry has not.
Curry hasn’t shot well, his ballhandling has been sloppy, and he often looks like somebody stole his lucky blanket. His shoulders slump. He chews his mouthpiece. He walks like every step hurts. He looks, in other words, a lot like James looked in the 2011 Finals against the Dallas Mavericks, when his basketball world was collapsing around him and he didn’t have the faintest idea of what to do about it.
Curry got hot at the end of Game 3, and for a while he looked like he might even steal the game. But the Warriors need him to play like that for more than one quarter. Whether he realizes it or not, his teammates feed off him; he fuels explosive bursts that last as long as a quarter and knock out the other team.