Stephen Curry, unanimous MVP in the regular season, never looked so helpless as he did in the decisive minutes of Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
He made his first shot of the fourth quarter, a step-back 3-pointer with 6:57 left, pulling the Warriors into an 83-83 tie with the Cavaliers. He never made another.
Curry missed all five of his shots in the final 5:38, committed a ghastly turnover on a blind behind-the-back pass that sailed out of bounds and was victimized by Cleveland point guard Kyrie Irving on the game-winning shot with 53 seconds remaining.
“I tried to reach at the ball, stay in front of him, make it a tough shot,” Curry said. “It was a tough step-back that he just stepped up and made. Doesn’t matter how good or bad of defense I played. He made the shot.
“So credit to him. He stepped up and took advantage of the moment. It was not a good feeling turning around and seeing it go in.”
Irving’s game-winner, a 3-pointer from 25 feet, didn’t exactly finish the Warriors. It merely put them in position where they had to return fire. They could not. They missed their last nine shots, three coming after Irving’s bomb silenced Oracle Arena.
Curry never quite found himself and didn’t come close in the fourth quarter, when he usually puts on his cape and puts away opponents.
“A lot of it was myself kind of leading the charge and settling too much,” Curry said. “At home in the fourth quarter, I felt like we could go for that dagger punch and didn’t really put any pressure on the defense getting to the paint and trying to force the issue that way. Really just kind of settled too much.
“That’s something that is tough to kind of swallow with the opportunity we had in front of us.”
Truth told, Irving won the matchup of elite point guards. Again.
“I didn’t play efficiently,” Curry conceded. “I had some good moments, but I didn’t do enough to help my team win, especially down the stretch.
“ . . . It will haunt me for a while, because it means a lot to me to try to lead my team and do what I need to do on the court and big stages. Done it before. Didn’t do it tonight.”
Irving over the course of the series shot better than Curry and defended at least as well and never fouled out. Irving really sparkled in Game 5, scoring 41 points on 17-of-24 shooting – a showcase game in an Oracle Arena setting designed for MVP Curry to shine.
It never got better for Curry or the Warriors, who became the first team in NBA history to lose The Finals after taking a 3-1 lead.
“It stung. It sucked to watch them celebrate,” Curry said. “And we wish that would have been us.”