OAKLAND – Stephen Curry was displeased watching from the bench with 13.5 seconds remaining as Cavaliers star Kyrie Irving drained the shot that sent the Warriors to a 109-108 loss on Christmas Day in Cleveland.
But Warriors coach Steve Kerr offered his reason for replacing Curry with veteran guard Shaun Livingston as the Cavs took their final possession.
"That's just strategy," Kerr said Tuesday after practice. "We wanted more length. Shaun gives us a lot of length, the ability to go up and get a rebound on a missed shot. If we need to switch something, we can switch to a like-sized player.
At 6-foot-7, Livingston is four inches taller than Curry. Also on the floor for the Warriors during Cleveland's final possession were Kevin Durant (6'9"), Draymond Green (6'7") Andre Iguodala (6'6") and Klay Thompson (6'7"). All five players have wingspans that approach or exceed 7 feet.
Thompson was assigned to the 6-foot-3 Irving, while Livingston defended veteran guard Iman Shumpert (6'5"). After taking the inbounds pass, Irving dribbled toward the rim before stopping and spinning into a 13-foot fadeaway over tight defense by Thompson with 3.4 seconds remaining.
This game-winner came roughly six months after Game 7 of the NBA Finals, in which Irving made the game-winner over Curry's defense.
There have been other instances in which Curry was pulled for another defender, only to return when the Warriors took possession. Though former coach Mark Jackson generally assigned Curry away from top-tier point guards, opting for Thompson, Kerr usually has allowed Curry to defend his opposite number.
Kerr said he understands and appreciates Curry's desire to be on the floor, but is convinced there will be no need for a coach-player discussion.
"He's a big boy," Kerr said. "He's a two-time MVP. He's an unbelievably mature, thoughtful person. He was, I'm sure, upset at the way the game went for him – just like I was upset after the game with my comments, talking about our turnovers. We were all upset.
"In the end, we're all together. Win or lose, we keep pushing forward."