Stephen Curry: We're All Victims of Our Expectations That We've Set

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJune 3, 2018

Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant (35) celebrates with guard Stephen Curry (30) during the second half of Game 1 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Oakland, Calif., Thursday, May 31, 2018. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

The Golden State Warriors have been the favorites to win the NBA title this season since last summer and have dealt with the scrutiny that comes from being the top team in the league.

But that scrutiny sometimes becomes hyper-focused, like when Kevin Durant was critiqued after Game 1 for not making a shot in the fourth quarter or overtime in Golden State's 124-114 win despite going for 26 points, nine rebounds and six assists in the contest.

"We're all victims of our expectations that we've set," point guard Stephen Curry told reporters, per Michael Lee of Yahoo Sports. "I mean, the fact that they're saying KD had a bad game is kind of funny, just with what you expect from him every single night. But we are all in this together."

Durant, who signed with the Warriors before the 2016-17 season, was last year's Finals MVP after leading Golden State to their second title in three years. Those Warriors went 67-15 during the regular season and 16-1 in the postseason, steamrolling every team in their path.

The 2017-18 Warriors have had a bumpier road, however, as injuries and perhaps some complacency led to a more modest (at least by their lofty standards) 58-24 mark. After going 8-2 through the first two rounds, they were pushed to the brink by the Houston Rockets, eventually winning in seven games (though they were aided by an injury to Chris Paul in the last two games).

Were it not for George Hill's missed free throw with under five seconds remaining and the game tied—or JR Smith's brain fart after pulling down the rebound, when he chose to run the ball to the perimeter rather than putting the ball back up for a potential game-winning basket—the Cavaliers might have stolen Game 1.

Nonetheless, the Warriors prevailed. 

But at moments when the going has gotten tough, it has appeared as though Durant has tried to do too much on his own, reverting to an isolation style rather than playing through the team's pass-heavy scheme. While he's carried the Dubs at times, he's also bogged down their offense at points.

Durant has acknowledged trying to find a balance in his game: 

"The criticism, getting tested, that's been happening my whole life as a basketball player. I figure that, at this point in my career, it's all how I can fit with my team, the best that I can, every day. That's the struggle, more so than anything. Some days, I may need to turn on a different version of myself. Some days, I may have to have another type of game, to still be effective.

"I think Coach [Kerr] trusts me a lot, to do a lot of stuff. Sometimes I don’t know which way I'm going to play and that can be frustrating. But it's also challenging and fun, that your coaches and teammates look to you to do a lot of different things out there."

The Warriors remain just three wins away from a title, and Durant is averaging 28.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.1 blocks per game this postseason. It's always easiest to nitpick the team that sits in the throne, seeking the weakness that might undo the kings. 

But the Warriors aren't worried about being undone.

"Last year was a pretty smooth ride, and we were clicking. We had a pretty healthy run," head coach Steve Kerr said. "I think this year, it's just been harder overall, just because of the cumulative wear and tear of the journey. Kevin has still been great. It's been a little different vibe, but that’s OK. Every trip is a little different. 

"We're right where we want to be, and we're all very confident that we're going to get better from here."