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You can never take your eye off Stephen Curry

The difference between Curry and every other star is he never gives defenders a chance to rest.

NBA: Finals-Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

There are two trademark Stephen Curry plays that speak to his brilliance.

One happens when he isolates a big man, crosses him over, and then makes an effortless three as the big man scrambles to keep his balance. The other one — which has become more recognized recently, but has always been in his arsenal — is where he passes the ball off, runs to the corner to lose his defender, receives a pass back, and then shoots what is a near-automatic corner three. We call it the Peek-a-Boo play.

Both speak to the unstoppable nature of Curry when he’s in flow. Collectively, they point to the diversity of his game.

Like a traditional star, Curry can roast anyone in isolation. It doesn’t have to necessarily be a big man. Curry, when he wants to and when he’s asked to be, is hard to stop one-one-one, because defending a man who is a good finisher at the rim, the best shooter in the league, and one of its best passers makes even the best defenders anxious.

But it’s the second play that shows why he’s different. Not only is he one of the best players with the ball, but his movement without it and the speed of his release is unparalleled. Curry can be Kyrie Irving when he wants, and then Kyle Korver the next minute.

Poor Larry Nance Jr. learned the hard way on two plays in the fourth quarter. The first was via the Curry version of an isolation.

By the time David West had fully taken Jeff Green away from Curry to leave Nance on an island, the ball was already in the air. It happened much quicker than the usual isolation that sees the ball handler dribbling in place after the pick, taking a little breather as they measure their opponent, then going at him. Curry is always on the move, which means there’s simply no time for a defender to consider the situation when matched against him.

When West moved towards the rim and Green followed him, Curry had already started to dribble inside. When West and Green were halfway to the rim, Curry had already taken the hard step with his right foot to stop. When West did a small hop to solidify his positioning, Nance’s hips were square to the referee on the other side of the court. His feet were slipping from underneath him, all while Curry’s shot was far too gone for Nance’s useless attempt to contesting it.

One play later, Nance fell victim to the second kind of Curry savagery.

On that play, Curry hit Nance with a behind-the-back dribble that seemed to hypnotize him. Nance made a courteous swipe at the ball, but he was so focused on not being beat off the dribble that he froze when Curry passed the ball off to Draymond Green on his right.

That produced the hilarious effect of Nance, Korver, and LeBron James all standing in a daze as Green faked the shot and found Curry sprinting to the corner. When Nance realized his lethal mistake, he sprinted over to make up for it and got pump-faked into the audience. He had a first-row seat to watch Curry make the shot.

2018 NBA Finals - Game Two Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

When that version of Curry shows up, it’s difficult to keep up with him as a viewer, let alone as a defender. His constant movement means that any lapse in concentration can be fatal. If Curry passes the ball off and starts to run around, the defender has to chase him without even paying attention to where the ball is. The second that defender turns his head to peek at what’s happening elsewhere on the court, or the second he tries to catch his breath, Curry is gone. When Curry’s in that mood, there’s not even a point in trying to make up for the momentary loss of concentration. The shot is going in.

His movement is dizzying not just on its own, but also as part of a Warriors’ offense that features everyone else scurrying around in their own respective ways. Someone will inevitably end up open because a defender switched off for a split second. If Curry has the ball at that time, he’s sure to find the open man. If he doesn’t, there’s no more perfect decoy to scare defenders away from the real action than the best shooter in the league.

The heartbreaking part for the Cavs is they can play everything right and it still won’t matter. Curry got an and-1 on Kevin Love with 5:45 left in that same fourth quarter through the same Peek-a-Boo play with Green. Love played it perfectly, and Curry still shot it with Love close enough to smell his deodorant.

But nothing exemplifies the futility of playing Curry perfectly to no avail than the play before.

If Curry finally ends up winning that elusive Finals MVP, that shot will be the moment we remember. He started off on the right side of the court, passed the ball to Green in the post, and got it back as he cut to the rim. With Love guarding him so close, he almost lost his handle and was forced to dribble out to the left wing. Love stayed with him on the wing, swiping at the ball and forcing Curry to retreat while trying to keep his dribble. With two seconds on the shot clock, Curry grabbed the ball and hoisted it up over Love’s outstretched hand. The ball rainbowed in, giving the Warriors a 14-point lead they’d never relinquish

That represents Curry at his best. Even when you play everything perfectly, even when you force him into a desperate shot, even when you think you really have him, you still don’t have him at all. The ridiculous becomes routine. That shot it was amazing, unreal, spectacular, outrageous, and also normal and expected.