In Stephen Curry’s last two meetings with the Cleveland Cavaliers, he has scored 17 and 15 points respectively. The first one was the most important game of his life, the decisive Game 7 of the NBA Finals. The second one was, up until that point, the most important meaningless game of his life, the Christmas Day matchup.
In both games, Curry has struggled to get going. It’s important to give credit where credit is due and the Cavs deserve it. They’ve taken a physical approach that doesn’t allow the two-time MVP to get into a rhythm.
Curry’s biggest enemy hasn’t been Kyrie Irving or LeBron James or, even, Iman Shumpert. The biggest obstacle that has stood between the superstar point guard and success has been his own coach. Steve Kerr has not put Curry in positions to succeed.
Steph Curry is not J.J. Redick. He’s not Kyle Korver or past-his-prime Ray Allen. He’s not even Klay Thompson. Steph Curry is the most lethal offensive weapon to step onto a basketball court. He has skills we’ve never seen in the league before and yet Kerr continues to reduce him to a spot up shooting role.
The 2016 Coach of the Year misuses his best weapon. He keeps Curry off the ball, almost hiding him for stretches at a time. He doesn’t keep his best player involved and it has hurt him.
Curry is a player who needs the ball in his hands. He gets into the flow of things by dribbling around screens, not just running around them. It’s not about shot attempts with him, but more about feeling the ball and becoming a part of the game early on.
Kerr needs to put the ball back in his hands. Curry plays the game differently than Thompson or Kevin Durant. The team runs better and more efficiently when he gets the chance to play like a point guard, not a one-dimensional shooting guard.
The Christmas Day game was the most important meaningless game of Curry’s career up until that point. With that loss and that poor performance, tonight surpasses that contest. The Warriors have lost four games in a row to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The circumstances don’t matter. It doesn’t matter that Golden State owned the matchup before the Draymond Green-less Game 5 of the Finals. It doesn’t matter that the Christmas Day game ended in controversy and was just a one point game. It doesn’t matter that the Christmas Day game is just another number in the standings.
When two championship contenders get together, narratives run wild. But there’s an ounce of truth behind some of them. The Cavaliers are a more cohesive team than Golden State. Their recent success has also given them the edge psychologically and, sometimes, that means more than talent.
The Warriors can turn things around if Kerr gives Curry the ball. If he allows him to run the pick-and-roll that won him a championship. He can let Curry perform the magic that won him 73 games.