OAKLAND — Curtis Jones, in tan khakis and a navy jacket, delivered the pass to Stephen Curry, a straight underhand toss to Curry’s shooting pocket from about 10 feet away. Curry, unguarded and standing in the tunnel that leads to the Warriors locker room here at Oracle Arena, flicked a push shot upwards from his abdomen, the ball seemingly rising to the rafters before dropping straight down, an impossible parabola of a shot, into the basket.
This is Curry’s most notable pregame custom: the tunnel shot, which began thanks to a bet with former teammate Monta Ellis. Jones caught wind of what Curry was doing and began feeding him passes to set up the shot. It’s gotten more ritualized — now, Jones keeps a ball under the bench to be used only for the tunnel shots, and he gives the ball a rubdown to imbue it with some “mojo,” as he says.
“I just aim for his chest,” Jones said.
On this night, about an hour before the Warriors tipped off for Game 2 of the NBA Finals, Curry made his second tunnel attempt (he gives himself five tries), gave Jones a quick hug and slipped back into the locker room.
That was a harbinger of things to come. This was a pretty good night to be Stephen Curry. He delivered a record-setting performance from beyond the arc, going 9-for-17, the most 3s in a single game in Finals history, to lead the Warriors to a comfortable — if not always dominating — 122-103 win over the Cavaliers. Golden State now owns a 2-0 series lead and control of these Finals.
“He was tremendous,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “You know, nine 3s and seemed to hit the big shot every time we needed one. But, yeah, he was fantastic.”
Curry had a slow start from the perimeter, making just one of his first five attempts in the first quarter. He made three straight in the second quarter, but it was in the fourth quarter that his perimeter prowess truly brought the wrecking ball to the Cavs’ hopes of a comeback.
Curry was 5-for-5 on 3s in the fourth quarter, and each time he knocked one down, it inched the Warriors closer and closer to a blowout against the stubborn Cavaliers. His first 3 in the final quarter made a seven-point game a 10-point game. His second — 32 seconds later — put the Warriors up 13. His third pushed the lead to 14, his fourth to 15. The final 3 of the night for Curry sealed the runaway win, giving the Warriors a 21-point lead.
It was the third of those five that was the most remarkable for Curry. With just under eight minutes to go and the Cavs still within striking distance, Curry dribbled the ball through his legs to deke Kevin Love, but lost control of the ball and found himself moving on his heels, away from the rim. When he recovered control of the ball, the shot clock was expiring and he heaved a 28-footer over Love’s arm. It went down.
OH NO HE DIDN’T!!!
📺 #NBAonABC pic.twitter.com/c8lGvKcrkk
— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) June 4, 2018
Teammate Klay Thompson was still baffled by the play after the game.
“There were about seven seconds on the clock, and he just kept going backwards,” Thompson said. “I don’t know why, but he just threw it up, and I don’t think it had any chance of going in, but that was kind of like a dagger shot, and it gave us all the momentum back. I think we went up 14 points, so that was my favorite.
“It hit nothing but net, and that was just a very good sight to see.”
Curry shrugged the play off as just another in his repertoire.
“That situation I was trying to get some space,” he said. “I thought I had a layup at first, and I fumbled the ball and tried to see where the defense was. And Kevin Love was right on me. I actually lost the dribble for a hot second, and the only way to get a shot was to keep going back.
“I mean, I try all sorts of shots at some point or another, but at that point, it’s just feel and letting it go. And thankfully it went in.”
Curry found himself frequently guarded by Love, the Cavs hoping to use his length to create problems for Curry’s shot. It worked when Curry went inside — he was just 2-for-9 on 2-point shots — but Curry was able to flit and flutter into open spaces around Love enough to get clean looks for his quick-release deep jumper.
There was, also, the interlude that Curry had at the close of the third quarter with Cavaliers street-clothed reserve center Kendrick Perkins, whose purpose in this series appears to be prodding officials and Warriors players. Perkins got tangled with Curry after a late attempt as the clock expired, and Curry took exception.
Curry is 190 pounds after a long soak in the tub. Perkins is listed at 270 pounds, but probably has packed on more beef since then. This was Rin Tin Tin yapping at Marmaduke.
“If it gets a little fiery, that’s fine,” Curry said before later shaking off the whole thing as, “Much ado about nothing.”
And heck, since he had already done just about everything on the night — the tunnel shot, the broken record, the 241 feet worth of made 3-pointers, the Perkins square-off — Curry went for some jokes in his postgame press conference.
When teammate Klay Thompson was talking about playing through his injured ankle in Game 2, Curry, who has had two right ankle surgeries and has been forced to sit at least 15 times in his career due to problems with both ankles, chimed in.
“You never know how much you use your ankle until you hurt it,” Thompson said.
“Should have asked me,” Curry said to laughter.
Yes, even the comedy went right. It was that kind of night here for Curry.
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