The white charter bus pulled up to the swank restaurant, and even from afar it was obvious there were only a few passengers.
One of them was Stephen Curry.
He took a short ride to a team-sponsored dinner from the team hotel the night before Game 3 of the NBA Finals. That Curry wasn’t in a limo or black SUV was no surprise — a few days earlier, after all, he revealed his affinity for Uber.
If Curry wants to ride atop a double-decker bus in another championship parade, Game 4 on Friday would be a good time to rediscover his game.
The two-time most valuable player has been largely absent for the Golden State Warriors in this series. It sounds strange to say, even unfair after all he’s done for the Warriors, but they hold a 2-1 lead over Cleveland despite him.
Curry’s scoring line through three games — 11, 18 and 19 points — prompted him to say he had to play “a hundred times better” after Golden State got trounced Wednesday, 120-90.
He outlined how he would do it.
“Not panicking and not overcomplicating things and not trying to psych myself out,” Curry said Thursday. “There’s a reason I have confidence out there and it’s about how I prepare for games and series and seasons and whatnot.”
In other words, keep shooting.
It’s been well over a year since Curry was held under 20 points in three consecutive games (March 2015).
Held under 20 in three straight playoff games? Never happened to him.
Curry missed four games earlier in the playoffs because of a sprained knee and two because of a sprained ankle, injuries he recently cited as reasons for his withdrawal from the U.S. Olympic team.
He said he was fine after Game 3, though he’s shooting 43.6% in the Finals and averaging five turnovers, numbers way off his regular-season standards. Cleveland point guard Kyrie Irving scored 16 points in the first quarter Wednesday, mainly against Curry.
Curry also found roadblocks in unexpected places. After a third-quarter whistle, he picked up the loose ball and tried to dunk even though the play was dead. LeBron James stepped over and quite forcefully blocked it.
But a former NBA MVP blocking a dunk attempt of the current MVP? This was different.
“Oh, well, when you have the greatest shooter in the world trying to get an easy one or trying to get in rhythm, it’s our job to try to keep him out, no matter if it’s after the whistle or not,” James said. “So I didn’t want him to see the ball go in.”
Maybe Game 3 was an aberration. It was only the third time in Finals history that a team rebounded from a loss of 20 or more to win by 20 or more, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
It was also the Warriors’ lowest-scoring playoff game this year, and that was with Cleveland missing Kevin Love because of a concussion. It was unclear Thursday if Love would play in Game 4.
Curry isn’t alone in his struggles. Backcourt-mate Klay Thompson has been a non-entity in the Finals, averaging 12 points and shooting 36.8%.
“Me and Steph haven’t really shot the ball as well as we want to. That’s all right,” Thompson said. “We’re still up, 2-1, and [under the] law of averages, it will all even out.”
Golden State Coach Steve Kerr wasn’t very happy after Game 3, using the word “soft” six times to describe the Warriors. They were outrebounded, 52-32, and had an uncharacteristically weak assist-to-turnover total (21 to 18).
“We came out and played like everything was peaches and cream,” forward-center Draymond Green said after scoring only six points, 22 fewer than his Game 2 total. “We got bullied.”
More than anything, the return of Curry’s touch would help the Warriors.
“Yeah, there’s a sense of urgency knowing how big Game 4 is,” Curry said. “I need to be ready.”