There are two indelible images from the 2016 NBA Finals. First and foremost is LeBron James’ epic chasedown block against Andre Iguodala, which helped clinch the Cleveland Cavaliers’ championship over the Golden State Warriors.
Slightly less celebrated but no less impressive was Kevin Love’s lockdown defense on two-time MVP Stephen Curry in the waning moments of Game 7. A much-maligned defender stuck with one of the best offensive players in the game, step for step, and prevented him from getting a clean look.
Depending on your perspective on these Warriors, it was either a huge mistake by Curry — or an indication of just how injured he was during the playoffs. The Golden State point guard suffered a sprained knee in the first round against the Houston Rockets that cost him nearly two weeks, an injury that was compounded by ankle and elbow injuries once he returned.
After that initial injury, Curry was limited. He had big games (and screamed, “I’m back!” at the crowd with the Warriors on the road in Portland), but he couldn’t put together consecutive MVP-level efforts.
On Tuesday, Golden State coach Steve Kerr admitted what we all knew. Yes, Curry was injured for most of the playoffs. Yes, that affected the Warriors’ game plan. But, no, that’s not an excuse for failing.
“We made a few adjustments in terms of play-calling and actions that we tried to run. But there’s only so much of that you can do,” he told csnbayarea.com.
“It’s still about flow and rhythm and pace. We tried a few different things – and let’s not forget, he was phenomenal in a few games.”
As Kerr points out, Golden State was just minutes away from winning a second consecutive title despite Curry’s struggles — and had they succeeded, no one would care about his injuries:
“Steph didn’t play his best against Cleveland for some of the series, but he had huge games in other parts of the playoffs, which got us to that point. That’s all a part of it. And if we had won the last game, nobody would’ve cared about Steph or his struggles.”
Although to be fair, a number of NBA fans didn’t care about those struggles while the games were still being played. It seemed as if people were making excuses for Curry when he played poorly while celebrating him as the best player in the game when he played well.
According to Kerr, however, that wasn’t the way the Warriors looked at things.
Kerr on Curry/Duncan: "I think Steph is the short version of Tim…so pure in his intention. He just wants to win." pic.twitter.com/qW42ieH51M
— GoldenStateWarriors (@warriors) January 26, 2016
“We didn’t hide anything,” Kerr said. “If there had been a diagnosis, we would have told you. We don’t hide stuff like that. He was banged up. But that’s not an excuse. It’s not an injury; it’s just that the reality of the season and it kind of hit him at the wrong time, given that everything started in the playoffs and carried through.
“We wouldn’t have sat him out. We wouldn’t have said anything different than what we said. It’s just the reality of sports. It always takes a little bit of luck to win a title. We always say that, and it’s the truth. You’ve got to get a break here and there.”
And you have to give credit to the Cavs. They made the most of Curry’s limitations, hounding him as soon as he crossed halfcourt and forcing the rest of the Warriors to beat them. Fortune favors the prepared, after all.
A year ago, Golden State was up in arms over people saying its 2014-15 championship was a product of luck. Now, the shoe is on the other foot — but coach Kerr doesn’t seem to mind. That’s just the way this crazy basketball world works.