Unanimous NBA Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry is feeling the frustration of the Golden State Warriors’ collapse to the brink of the biggest choke in NBA Finals history.
The record-setting 3-point shooter and NBA scoring champion was fined $25 000 Friday by the league for hurling his mouthguard into the crowd after fouling out of Thursday’s 115-101 loss at Cleveland, which left the best-of-seven series deadlocked at 3-3.
“It was obviously frustrating fouling out in the fourth quarter of a clinching game and not being out there with my teammates,” Curry said. “So it got the best of me, but I’ll be all right for next game.”
Sunday’s game seven at Oakland will decide if Curry and the Warriors, who won a record 73 of 82 regular-season games, defend their crown or become the first players in 70 NBA Finals to squander a 3-1 series lead and let the title slip away.
“Nothing about our playoff run has been perfect,” Curry said, citing a 3-1 deficit to Oklahoma City in the Western Conference final. “We were in adversity the last series and had to rattle off three straight wins so things haven’t gone our way despite how the regular season went.
“So, yeah, it’s frustrating, but the work we’ve put in and the opportunity we’ve given ourselves, you’ve got to be excited about that.”
OUTBURSTS PROVE COSTLY
Warriors coach Steve Kerr also was fined $25 000 for complaining about officiating, defending Curry’s contention that referees were wrong about the last calls that resulted in Curry fouling out for the first time since 2013 and receiving a first-ever ejection.
“I didn’t think I fouled,” Curry said. “That’s just kind of my perception of the plays and I had a reaction to it. I had some stuff I wanted to get off my chest after the way the game went.”
Kerr described the foul calls as “ridiculous” and said officials were fooled by flops, adding, “I’m happy he threw his mouthpiece. He should be upset… three of the six fouls were incredibly inappropriate calls for anybody, much less the MVP of the league.”
In his anger, Curry hurled the mouthpiece into the son of a part-owner of the Cavaliers who was sitting in the front row.
“I definitely didn’t mean to throw it at a fan, but it happened,” Curry said. “I went over and apologised to him because that’s obviously not where I was trying to take my frustration out.”
It’s such lack of discipline that has the Warriors in the mess they find themselves. Draymond Green swung has hand into the groin of Cleveland star LeBron James in game four and was banned from game five for accumulated flagrant fouls, his absence helping Cleveland win and being compounded when Australian centre Andrew Bogut suffered a left knee injury that ended his season.
Green had to be restrained by Kerr as he argued a foul call late in game six, his anger and yelling risky given the chance of an incident that could have brought a game seven ban.
“It wasn’t an ideal situation to not have him out there and hopefully he’s not put in that situation again where he’s putting his playing status in jeopardy,” Curry said.
RACIAL PROFILING AND PLOTS?
Curry can’t even escape the tensions of the finals at home. His wife, Ayesha, tweeted her husband’s ejection was part of a plot to “rig” the outcome to force a game seven “for money or ratings.” She later deleted the message, saying it was a “heat of the moment” missive.
There’s no doubt the drama of the NBA’s two biggest stars, Curry and James, and the thrill of a record-setting comeback or a repeat champion has captivated US sports fans at a profitable pace for telecasters. Some 20.7 million people watched game six in America, 6.5 percent of the population, and TV ratings are the second-best in finals history.
Curry’s father-in-law was nearly arrested ahead of game six in what Ayesha Curry called a case of racial profiling. She said he was detained because in the mistaken belief he was a con artist thought to be trying to attend the game with phony credentials.
“Police racial profiled my father and told him to remove credentials and tried to arrest him. It’s been a long night for me. I apologise,” she tweeted.
“I’m okay we lost… I just can’t take people coming at my family for absolutely no reason. Something I don’t understand or stand for.”