Curry comes through in the clutch
Sports | Golden State holds off Kevin Durant and Oklahoma City to win the NBA Western Conference finals
by Jae Wasson
Posted 5/31/16, 10:35 am
The Oklahoma City Thunder were trailing by four points with 1:18 left in last night’s seventh and deciding game of the NBA Western Conference finals, needing to stop the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors from scoring again on their home court.
That’s when Warriors point guard Stephen Curry, who set the all-time record this year for 3-pointers, elevated his 6-foot-3 frame for a jumper behind the arc. Thunder 6-foot-10 power forward Serge Ibaka tried to stop Curry but fouled him in the process.
Curry, who had suffered a knee injury earlier in the playoffs, calmly stepped to the free-throw line for three shots. With the season on the line, he made it look easy, hitting all three. Soon the Warriors had the ball again and Curry took aim at another 3-pointer. The long, slow fall of the ball into the net gave the Warriors the cushion they needed to win.
Final score: Golden State 96, Oklahoma City 88. The Warriors will now take on the Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers, who closed out their series against the Toronto Raptors Friday night in six games.
NBA watchers called the Western Conference finals one of the most exciting playoff series ever, with two excellent teams led by two men known for their basketball prowess and outspoken Christian witness: Curry and Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant.
“I have to be thankful to the Lord for the gifts He’s given me,” Durant told the media after the game. “My gift back to Him is to always be humble and always work as hard as I can.”
Curry is similarly forthright about his faith. In an online column last year for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Curry wrote of his desire to point people toward Christ. “I know I have a place in heaven waiting for me because of Him,” he wrote, “and that’s something no earthly prize or trophy could ever top.”
Oklahoma City was the underdog entering the series against Golden State, losing all three regular season games against the Warriors, who set the all-time league record for wins in a regular season with 73 (against only nine losses). The Warriors also became the greatest 3-point shooting team in NBA history during the regular season, hitting an amazing 1,077 shots from behind the arc, including Curry’s record-smashing 402 3-pointers and teammate Klay Thompson’s 276.
But the Thunder were not ready to give in just because of the Warriors’ overwhelming statistical accomplishments. Bolstered by a determined defense and aggressive shooting by Durant and Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City pushed the Warriors and the series to the limit.
In the first half last night, it looked like the Thunder were well on their way to a series victory, leading by double digits. The Thunder held on to a 48-42 lead at the half, but the Warriors stormed ahead in the third quarter, outscoring the Thunder 29-12.
“I’m upset [about losing], but … I’ve got to win with class and dignity, and I’ve also got to lose with the same class and dignity,” Durant told USA Today. “I also have to let [people] know, really, what this is all about and look at the big picture.”
Curry and the Warriors will host Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the LeBron James–led Cavaliers Thursday night.
Jae is a Zenger House fellow