2022 NBA Finals: Warriors vs. Celtics

NBA Finals MVP Ladder: Stephen Curry takes No. 1 spot after Game 2

A bounce-back effort from Golden State's star has him leading the charge once again on our NBA Finals MVP Ladder.

Stephen Curry put on a scoring showcase in Game 2 of the 2022 NBA Finals.

• Complete coverage: 2022 NBA Finals

SAN FRANCISCO – Expectedly, Stephen Curry maintained his super-stellar level of production in gutting the Celtics for a game-high 29 points Monday to even the NBA Finals at 1-1 as it heads back to Boston.

While we constantly rave about the point guard’s ability to fill it up on the offensive end, teammate Draymond Green believes we should be handing Curry flowers for his contributions on defense.

“I’ve been talking about it the last couple years how much he’s improved on that side of the ball,” Green said. “Teams used to try to call him into every action and just try to pick on him. That doesn’t work anymore.”

Led by 29 points from Stephen Curry, the Warriors tied up the Finals with a Game 2 win.

Curry provided evidence of that in tallying a team-high tying three steals in Game 2, as Golden State forced 19 turnovers on the way to holding Boston to a playoff-low 88 points. The Celtics surrendered 33 points off turnovers to tie a regular season and postseason high.

Boston is now 0-4 in the 2022 playoffs when it turns the ball over 18 or more times.

“It’s always been about effort and just a care factor, overcoming physical limitations with matchups or whatever it is,” Curry said of his improvement on the defensive end. “If you try hard, good things will happen, and you’ll continue to get better.”

Golden State got back to its special brand of basketball in Game 2.

Curry lands at the No. 1 position in our 2022 Race to the Finals MVP Ladder after producing his ninth straight NBA Finals performance in which he racked up 20 points or more. In addition, he sank multiple 3-pointers in Game 2, extending a streak that goes back to Game 4 of the 2018 Finals. In the decisive third quarter of Game 2, Golden State outscored Boston 35-21, marking the club’s best point differential (+21) in any quarter of the Finals in franchise history.

Curry spearheaded the effort by running up 14 points of his own in the quarter, which matched the production of all nine Celtics who played in that quarter. The future Hall of Famer also notched one of the Warriors’ three steals in the quarter.

“Steph was breathtaking in that quarter,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “Not just the shot-making, but the defensive effort. He just doesn’t get enough credit for his level of conditioning, physicality and defense. People go at him to try to wear him down because they know how important he is to us offensively. It’s pretty dramatic the difference in Steph’s strength and physicality in his body now from eight years ago when I first got here. So, the guy’s amazing.” 

And now, the Top 5 in our 2022 Race to the NBA Finals MVP Ladder after Game 2:

1. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

Stephen Curry explains why Game 2 was so different compared to Game 1 for Golden State.

NBA Finals stats: 31.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 4.5 apg

Surely, you didn’t expect Curry to stay near the bottom of the heap for long. Golden State is 5-0 this postseason after a loss, and Curry is one of the main reasons why. The point guard has drilled 72 3-pointers so far in the playoffs, marking the fifth time in his career he’s connected on 70 or more attempts from deep in a single postseason. Putting this into proper context, the rest of the league has accomplished this feat just twice in NBA history (teammate Klay Thompson did it). Curry scored 14 of his game-high 29 points in the third quarter on 3-of-6 shooting from 3-point land.

2. Jordan Poole, Golden State Warriors

Jordan Poole talks with NBA TV's experts about his memorable buzzer-beater in Game 2 of the NBA Finals, the Warriors' play in that win and more.

NBA Finals stats: 13.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 2.5 apg

Poole registered a team-worst minus-19, scoring nine points on 2-of-7 shooting and 1 of 5 from 3-point range to go with four turnovers in a subpar Game 1. For Game 2, he mounted a major comeback, returning to the deadly instant offensive threat we’ve become accustomed to while showcasing his incredible range. Poole scored 14 of his 17 points in the second half, becoming the youngest player (22) to hit five 3-pointers in a Finals game. Golden State is 12-3 in the 2022 playoffs when Poole scores 10 or more points.

3. Kevon Looney, Golden State Warriors

NBA Finals stats: 8.0 points, 8.0 rpg, 3.5 apg

The Warriors outscored the Celtics 40-24 in the paint, with Looney contributing 12 points (on 6-for-6 shooting) and seven rebounds. “They have some good shot blockers, but I was able to get up quick,” Looney said of his solid offensive showing.  Looney also contributed a team-high tying three steals for a squad that feasted all night on turnovers. Golden State scored 33 points off 19 Boston turnovers as Boston fell to 1-5 in these playoffs when they finish with 16 or more turnovers. Throughout the playoffs, Golden State has outscored opponents in the paint 828-734, and you can’t deny Looney’s role in the Warriors consistently winning that battle.

And two more …

4. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics

Jayson Tatum scored 21 of his 28 points in the 1st half of Game 2.

NBA Finals stats: 20.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 8.0 apg

How many of you said after Game 1 that Tatum won’t shoot 3-for-17 again? Well, you were correct. Tatum connected on 8 of 19 from the floor and 6 of 9 on 3-pointers en route to a team-high 28 points. The problem was Tatum racked up 21 points in the first half before the Warriors locked in on him. He finished with seven points in the second half and registered a minus-36 — the worst plus-minus by any player in a Finals game in the play-by-play era. Tatum joined Hall of Famers Paul Pierce and Larry Bird in becoming the third Celtics player to reach 500 points, 100 rebounds and 100 assists in a single playoffs.

5. Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics

Jaylen Brown takes the contact and sinks the and-1 shot in Game 2.

NBA Finals stats: 20.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 4.0 rpg

Similar to Tatum, Brown sprinted out the gates in Game 2 … only to fizzle when the Celtics needed him to deliver. Brown battled hard in the first half, scoring 17 points on 5 of 17 from the field with six rebounds and three assists. In the second half, he had just two points on 1-for-5 shooting. “I think he got some fouls early in the game, and that kind of took him out of rhythm,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said. “He got two early fouls when he was really going early, and [that] showed him down a little bit.”

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Michael C. Wright is a senior writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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