The 2022 NBA Finals could be the pinnacle of Stephen Curry’s career.
After missing the playoffs completely in consecutive seasons, Curry led the Warriors to their fourth championship in eight seasons, tying him and several of his teammates with LeBron James for most titles among active players.
It took Curry and the Warriors six games to break up a Celtics team that defeated Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jimmy Butler en route to the Finals. He put together an all-time run and earned his first Finals MVP award in the process.
Much of the criticism of Curry’s previous Finals performances has been overblown, but nothing comes close to what he did against the Celtics.
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How good was Stephen Curry in the 2022 NBA Finals?
Curry’s performance was something special. For the series, he averaged 31.2 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.0 steals on 48.2 percent shots from the field. He put down 5.2 3-pointers per game and did so at a 43.7 percent clip.
Curry totaled 31 3-pointers over the six games. It’s the second most 3’s anyone has ever made in a Finals series. The player in 1st place? That would be curry too. He tied on the 32nd in the 2016 NBA Finals, which spanned seven games.
Curry had what was arguably the best game of his career in Game 4 of the 2022 NBA Finals. If he hadn’t scored 43 points, the Celtics would almost certainly have taken a 3-1 lead and won the whole thing. (This is your reminder that only one team has ever come back from a 3-1 deficit and won the final. Curry was also involved, but not in a good way.)
It was an all-timer by Curry. Oh, and it came out in Boston.
As previously mentioned, Curry was named Finals MVP for the first time in his career. He deserves everything 11 votes for the award and thus unanimously.
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How Stephen Curry set the Celtics on fire in the 2022 NBA Finals
To make the numbers Curry released even more impressive, Boston was the best defensive team in the NBA during the 2021-22 regular season and trailed only behind Milwaukee in defensive ratings in the 2022 NBA playoffs.
Not only that, but as TSN’s Steph Noh wrote afterwards, the Celtics had the ideal personnel to stop Curry.
Their top-notch athleticism and switchability were (on paper) great ways to deal with the Warriors’ movement-heavy offensive system. They had the 2021-22 Defensive Player of the Year in Smart to guard Curry and five other Celtics players received All-Defensive Team votes.
The Celtics were able to take some parts of the game away from Curry. Compared to the regular season and the first three rounds of the playoffs, he didn’t score off-screen and on catch-and-shoots with nearly the same frequency.
The Celtics knew how dangerous he was off the ball – Curry’s constant movement creates a slew of high-percentage chances for himself and his teammates – and basically switched every action he was involved in when someone else at the Warriors was in control.
The Warriors responded by using Curry a lot more pick and rolls. They also let him cook more individually.
The results? According to InStat, Curry scored 1.11 points per pick and roll possession and 1.24 points per isolation possession in the finals. If that sounds like a bunch of gibberish, just know that these two would have basically propelled him to the top of the NBA in efficiency during the regular season.
In their honor, the Celtics threw various things at Curry.
It just didn’t matter.
The finals started with Curry punishing Boston’s drop coverage with deep pull-ups. When they switched, he punished them in isolation. They also tried to hedge and catch him at times, but that led to the dreaded 4-on-3 opportunities the Warriors have been using to tear teams apart for a decade.
Curry caused a decent amount of offense in others, too. He averaged 5.0 assists and 10.0 assists per game on the series, both of which tied for third place behind Jayson Tatum and Draymond Green. When the Celtics collapsed on his drives, he usually made the right play.
Noh put it best: “The Celtics’ defense has not failed. Curry just hit her.”
It was an all-time feat of an all-time greatness at the peak of her powers.