OAKLAND -- The Stephen Curry Game was going to arrive, that memorable night when he would impolitely inform the Cleveland Cavaliers that he declines to be confined by their defense, no matter who was playing it.
And on Sunday night, in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, there it was, Curry dialing up his stroke and lighting up the scoreboard and reminding everyone on the planet, including the redoubtable LeBron James, why he deserved to win the MVP award.
James had the best numbers, but Curry had the best game -- and better teammates.
While James took the Cavaliers about as far as he could on his own, Curry took the Warriors all the way to a 104-91 victory before a relieved throng at Oracle Arena. Curry’s 37 points, seven assists, four rebounds and two steals were, in the end, superior to James’ 40 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists.
[RECAP: Warriors take 3-2 finals lead]
And with the game on the line in the fourth quarter, Curry was more efficient by an appreciable margin. He scored 17 points, on seven shots -- with plenty or razzle-dazzle -- in nine minutes.
“We didn’t turn it over, we were patient and two words: Stephen Curry,” Klay Thompson said, explaining how the Warriors pull away. “The show he put on was unbelievable. He’s one of the best players in the world, so that’s what you expect from him and we don’t take it for granted.”
Curry’s superb performance was enough to offset that of James, and the rest of the Warriors pretty much blew the remaining Cavs off the floor.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr described Andre Iguodala (14 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, three steals) as “brilliant,” and said reserve guard Leandro Barbosa (13 points in 17 minutes) was “fantastic.”
Meanwhile Draymond Green was strong for the second consecutive game, with 16 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
And, to think, the Warriors still had plenty of room to critique themselves, mostly about the 17 turnovers and the 14 missed free throws -- nine by Andre Iguodala.
“We were a little scattered at times, a little rushed,” Kerr said. “We had 17 turnovers, compared to seven the other night. We can be a little more organized offensively.
“But all in all I loved the defensive intensity. We made a few mistakes here and there, but our guys are competing like crazy, and that's what it takes.”
The Warriors were particularly good on defense in the second half, holding Cleveland to 37.5 percent shooting and beating them 23-17 on the glass. It was one more indication that the Warriors’ depth is doing a number on the thin Cavaliers.
But Game 5 belonged mostly to Curry, who surely had enough of hearing that he had been shut down by Cavs guard Matthew Dellavedova. The scoring outcome Sunday night was Steph 37, Delly 5.
“I'm taking Steph in any matchup,” Green said. “So (Dellavedova) was hounding and physical, dirty, it's a fine line, whatever you want to call it. He does what he does. But I was going with Steph no matter what, and I'm still rolling with Steph no matter what.”
That’s the power of Curry, the MVP and best player on the team that in the regular season had the best record in the NBA. Throughout the season, in close games, Curry generally found a way to make the difference. Game 5 was no different.
“Steph's been really smart this whole series of not overreacting to everything that's around the game,” Iguodala said. “He's always stayed in that zone of what's on his basketball court and how I can help my team win it any way possible and not getting out of myself or getting away from what the team needs to do to win.
“He's just been an MVP for us, and we're going to try to have another MVP performance next game.”
The Warriors improved to 58-0 this season once they get a 15-point lead.
The Warriors won the rebounding battle, 43-37, with Harrison Barnes snagging 10.
Barbosa’s 13 points came on 4-of-5 shooting from the floor and 4-of-4 from the line.
The Warriors scored 18 fast-break points, to three for Cleveland.
Thompson (12 points, 5-of-14 shooting) continues to search for his shot. He’s at 42 percent from the floor, including 29.7 percent from beyond the arc.
Curry’s most consistent flaw continues to be turnovers. He had a game-high five.
Both teams played eight players at least nine minutes. The benches neutralized each other, both scoring 17 points, but Warriors backups were more efficient. But consider this: Center Andrew Bogut, the rim protector voted to second-team All-Defense, never left the bench. The Warriors went small and pretty much stayed small because the Cavs didn’t have enough answers. And when Cleveland continued to fight, Curry took over. We’ve seen it before, and it was enough to put the Warriors one win away from a championship.