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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

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Eyes On NBA: The 7 Best Stephen Curry Playoff Performances

By @TrueGodImmortal 

Make no mistake about it, Stephen Curry is one of the best NBA players in the world. In this era, he's honestly the most popular currently (in terms of jersey sales he's led the league in for the last two years) and had the most impact by changing the way the game is played. Let's be honest: for those of you who hate the Warriors or Steph, which is fine, you cannot deny the impact that Steph has had on the game. Sure, the game has always had a bit of an emphasis on the three point shot, but over the last few seasons, the three has become one of the most important elements of the game, and the success of Steph as the greatest three point shooter ever, and a two time MVP is the reason for it. He's been criticized for his lack of perfomance in the Finals the last two years (I don't think his 2015 performance was bad at all), but in the playoffs, Steph has definitely showed up. Today, we continue our series of great players and their best performances with a look at Steph and his best playoff performances. Let's get into it.

*2013 NBA Western Conference First Round
(Game 2 vs Denver Nuggets)

-When Steph was coming into his own, he was able to help lead the Warriors to the playoffs. When the 2013 playoffs rolled around, Steph was in prime position. Going against the Denver Nuggets, the defense would swamp Steph to stop him to no avail. Registering 30 points on mostly contested shots, along with 13 assists, this was the first true glimpse of greatness we got to witness of Playoff Steph, but it would not be the last.

*2013 NBA Western Conference Semifinals 
(Game 1 vs San Antonio Spurs)

-This is one of the losing efforts from Steph, but when you're talking about the juggernaut Spurs team, the eventual NBA Champions, I think there's much to be said about the effort from Steph. Playing basically most of the entire game which went into Double OT, the 6th seeded Warriors were looking to take the first game in San Antonio. Early on, it looked like the Warriors had their number, and this was essentially a game where Steph just outplayed everyone, including the rival point guard, Tony Parker. Shooting almost 52% from the field and 43% from three, Steph would finish with 44 points and 11 assists. The Spurs would win 129-127, but make no mistake about it, Steph put the world on notice: I'm coming.

*2015 NBA Western Conference First Round 
(Game 3 vs New Orleans Pelicans)

-The Warriors tend to play badly in game 3 of the playoffs (and while they've had some issues so far this playoffs, they've managed to figure it out), and this game was no different. Through the first 3 quarters, the Pelicans seemed to have the Warriors right where they wanted them. Going into the 4th quarter with an 89-69 lead, it looked as if the Warriors were going to have to go at least 5 games to win this series. Unfortunately for the Pelicans, Steph caught fire and would end up hitting a number of shots to bring the game close. The Pelicans got too lackadaisical on the defensive end and with the game score being 108-105 with minimal seconds left, one of Steph's biggest playoff moments comes when he hits a game tying three (which he was fouled on) to send the game into OT. The biggest significance of this shot is that Steph took a contested three and missed the first, before Mo Speights pulled down an offensive rebound and gave Steph another shot at tying the game with an even more contested three, and Steph hit it. The fact that Steph made an impossible shot after missing an easier one is really a testament to his ability to be clutch. It's probably one of his most clutch moments in the playoffs, as the Warriors managed to control the OT and win 123-119 to take a 3-0 lead. They would go on to sweep the Pelicans to move onto the 2nd round and eventually win the NBA title.

*2015 NBA Western Conference Finals 
(Game 3 vs Houston Rockets)

-It's not often that we see a thirty point blowout in a Conference Finals game (especially not for the home team), but with the growth of the Golden State Warriors team, it seemed like something that could be possible. This Warriors team managed to go out in Houston and do what they do best, which is shoot and score. They played some great defense and held to Rockets to only 80 points over 4 quarters, but the truly special perfomance of the night goes to Steph, as he finishes with 40 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds, and 2 steals on 63% shooting from the field and an amazing 78% from three (7 for 9). This is probably the most efficient performance in his entire playoff career. This is Steph at his most deadly.

*2015 NBA Finals 
(Game 5 vs Cleveland Cavaliers)

-Make no mistake about it. Despite the talk of Steph being lackluster in the Finals, he's had his share of good performances. While his best performance last season in the 7 game losing effort was the game 4 victory in which put the Warriors up 3-1, it would be his game 5 performance in 2015 that saw him turn the fortune of the Warriors in that series to gold. Putting the Warriors up 3-2 in the Finals, Steph found his "human torch" mode, after having some trouble in the first few games off and on. He was very efficient in this game, pulling in 37 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals on 57% shooting from the field and 54% from three. If there was a game that one could point to for making a case for Steph as Finals MVP this series, this would be the one. He took over the game and would be a big reason why the energy shifted from Cleveland and their momentum, and eventually win the title.

*2016 NBA Western Conference Semifinals 
(Game 4 vs Portland Trailblazers) 

-This is likely the most iconic playoff game that Steph has had. It would be no. 1 if I had to make a choice. After dealing with an injury that essentially rendered him out for a week and some change in the playoff season, the Blazers were seemingly easy work for the Warriors as usual. However, the Blazers were fighting for their lives and pulled out a game 3 win to bring the series to a 2-1 lead for the Warriors. Steph would make his return in game 4, seemingly not 100%. He entered the game and struggled a bit from three (he only shot 32% from three), and this game in general wasn't his most efficient early on, but Steph would find his rhythm and the Warriors and Blazers would end up in OT. With the score tied 111-111, what we saw next was the most infamous thing in the entire playoffs besides the Finals in reality. Steph took over scoring 17 of the 21 points that the Warriors scored in OT, finishing with 40 points, 9 rebounds, and 8 assists on 50% shooting and as he hit a big game winning shot, he uttered four words that signaled his return: "I'm here, I'm back". Simple. The mark of a great player.

*2017 NBA Western Conference First Round 
(Game 3 vs Portland Trailblazers)

-The truth be told, this wasn't his most efficient performance and one could argue that his game 4 performance was a bit more efficient, but this one showed his tenacity and toughness as a player. Without Kevin Durant on the court and with Nurkic on the court for the Blazers (which gave the Blazers a bit of an advantage), Steph took to the court to showcase his greatness. After a very slow start in game 3, the Warriors regrouped as Klay Thompson began to heat up, but it would be Steph would took the game under his control when it mattered most. Finishing with 34 points in a standard shooting % night, Steph would finish the Blazers in a scene reminiscent to his work the year before, as he hit a dagger three pointer to put the Warriors ahead with less than a minute left and then one more midrange shot to clinch the game and a 3-0 lead in the series. The Warriors would go on to sweep the series, and this was the game that 100% killed the spirit of the Blazers.



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