The Golden State Warriors came up short in Game 2 of their second-round series Tuesday night against Memphis, falling 97–90 as Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley—in his inspired return from facial fracture surgery just eight days ago—scored 22 points off of 8-of-12 shooting in 27 minutes of play. The series, tied at one win apiece, now heads to Memphis for Games 3 and 4.
The NBA’s newest MVP, Stephen Curry—taking the award after Kevin’s Durant’s yearlong run—had an off night in the loss. The sharpshooter hit just 7 of 19 shots—including just 2 of 11 from three-point range—as the Warriors trailed the entire way.
Curry, who was presented with the MVP trophy by NBA commissioner Adam Silver just moments before tip-off, wasn’t the only Golden State player who wasn’t himself. Fellow guard Klay Thompson hit just 6 of his 15 shots and was only 1 of 6 from behind the arc as head coach Steve Kerr suffered his first playoff loss.
The shooting woes for Curry—who led the NBA in three-pointers this season with 286, breaking his own single-season record—were unusual, for sure. Yet for a newly minted MVP, the performance wasn’t out of the ordinary.
Twenty years ago this month, David Robinson was named the league’s MVP before Game 2 of San Antonio’s Western Conference finals series against the Houston Rockets and reigning MVP Hakeem Olajuwon.
Robinson averaged 27.6 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 3.2 blocks per game to lead the 62–20 Spurs—MVP credentials for sure. And though Olajuwon, who finished runner-up, later clarified that he thought Robinson deserved to win the award, his inspired playing led anyone who saw him dominate Robinson that series to believe otherwise.
The Rockets, who won Game 1 of the series in San Antonio, rode Olajuwon’s dominating play that night to a 106–96 win. The former MVP, who was guarded by Robinson, hit 18 of 31 shots, on an array of dizzying post moves to score 41 points, grab 16 rebounds, while blocking a pair of shots on the other end.
Making Robinson, who seemed to fall for a number of Olajuwon’s shot fakes, look less-than-average was an understatement. Yet Olajuwon wasn’t done.
One of the game’s premier playoff performers, the Houston center put 43 in a Game 3 loss, 42 in Houston’s Game 5 win, and then sealed the Rockets’ series win with a 39-point, 17-rebound, 5-block performance in Game 6 to advance Houston to the NBA Finals.
While Robinson’s numbers, on the surface, for the series were good—23.8 points and 11.3 rebounds per game—they were down from his regular season averages. They also paled in comparison to Olajuwon’s incredible 35.3 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 4.2 blocks per game series performance.
So while Curry had an off night, it could have been worse—at least he wasn’t facing Durant.