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Stephen Curry had his chance to redo Kevin Love moment, and it was deja vu all over again

In Golden State’s Game 4 loss to the Lakers on Monday, Stephen Curry was spectacular in every area but one. Shooting. He finished 12 for 30 from the field, including 3 of 14 from 3, and if the Warriors don’t find a way to come back from this 3-1 deficit to avoid elimination, there are going to be two shots in particular he thinks about for a long time. 

With the Warriors trailing by one and under 40 seconds to play, Curry induced a switch and had Anthony Davis one-on-one at the top of the key. It was a familiar position for Curry, who once faced a similar one-on-one matchup against another sitting-duck big man, Kevin Love, with the game, and in that case the season, on the line in the 2016 Finals. 

In a 2019 story written by then-ESPN reporter Jackie MacMullan, Curry expressed regret that in the heat of that Finals moment he didn’t slow his adrenaline down enough to avoid the temptation to fire up a 3-pointer and instead drive past the slower-footed Love for a more conservative shot, even though the Warriors were down by three in that instance. 

“I look back and think I could have easily gone around [Love] and gotten a 2 [pointer], and we could have gotten a stop, and then I could come back down and hit another shot, and we win another championship,” Curry told MacMullan of his 2016 decision. “Instead of me going for the hero shot, which I felt like I could make. That was a shot where I was not under control. And it cost us a championship.”

Fast forward to Monday night, and Curry had his chance a do-over: Davis on an island, and this time going for the two-pointer wouldn’t even have been the conservative play; it was all the Warriors, who, again, were only down one, needed to take the lead. 

Curry danced on Davis, just as he did Love in that fateful moment seven years ago, but he was never fully committed to going all the way by Davis. His hesitance, as was the case with Love, allowed Davis to move his feet enough to force Curry into a contested, step-back, one-foot jumper, which rimmed out. 

But Curry got a second chance. Draymond Green snared the offensive rebound and kicked it right back out to Curry, who again had Davis one-on-one in space. And again, he settled, firing up an errant step-back 30-footer that was a rushed, ill-advised attempt even for a shooter with Curry’s pedigree. 

This is as close to a replica Kevin Love moment as Curry will likely ever get. He’s always regret the decision that he made that night in 2016, but when he got his chance at a do-over, he made the same one in 2023. 

Again, it was a shot that Curry can make, and has made countless times over the course of his career. But it wasn’t necessary. Davis is a gifted perimeter defender for his size, but he can’t stay in front of Curry if Curry is committed to fully going by him. 

Where you can understand Curry’s impulse to fire a 3-pointer is that even if he does get by Davis, he will be met with resistance in the paint, which could force an even more contested shot or a pass to someone else. At most points of a game, an open look is better than a contested one. But in this case, Curry wanted to be the one taking the shot. He likely didn’t want to put himself in a position where he might well face multiple, converging defenders and be forced to give the ball up. 

So he took the shot he knew was there for sure, a shot he knows he can make. But the shot against Love was a shot he’s made thousands of times, too. That doesn’t mean it was the right shot. Considering the circumstances, it’s hard to argue that Curry’s decision to throw up a rainbow 30-footer against Davis in a one-point game was the right shot on Monday night. 

Credit him for having the courage to take the shot, but I have a feeling that Curry, just as he does with regard to the Love shot, will regret that Davis decision when the smoke from this series clears and he has a chance to replay what went wrong. Unless the Warriors come back to win, of course. Then nobody, least of all Curry, will care what happened at the end of Game 4. 

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