PORTLAND, Ore. — There is no award for most valuable player of the conference finals. If there were, there’s a good chance Draymond Green would’ve won it for his play with the Golden State Warriors in their sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers.
His defense was just sensational. His playmaking was at the highest levels he has maybe ever shown, nearly averaging a triple-double at 16.5 points, 11.8 rebounds and 8.8 assists. He ran the floor like a point guard. And he hit the game-winning shot in overtime of Game 4, a clutch 3-pointer in the 119-117 win that clinched the Western Conference finals on Monday night.
Players and coaches on both sides, plus the large media contingent, have praised Green for days. After calling him a “wrecking ball” following an awesome Game 3 on Saturday, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr was asked to come up with an even better metaphor for Green the next day. He apologized that he couldn’t.
But in all fairness, Green wasn’t the best player in the series.
This sweep was a genuine masterpiece for Stephen Curry. Perhaps the stakes weren’t high enough nor the opponent severe enough to call it the best playoff series of his career for it to qualify — actually, forget that, it was the best series of his career.
Curry has never dominated a series like he did over these past four games, doing so in a time of need, with Kevin Durant out — and Andre Iguodala hobbled, then sidelined himself. Actually, call it the best 4.5 games of Curry’s playoff career, when you include his 33-point second half to close out the Houston Rockets in Game 6 of the previous round.
Curry has said many times during the past week that this was a special time because he was playing against his brother, Seth, in this series. But it’s going to be a special memory because of just how dominating he was.
With his 37 points on Monday, Stephen Curry finished the series averaging a career-high 36.5 points. It was the most points any player has averaged in a four-game sweep in league history. The 26 3-pointers he made were another NBA record for the first four games of a series, some of them just preposterous, such as the long-range missile he made at the end of the first half on Monday that cracked the Blazers’ momentum.
Steph Curry shares some of the best moments that he shared with Seth during the Western Conference finals.
The stats could go on and on, but let’s pause for a moment. No one freaked out about Curry’s greatness these past four games. There was intense praise for Green, universal acclaim for the Warriors’ role players and odes to Golden State’s championship mettle. All totally legitimate.
But Curry’s triple-double in Game 4 — he also posted 13 rebounds and 11 assists — threatened to be relegated to a footnote. So was the fact that he played the entire second half and overtime. That he did all of this with a pesky finger injury — he dislocated his middle finger in Game 2 against Houston — was brushed off.
That’s because Curry has achieved one of the greatest levels a player can: He has normalized greatness.
Yep, just another good game for Curry. Oh, by the way: Had he not lost his mind for a second and needlessly traveled before hitting at 3-pointer at the end of the fourth quarter, he would’ve ho-hummed his way to an ultra-rare 40-point triple-double in a road closeout game in the conference finals.
“We still don’t take anything for granted,” Curry said. “We understand how hard it is to end at this level. We don’t want to end as long as we can control it.”
It’s good advice. Curry’s play since Durant’s injury — Curry had 12 points in the fourth quarter of Game 5 against the Rockets after Durant came up lame to finish off that crucial win — should not be taken for granted.
“I just can’t say enough about the competitive desire about the group of players that we have here and the culture that they have built together,” Kerr said. “Being without Kevin these last five games has put us in a really tough spot, and our guys stepped up in a big way.”
A bunch of guys have for sure. But one in particular deserves special notice.