OAKLAND – Stephen Curry can find motivation anywhere, including under the rug in the dark, with his eyes closed. He lives to silence the skeptics and punish those who dare to mock him.
Russell Westbrook after Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals had the temerity to giggle in the direction of Curry, and the Warriors star responded over the next two games by spanking the Oklahoma City guard into the offseason.
Curry sent the Thunder into the summer on Monday with a Game 7 performance for the ages, scoring a game-high 36 points, 24 in the second half, 15 in nine minutes in the closeout fourth quarter.
“I told our coaching staff (Sunday), I have no doubt Steph’s going to have a huge game,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Monday, after advancing to the NBA Finals with a 96-88 win over the Thunder. “That’s just who he is.”
Curry, adding eight assists and five rebounds, posted a plus-18 in Game 7. Westbrook, making 7-of-21 shots, posted a minus-14.
It was after Game 5 that Westbrook snickered in response to a question about whether Curry is an underrated defender. As Kevin Durant, seated next to Westbrook, was giving a diplomatic answer, Westbrook continued to giggle through his hand over his face.
He never did answer the question.
Curry simply used the next two games as a reply. Fighting off nagging soreness in his ankle, his knee and his elbow, he totaled 67 points in Games 6 and 7. He was plus-12 in Game 6, Westbrook minus-11.
The Warriors fought out of a 3-1 hole to even the series in Game 6 before taking it Game 7.
“This whole playoff run has kind of been a roller-coaster ride for me, specifically, but also for our team,” Curry said after Game 7. “We never lost confidence, and every game we just played with fearlessness and that confidence that we could get back to The Finals however we had to get it done.”
Westbrook was having a solid series until he came apart in Games 6 and 7. Often defended by Curry, he was 17-of-48 (35.4 percent) over the two games, with eight turnovers.
“Steph is Steph; Steph is gonna Steph,” Warriors center Festus Ezeli said. “He came out and showed why he is the MVP.
“People were doubting us, they were doubting him about a week ago and they said he wasn’t the MVP. He comes through in the clutch and has the heart of a champion.”
There was no further giggling from Westbrook over the final two games of this series, just the sight of a man having his lunch taken away in public.
Curry, of course, didn’t bother to gloat. He left his mark on the court, and Westbrook has to live with it for the next five months.