Golden State sharpshooter Stephen Curry delivered a performance for the ages Sunday with an NBA Finals record nine 3-pointers powering the defending champion Warriors over LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Curry’s 33 points on 11-of-26 shooting, including 9-of-17 from beyond the arc, lead Golden State to a 122-103 triumph and a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven finals that continue Wednesday in Cleveland.
Teams that win the first two games have won the NBA title 88 percent of the time, a good omen for a Warriors club seeking a third crown in four seasons.
Curry, who already owns NBA 3-pointer records for a season and consecutive games among others, delivered deflating blows time and again to the Cavaliers.
The 30-year-old maestro scored 16 points in the fourth quarter, answering a LeBron James 3-pointer with back-to-back 3s for a 96-83 lead.
“It was big,” Curry said. “Any of those moments when you can come down and answer and keep the momentum on our side, it’s big.”
Curry added an epic desperation heave as the shot clock expired, a corner 3-pointer while being fouled and the record-setter with 3:30 remaining from the left wing.
Curry broke the old mark of eight 3-pointers in a finals game set by Boston’s Ray Allen in 2010.
“That’s a pretty cool deal to accomplish, knowing who has held the record for eight years,” Curry said.
“But at the end of the day, it’s all about trying to get a win and doing whatever you can to make that happen. If we focus on that, good things happen individually all across the board.
“I never woke up and was like, ‘All right, let’s go get nine threes and get the record.’ It was more so about playing the game the right way, having good intentions out there on the court and good things happen.”
The 3-pointer with the most acclaim came after he fumbled the ball, grabbed it, stepped back with the shot clock about to expire and fired in a miracle with Cleveland’s Kevin Love defending.
“Tough shot taker, tough shot maker,” said Warriors forward Draymond Green. “The one where he was falling away was like, ‘Oh, man, he’s really got it going.’ But we’ve seen this before where he completely takes the game over with his scoring ability, and he did that tonight.”
Coming after a James dunk, Curry’s 30-foot stunner gave the Warriors a 103-89 edge. Cleveland never got within 12 again.
“I was trying to get some space,” Curry said. “I thought I had a lay-up 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 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. A big moment where we had a significant lead, we could extend it a little bit and create some separation.
“It was a cool moment for sure.”
Love could only watch in amazement.
“No matter where you are on the floor, especially past half court on their side, he always has a chance to make a miraculous shot,” Love said.
“I felt like it was well contested. We played 23 1/2 good seconds of defense, and he turned around and hit a moon ball.
“It was a great night for him. It’s really tough to guard Steph anywhere out there on the floor. He’s just so good at finding himself open.”
Warriors guard Klay Thompson could only marvel as he watched.
“He just kept going backwards,” said Thompson. “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.”
© Agence France-Presse (Additional edits from Richard Barrett)