Golden State’s “Splash Brothers” duo of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are in the midst of a rare drought and their suddenly wayward shooting has helped pave the way for Cleveland to climb back into the NBA Finals.
For the third consecutive game, the Warriors All Star backcourt was below-par and the defending champions severely paid for it on Wednesday in a crushing 120-90 defeat that trimmed their best-of-seven series edge to 2-1.
League MVP Curry was most noticeably out of sync, from his jump shot to his slumped body language. He salvaged a 1-for-5 start to the first half and finished with 19 hollow points and six turnovers.
“He just didn’t play well,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr who removed his star from the game for a brief conversation late in the second quarter.
“He turned it over, got beat back door and he was not his usual self. It happens sometimes. That’s what everyone was saying about (the Cavs) the (first) two games.”
Thompson was of little help to his sidekick, struggling to 4-for-13 shooting for 10 points.
He missed all five of his first field goal attempts, then absorbed a knee to the back of his leg by Cleveland’s Timofey Mozgov in the first quarter.
Thompson was forced to leave the game briefly, and after the game questioned the play that saw Mozgov attempt to set an awkward screen.
“I’m confused why he’s trying to set a screen in the middle of the key when we’re both running full speed downhill,” Thompson said.
“Seemed kind of dirty to me, stuck his knee out, too. But that’s basketball. I’ll be alright.”
The Cavaliers have managed to neutralise the game’s top two marksman without murky tactics, however. With the Cavs concentrating their defence on the perimetre threats, neither Curry nor Thompson has reached the 20-point mark through three games.
“They’re being very aggressive with them out on the perimetre,” Kerr said. “It didn’t matter the first two games because other guys scored and we got lots of good possessions. Tonight, obviously it did matter.”
In the past few days Curry has repeatedly been questioned about his perceived shortcomings in the NBA Finals.
Despite averaging 26 points and more than six assists in last year’s 4-2 Finals triumph over Cleveland, Curry failed to receive a single vote for series MVP which instead went to Andre Iguodala.
Golden State reserve Shaun Livingston and forward Draymond Green were the standout performers in the opening two games leading to belief that Curry could again miss out on a championship MVP.
A two-time defending regular season winner, Curry said he does not need the additional individual hardware, but he knows the pressure is mounting for him to leave his stamp on the title series.
“I have to be better,” he said. “There’s a sense of urgency knowing how big Game Four (on Friday) is. I need to be ready.”