Steph Curry was in NBA Finals MVP form.
He opened Game 1 against the Boston Celtics on Thursday by hitting six 3s and scoring 21 points in the first quarter. He set a Finals record for most 3s in a single quarter en route to what was the highest-scoring single quarter in the Finals since 1993 when Michael Jordan dropped 22 against the Suns.
Curry finished with 34 points, but a dominant fourth quarter by the Celtics led to a 120-108 loss for the Warriors.
It's something of a microcosm of Steph's history with Finals MVP. There mostly have been two outcomes in Curry's five trips to the Finals: second in line for the award when the Warriors won the championship, played well enough to win the award when the Warriors lost the championship.
In 28 Finals games prior to Thursday, he averaged 26.5 points, 6.2 assists and 5.7 rebounds while shooting 38.5 percent from 3-point range.
Steph entered the 2022 Finals as one of just 19 players to have scored more than 700 career points in the NBA Finals (after Game 1, he now sits 13th on the list with 775). His 47-point performance in 2019 is the ninth-highest single-game scoring total in Finals history. His performance Thursday was the third time in his career he has made five-plus 3s in a quarter during the NBA Finals, while all other players in NBA history have combined to do so just twice, per ESPN Stats & Info. He has set records for the most 3s in a Finals game (9), Finals series (32), and Finals history (128 and counting).
Oh, and he has won three championships.
But still, no Finals MVP.
Curry, having just won the inaugural Western Conference Finals MVP, entered his sixth Finals as the favorite to win MVP. If able to capture it, he'll become the eighth player to have won a scoring title, a regular season MVP and Finals MVP during their career (Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Durant).
Some will argue Steph needs to add a Finals MVP to his trophy collection in order to solidify his legacy. Others will say that's preposterous given Steph's numbers and the Warriors' success.
Here’s a look at the numbers for Steph and the MVP of each NBA Finals that he has played in…
2015 NBA Finals – Warriors beat Cavs, 4-2
Steph: 26.0 points, 6.3 assists, 5.2 rebounds, 44.3 FG%, 38.5 3PT%
Andre Iguodala (MVP): 16.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 52.1 FG%, 40.0 3PT%
The numbers don't tell the full story in the case of Iguodala as MVP. With the Warriors trailing 2-1 in the series, Warriors special assistant Nick U'Ren suggested replacing center Andrew Bogut in the starting lineup with Iguodala, creating the now-famous small-ball "Death Lineup." Iguodala averaged 20.3 points over the final three games of the series. But more importantly, he pestered LeBron James, who averaged 41.0 points over the first three games of the series and 30.7 (on 29.7 field goal attempts per) in the final three. As for Steph, he is the only player to twice have scored 17-plus points in the fourth quarter of a Finals game, and both of those performances came in this series.
2016 NBA Finals – Cavs beat Warriors, 4-3
Steph: 22.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 40.3 FG%, 40.0 3PT%
LeBron James (MVP): 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, 8.9 assists, 49.4 FG%, 37.1 3PT%
Curry's 38 points in Game 4 gave a Warriors team that went 73-9 in the regular season a 3-1 series lead. Then in Game 5, with Draymond Green serving a one-game suspension after accumulating his fourth flagrant foul of the postseason, LeBron and Kyrie Irving then became the first teammates in NBA history to score 40-plus points in a single Finals game. In Game 6, LeBron dropped 41 while Steph fouled out and threw his mouthpiece into the stands. In Game 7, there was the famous LeBron block and Kyrie 3 that helped deny the Warriors the title of "greatest NBA team of all time" and possibly prevent Steph from winning Finals MVP (though Green was also in contention after averaging 16.5 points, 10.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists in six games).
2017 NBA Finals – Warriors beat Cavs, 4-1
Steph: 26.8 points, 9.4 assists, 8.0 rebounds, 44.0 FG%, 38.8 3PT%
Kevin Durant (MVP): 35.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 55.6 FG%, 47.4 3PT%
A 73-9 Warriors team that narrowly missed capturing a second straight championship added Kevin Durant in the offseason. Durant had 39 points in the clincher and was the clear-cut choice for Finals MVP after capturing his first NBA championship, winning the award unanimously. Steph had 34 points, 10 assists and six rebounds in Game 5 to win his second title.
2018 NBA Finals – Warriors beat Cavs, 4-0
Steph: 27.5 points, 6.8 assists, 6.0 rebounds, 40.2 FG%, 41.5 3PT%
Kevin Durant (MVP): 28.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, 7.5 assists, 52.6 FG%, 40.9 3PT%
Curry led the Warriors in scoring three times during the four-game sweep, including a 37-point performance in Game 4. But Durant edged Curry in scoring, rebounding and assists in the series, posting a Game 4 triple-double of 20 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.
Green recently came to Curry's defense in regards to his lack of a Finals MVP, saying Steph saw many more double-teams than Durant during the Warriors' 2017 and 2018 championship seasons, which led to a Twitter exchange with Durant.
“Kevin Durant was absolutely incredible in those Finals runs,” Green said on “The Colin Cowherd Podcast.” “... Steph Curry got double-teamed probably seven times the amount that KD did in a given series. So when you watch those games and you say, ‘Ah, [Curry’s] numbers could be a little down,’ he’s facing a double team.”
2019 NBA Finals - Raptors beat Warriors, 4-2
Steph: 30.5 points, 6.0 assists, 5.2 rebounds, 41.4 FG%, 34.3 3PT%
Kawhi Leonard (MVP): 28.5 points, 9.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 43.4 FG%, 35.7 3PT%
Steph and the Warriors nearly forced Game 7 despite having Durant for only 12 minutes of the series. Durant returned after missing nine games with a calf injury but suffered a ruptured Achilles just 12 minutes into his return in Game 5. Klay Thompson then suffered a torn ACL in the third quarter of Game 6 after scoring 30 points. With the Warriors trailing by one with eight seconds remaining, Curry missed a potential go-ahead 3.