- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 9, 2016

CLEVELAND — Instead of 3-point shots, scrutiny is falling around Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. The “Splash Brothers,” or greatest shooting backcourt in history, or whatever you want to call them, are clanking shots and hearing the questions because of it.

What is going on? How can they fix it?

Curry and Thompson have been average or worse over the first three games of the NBA Finals. That’s not ideal, nor has it been crushing. The Golden State Warriors need to be just one point better than the Cleveland Cavaliers to go home with a 3-1 series lead, all but closing the competition. But, having Curry and Thompson find solutions as to why their shot is off and why they are unable to get more shots up will be crucial.

“Me and Steph, we’ll figure it out, but there’s no time to press and try to get our numbers,” Thompson said.

It is rare for Curry and Thompson to be in this spot during the last two years. Curry has won consecutive MVP trophies. Thompson has been a two-time all-star. Each helped the Warriors to a title last season and a record-setting 82 games this season. They are more darlings than ire drawers, as long as the person assessing isn’t a curmudgeon grousing about these kids and those darned 3-point shots.

Golden State’s coach, Steve Kerr, explained that dealing with the inspection of their failures is part of doing business.

“First of all, none of this was an issue when we were up 2-0,” Kerr said. “Neither one of them had huge games when we were up 2-0, but it didn’t matter because we won. Now, we lose a game and these become huge issues. This is what the playoffs are all about. The spotlight and the speculation and the criticism and the dramatic change in perception about what’s happening.”

Kerr is partly right. Though the Warriors were up 2-0 when their flight for Cleveland took off, the fact that Curry and Thompson had not been themselves in the first two games was noticed and discussed. Each had spurts, but not avalanches. Each also has a turnover problem. Thompson has made six 3-pointers, equaling his number of turnovers over the first three games. Curry had six turnovers in Game 3 alone, something Kerr has chastised him for publicly and during games.

Curry does not have the burden of being the hometown hero as LeBron James does, though his platform has expanded enough during two consecutive MVP seasons that the heat from poor performances has increased exponentially. Even his daughter, 3-year-old Riley, has achieved some level of fame. Curry is now a blue-chip commodity in the most important basketball games that can be played.

“The more you go through games like last night or the [Oklahoma City] Thunder series or lapses during the regular season where you’re not playing up to other people’s expectations regardless of what expectations you have for yourself, you understand the emotions that come with it, the questions you’re asked and whatnot,” Curry said.

“So, I’m pretty comfortable where I am, and I know, like I said, for me, every night I have a certain expectation for myself. That’s first and foremost. If I don’t reach that, then I’m pretty frustrated with myself and kind of know what’s coming, and you just deal with it and move on.”

The Warriors thrive on body and ball movement, but Cleveland has been able to stifle both, usually starting with knocks to the moving player. Kerr said Thursday that if the playoffs were officiated the same way as the regular season, there would be 50 fouls per side per game because of the increase in clutching, bumping and grabbing.

Curry and Thompson need to handle that better and differently. Since the Cavaliers are so desperate to stop those two from shooting 3-pointers, they could well use more straight-line drives on Friday.

“I think like Klay said last night, it’s law of averages,” Curry said. “You just stick with it. You’ve got to play like it matters and do something about it, but I like our chances of being able to figure it out.”

Love returns to practice, status uncertain

Cavaliers forward Kevin Love was participating in drills during the open portion of Cleveland’s practice on Thursday.

Love was ruled out of Game 3 because of a concussion, and Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said he is unsure about Love’s availability for Game 4.

“After the workout it has to take 24 hours for the NBA [concussion] protocol,” Lue said. “So once he works out [Thursday], it takes 24 hours to see him again to see if everything adds up. I’m not sure what goes into it, but now he had a great workout, and now it takes 24 hours to come and reevaluate him.”

Richard Jefferson started in Love’s place in Game 3, allowing the Cavaliers to play James at power forward.



Click to Read More

Click to Hide