Kyrie Irving is playing more like the NBA MVP than Steph Curry

BY Andrew Lynch • June 16, 2016

Chances are that you know Stephen Curry is playing pretty awful basketball for the second consecutive NBA Finals. Just how bad he's been in 2016, though, is mind-boggling.

As pointed out by ESPN.com, Curry's Cavaliers counterpart, Kyrie Irving, has been completely outworking the Golden State Warriors' unanimous MVP. Irving has more points (141 to 111), just as many assists (23), more steals (12 to four), fewer turnovers (13 to 22), fewer fouls committed (13 to 15), and a higher field goal percentage (48.7 percent to 42.4 percent) than Curry.

Curry does hold an advantage in rebounds (27 to 17), effective field goal percentage (55.3 percent to 53.5 percent) and block (four to two), but only one of those categories really matters when we're talking about point guards.

So that raises an obvious question: Why?

Some of it is on Curry, of course. He's not playing all that well (possibly because of a lingering injury), and many of his open 3-point shots simply aren't falling. When he's not knocking down shots, there's not a whole lot else he does to impact the box score.

But just looking at the box score is a pretty superficial approach to analyzing Curry's Finals so far. Even more than in any regular season game or playoff series to this point, Curry is seeing hard double-teams and aggressive traps all the way out to halfcourt. The Cavs are committed to letting literally any other Warriors player beat them.

In fact, it's kind of indicative of how Michael Jordan might fare in today's game. We're not saying a team could shut down Jordan the same way Cleveland is doing to Curry; Jordan was a more complete player, and he would have figured out a way to score from the midrange or at the basket. Still, he wouldn't have dominated the box score in the same way, because teams would double team him before he even caught the ball and force him away from his preferred spots -- something that was practically impossible before the NBA loosened the rules on illegal defense.

As for the lack of hand-checking? Sure, Jordan would have enjoyed the freedom of movement on the perimeter, but that's balanced by the fact that opponents can pack the paint and dare a player to shoot from outside. It's what we're seeing with Curry, and a brief cold stretch has sapped him of his MVP superpowers. Imagine what might have happened to a worse 3-point shooter like Jordan.

Irving is playing fantastic basketball, and we don't want to take anything away from him. But the Warriors just aren't as focused on him as the Cavaliers are on Curry, because, you know, the Cavs have that LeBron James guy. The Cleveland point guard is more similar to Klay Thompson -- his team's second fiddle who's having a heck of a series as the opponent keys in on the more important player.

Regardless, there are no excuses for Curry headed into Game 6. If he can't regain his MVP form, as he did in Game 4, then the Warriors could be headed for the wrong side of NBA history.



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