For the longest time Thursday night, it was silent around Stephen Curry in the Golden State locker room. He sat in his chair, head tilted toward the ground, as teammates murmured to each other across the room. Nobody dared bother him, probably because he appeared less than thrilled. The lockers around him were vacant. Draymond Green had exited to run an interview in an adjoining room. Because he needed to get out of Cleveland on the first bus that was accessible, Klay Thompson had gone also.
Around Steph Curry, absolute quiet. After LeBron James drew Curry’s sixth foul, with 4:22 remaining , Curry threw his mouthguard in discouragement, as he often does after he reaches his frustration limit. In the past, he’s called the mouthpiece throw “voicing my opinion” — a way of displaying anger without causing an international incident. It is a move that’s part computed, part reflexive. In a 2014 playoff game against the Clippers, after not receiving a call, he chucked the guard in search of a technical (he got his wish). “I desired something. I had great purpose with it, however.”
On Thursday, Curry’s intention was off, and the saliva-slathered plastic flew at the son of a Cavs minority owner (Curry after apologized). In Game 6, the Warriors could not even get being mad right. That wasn’t the only controversy. Curry’s wife, Ayesha, upset was in the news for tweeting NBA conspiracy theories. And the on-line world grew quite noisy around Stephen Curry, reaching an accusatory tenor once reserved for LeBron. Why wasn’t he playing better? Why isn’t he playing like the MVP? Curry ‘s coach had his back.
“Yeah, I’m happy he threw his mouthpiece,” Steve Kerr said.
There is little doubt that Kerr went into his postgame news conference with a serene acceptance of a substantial fine. Before meeting with Warriors GM Bob Myers. It was time to pull out all the stops for game 7.
“Look, it’s the Finals and everybody’s competing out there. There are fouls on every play. It’s a physical game. I just think that Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, the way we run our offense, we’re running, we’re cutting through the lane, we are a rhythm offense. If they are going to let Cleveland grab and hold these guys constantly on their picks and then you’re going to call these ticky-tack fouls on the MVP of the league to foul him outside, I don’t agree with that.”
Curry had not just played poorly in Game 6, but James had played much better. And right now, that is the dominant narrative. It does not help that Andrew Bogut is not in, Andre Iguodala is coping with back spasms, Festus Ezeli has yet to settle into his role and Harrison Barnes can’t make a shot.
When the Warriors go as cold as they did at the start of this game (11 points in the first quarter), it’d help if Curry could get to the free throw line.
After the game, Curry’s right knee was heavily bandaged, which clarifies everything or either means nothing, depending on whom you inquire. Should he fail, should the Warriors fail, history will not care about such details. Win and it is an explanation for why he hasn’t been his regular season self. Lose and it is an alibi.
One of Curry’s close-in misses was rejected viciously by James, who surely loved the moment. Curry was pressed on what James said to him, but refused to divulge the dialogue. It looked like an understanding manner for Curry to differentiate himself from James’ approach of communicating Green’s taunts to the media.
Maybe the moral high ground on a minor issue, but history doesn’t care. Though angered, frustrated and certainly disappointed, Curry is not yet defeated. He was seen pointing at the Cavs seat before exiting the match. His Warriors are battered and depleted, but they’re fuming. Steph Curry & Co. have 48 precious minutes. Inside those minutes, the noise of the world fades.