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2018 NBA Playoffs

Stephen Curry has signature playoff performance

Warriors star shows no signs of injuries in setting Finals record for 3-pointers

OAKLAND, California — LeBron James’ dominance and strength as a basketball player has caused NBA fans to compare him to Thanos, a Marvel Comics character with superhuman strength who stars in the hit movie Avengers: Infinity War. Coincidentally, a replica of Thanos’ Infinity Gauntlet glove was sitting inside Stephen Curry’s locker after he nailed an NBA Finals-record nine 3-pointers.

“Oh, that? Someone from TSN gave that to me,” Curry nonchalantly said, referring to Canada’s The Sports Network.

The Infinity Gauntlet offers unstoppable power to whoever wears it. Considering how Curry shot from 3-point range in the Golden State Warriors’ 122-103 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 2 on Sunday night, the replica glove was just fine sitting unused in his locker.

Curry’s nine 3-pointers surpassed the Finals mark held by Ray Allen, who made eight for the Boston Celtics during Game 2 of the 2010 Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. Along with hitting a record nine treys, Curry scored a game-high 33 points, grabbed 7 rebounds and dished out 8 assists in 37 minutes.

“I never woke up and was like, ‘All right, let’s go get nine 3s and get the record,’ ” Curry said. “It was more so about playing the game the right way, having good intentions out there on the court, and good things happen. So, pretty special night, and hopefully some more special things happen and we get two more wins.”

It was pretty special for the Warriors to see Curry playing healthy again.

The two-time NBA MVP has been stymied by injuries this season, missing 31 games in the regular season because of ankle, thigh and hand issues. Most recently, Curry missed the first six games of the playoffs with a left MCL sprain. While the 6-foot-3, 190-pound point guard was averaging 25.2 points per game in the postseason entering Game 2, Warriors fans and Curry followers have been waiting for a signature playoff performance. This was the night, as Curry’s 3-point shot fell from everywhere.

Curry didn’t seem hindered by his knee or ankle.

“Regardless of how the season went, that’s a pretty cool deal to accomplish, knowing who has held the record for eight years,” Curry said. “But at the end of the day, it’s all about trying to get a win and doing whatever you can to make that happen. I always say like if we focus on that, good things happen individually all across the board.”

Curry opened the game missing four of his first five 3-point attempts in the first quarter as Golden State had a 32-28 lead. He began heating up in the second quarter, making 3 of 4 3-pointers to help the Warriors push the lead to 59-45 at halftime. After a slow third quarter in which he missed all five shots, Curry saved the best part of his 3-point show for the fourth quarter, scoring 16 points after making all five of his 3-pointers.

The greatest 3-pointer of them all came with the shot clock winding down with 7:54 remaining. Curry dribbled behind his back before nailing a crazy 29-foot turnaround, fadeaway 3-pointer over 6-foot-10 Cavaliers forward Kevin Love to give the Warriors a 103-89 lead. Afterward, he pointed to the heavens with his right hand and followed by putting both hands in the air in amazement.

“I was trying to get some space,” Curry said. “I thought I had a layup at first, and I fumbled the ball and tried to see where the defense was. And Kevin Love was right on me. I actually lost the dribble for a hot second, and the only way to get a shot was to keep going back. I try all sorts of shots at some point or another, but at that point, it’s just feel and letting it go, and thankfully it went in.

“A big moment where we had a significant lead, we could extend it a little bit and create some separation down the stretch. It was a cool moment for sure.”

Curry’s circus shot of a 3-pointer brought a roar to Oracle Arena that even hot play from fellow All-Star teammates Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson couldn’t duplicate. ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said the last time he heard such a roar was in The United Center when six-time defending champion Michael Jordan was starring for the Chicago Bulls.

“Every shot that he takes that goes in, he has the business of making them,” James said. “That’s what he does. So, shouldn’t be surprised or deflated at it. Take the ball out, move it forward and try to execute on the other end.”

Curry is averaging 31 points, 8.5 assists and 6.5 rebounds per game through two Finals contests. The five-time NBA All-Star has made half of the 28 3-pointers he’s shot in the series, including 6 of 8 in the fourth quarter and overtime. Golden State has made 17 of 23 shots directly off Curry’s passes, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Moreover, the Cavaliers are shooting only 39 percent from the field when Curry is the primary defender.

The Warriors took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven Finals, with Game 3 in Cleveland on Wednesday. Curry has two NBA championships but has never won the NBA Finals MVP award. If he continues on this scoring and 3-point shooting tear, Curry can perhaps get a Finals MVP trophy to go with another Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy.

While the Infinity Gauntlet is quite powerful, Curry doesn’t appear to need it with his natural supershooting touch from deep that brought frustration.

Asked whether the Cavs felt defenseless guarding Curry, Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson barked: “No. F—. No. We did a good job. I’m switching on him, I’m guarding him, so I ain’t never helpless with no guy in the NBA. That … f—ed up.”

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for Andscape. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.