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.
SI's Best Photos From Game 3 of the NBA Finals
SI's Best Photos from Game 3: Matthew Dellavedova rose to the occasion again for the Cavaliers in Game 3, scoring 20 points and making several hustle plays to help Cleveland win 96-91 to grab a two games to one lead in the NBA Finals.
LeBron James converted this alley-oop pass from Matthew Dellavedova (far right) for a pivotal basket in the fourth quarter.
Despite Steph Curry's attempt to hold Matthew Dellavedova back, the Cavs guard kept driving toward the basket on this play and hit a circus shot off the glass and drew a foul.
Steph Curry found his shooting touch in the fourth quarter, scoring 17 points as the Warriors, who trailed by 20 in the third quarter, refused to go away. (Text credit: AP)
Matthew Dellavedova dove to the floor for a loose ball ahead of the Warriors.
LeBron James finished with 40 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists in 46 minutes.
Tristan Thompson scored 10 points and had 13 rebounds for Golden State.
LeBron James has scored 123 points in the series, the most ever scored by a player through the first three games of the Finals.
LeBron James threw down a monster dunk in the first half.
LeBron James's 40-point effort followed 44-point and 39-point efforts in Games 1 and 2, respectively.
Timofey Mozgov blocks a shot by Festus Ezeli.
The Warriors' Klay Thompson attempts to grab a loose ball.
LeBron James attempted 34 shots in his 46 minutes on the floor.
Tristan Thompson makes an emphatic finish on an easy basket.
Steph Curry scored only three points in the first quarter on 1-of-6 shooting and had only 10 at halftime.
Cleveland held the NBA's highest scoring team to a measley 37 points in the first half.