Several of these shots -- as I have chronicled here and here -- were as a result of bad Denver breakdowns. But many more came because Curry is capable of scoring in ways nobody else in the NBA can. We knew he could make high degree-of-difficulty shots -- witness the 54-point performance at Madison Square Garden -- but to do it on the league's biggest stage when his team was the underdog in the series is a level of special I didn't think he could reach. We'll be remembering Curry's shooting performance for a long, long time.
To commemorate it, here are my 10 favorite Curry field goals from the six-game slate, plus a few others worth remembering.
- Game 2, 11:03 4th: Curry orders a pick and roll with the Nuggets up 11. He fakes like he's going right, then throws Andre Miller a vicious inside-out dribble to his left. Andrew Bogut flattens Miller and Kenneth Faried is a split-second late to contest Curry's three. (3:31 mark of the video).
- Game 5, 5:09 4th: Down eight and charging hard, the Warriors have Curry dribble it up the floor. Held in check much of the game, Curry gets loose for an instant by going behind the back and running Ty Lawson into a Festus Ezeli screen. Faried tries to step up again and it's too late. (7:39 mark of the video).
- Game 2, 6:10 2nd: Denver switches some baseline screening action, leaving the long-armed Wilson Chandler on Curry deep in the left corner. Curry sizes him up in the triple threat, takes one dribble left, steps back and nails a 20-footer from behind the basket in Chandler's face. (2:05 mark of the video)
- Game 6, 8:04 3rd: Another pick and roll with Bogut. Curry runs Lawson into the screen, sees JaVale McGee jumping out high to contest, throws him the lowest, tightest inside-out dribble you'll ever see and hits the angled three going right. (8:22 mark of the video)
- Game 2, 2:55 2nd: Curry runs Andre Iguodala into a Carl Landry screen, forcing Faried to step up. Faried's a bit late, so Curry hits him with a vicious right-to-left crossover and casually shoots the open 17-footer off one leg. (2:41 mark of the video)
- Game 6, 9:40 3rd: Held in check all game, Curry tries to run his man into a Bogut screen. For once, Lawson jumps out and fights over the top of Bogut's pick, squeezing through the tiny gap between Curry and Bogut's shoulders. No matter, though. Curry throws Lawson a stepback with his left and hits the three in his face. Especially important because this began Curry's third-quarter explosion. (8:03 mark of the video)
10: Game 1, 15 seconds left in game
(1:07 mark of the video)
This was the first huge shot of Curry's playoff career. Down three, the Warriors run their patented Elevator Doors play on the left side. However, the Nuggets sniff it out, as Lawson sneaks through the opening before Harrison Barnes can close the doors.
The play has now devolved into chaos, but Curry steps up to save the day. He gives Lawson a pump fake, dribbles once to his left into the corner and raises up just before Lawson can recover. Still, this is a difficult shot.
Here's a closer look.
No matter. Curry swished it and the game was tied.
9. Game 1, 3:48 left in third quarter
(34-second mark of the video)
Curry is essentially trapped in the left corner thanks to another weird pass by Jack. He eludes Lawson with a quick pump fake, but that only clears a little bit of space given all the traffic around him.
Not only must Curry elude Lawson, he also has to deal with Chandler. To get rid of him, Curry makes it look like he's going to pull up for the jumper, then quickly crosses over left to right to get middle.
The job's not yet done, though. Curry must get his shot off against McGee, one of the league's premier shot-blockers. To do that, Curry simply throws in a sky hook and lofts it well over McGee's long arms. I repeat: a sky hook. Curry is a guard.
8. Game 3, 4:25 left in fourth quarter
(4:53 mark of the video)
Just your run-of-the-mill, high-arcing right-handed scoop shot over three defenders.
7. Game 4, 1:30 left in third quarter
(5:59 mark of the video)
Miller guards Curry way out beyond the three-point line, and Curry responds by driving by him going left. Problem: McGee is there to swat any shot. Solution: one-handed lefty floater over his outstretched arm.
Result: AND-1. Perfectly timed:
Miller and the Nuggets should never had let Curry get this deep, but how many others would finish a play like this?
6. Game 1, 11:11 left in fourth quarter
(48-second mark of the video)
The Warriors are prepared to run their patented transition drag screen, but Landry makes a mistake, slipping to the basket well before Curry makes contact. That allows Corey Brewer to stay with Curry and cut off his drive going left.
Big problem, right? Not so much. Curry simply throws in a casual behind-the-back dribble, sending Brewer flying.
All that's left is to hit a shot very few people can make. No big deal.
5. Game 6, 2:10 left in fourth quarter
(8:44 mark of the video)
Closeout game. Crunch time. Nuggets rallying. A made bucket needed to stem the tide. And this is what Curry throws up there.
And it goes in, obviously.
More impressive than the shot: look how Curry sneaks his entire body by his defender before launching. Textbook, fundamental play here.
4. Game 2, 8:12 left in second quarter
(1:55 mark of the video)
I mean, come on. Who else would even think to take this shot?
3. Game 4, 1:12 left in third quarter
(6:13 mark of the video)
Pull-up jumpers in transition are traditionally taken when a player stops on a dime for a wide-open look after it's clear they can't shoot a layup. They come when someone is moving with a full head of steam forward, then stops. This shot is not open. It does not come on a full head of steam moving forward. Basically: it's a bad shot for 449 NBA players.
It is not a bad shot, apparently, for Stephen Curry.
2. Game 4, 2:07 left in second quarter
(4:59 mark of the video)
If I were the official scorekeeper, I'd have given Curry four points for this shot.
1. Game 3, 4:59 left in fourth quarter
(4:35 mark of the video).
Curry is right-handed, by the way. That was a 10-foot left-handed scoop shot fading away from the basket. For reference, here's where Curry took off.
And here's where he landed.
Curry essentially jumped two feet forward and four feet sideways, all after eluding Faried with a crossover in the right corner. Also, he shot with his left hand without his right being used as any sort of guide. Yup.
Clearly, this was a shooting series for the ages. The degree of difficulty on these specific shots is something no other player in the league can replicate. There may be better players in the NBA than Curry, but there is no better difficult-shot maker.