Originally compiled from: The Athletic
Written by Jovan Buha
原标题：LeBron James vs. Steph Curry is still as great as ever. But this chapter is different
From the Riding Warrior battle to the Lake Brave battle, the showdown between James and Curry may really open a new chapter this time:
Janku is all too familiar with each other
At 7:23 in the second quarter, Stephen Curry took a break.
As Curry walked across the halfcourt to his place on the Warriors bench, LeBron James followed him, first to the end of the bench and then to Curry's seat. Throughout, James was talking to Curry and then laughing with the Golden State Warriors players and coaches.
"He just joked about keeping an eye on me until I sat on the bench," Curry said.
If anyone knows how to slow down Curry and the Warriors — mental tenacity, attention to detail, relentless energy — it's James.
It's like Magic vs. Bird, Bill Russell vs. Chamberlain, James vs. Curry.
"What we're witnessing now is something that we probably won't see in the next 20 years, players playing at a high level in the playoffs, and the best players on both teams," Tristian Thompson, a teammate who accompanied James through five playoff games against Curry and the Warriors, told TA. "We just have to feel the game and be thankful to be a part of it."
It will go down in history as a series
On Tuesday night, the sixth and latest chapter of James' long-running showdown with Curry ended. James, 38, and Curry, 35, reached four consecutive NBA Finals between 2015 and 2018, when James played for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Their last playoff showdown was in 2021, when the Lakers beat the Warriors in the playoffs. Between these two superstars, they have eight championships, six MVPs, five Finals MVPs, league all-time scoring champions and league-time three-point champions. Despite their respective successes and many consider them to be all top 10 players of all time, their team styles are vastly different.
"Only two of the most competitive players have played this game," James said of the dynamics between him and Curry on Monday. "We want to make our name as much history as possible, but we also want to do it in our own way."
James' Lakers won the first game of the second-round series 117-112 on the road, stealing the Warriors' home-court advantage at Chase Center. This is the fourth time the Lakers have beaten the Warriors this season, boosting their record against their Northern California opponents to 4-1.
This time Curry needs to fight harder for the victory
However, the enduring quality of the 23rd playoff showdown between the two stars is very different from the first 22 games in this showdown. Perhaps this is the first time in a Janku matchup, it is Curry, not James, who needs to win a tough game for his team.
Curry has a 3-1 advantage in a playoff one-on-one series (3-2 if you count 2021), in part because his team has consistently been better than James's. In all four Finals series, the Warriors surpassed James' Cavaliers and Lakers as fan favorites.
But as the first game demonstrated, James no longer needs to be a supertalent for the Lakers to have a chance to win. Probably with the exception of the 2016 NBA Finals (the only series James won, when Cleveland won 3-1), the two teams have a more balanced roster than any previous James Curry game.
James is no longer focused on scoring
James scored 22 points in his first win, his third-fewest points in 23 playoff games against the Warriors and his lowest score in a winning game (his previous lowest score was 27 points in the 2016 NBA Finals tie-break). He also had 11 rebounds, five assists and three blocks, finding other ways to influence the game — as he often did in this playoff — despite his inconsistent jump shot (1-of-8 from three-pointers).
"Sometimes he's directing blocking, attacking, and sometimes he's running off the ball," Lakers coach Hamm said. "We got players who could lift the load, including Russell, Reeves, Schroeder, Hachimura, including AD. It gives him the opportunity not to play so hard in every game. ”
Hamm noted that James' defense, including the final block on Curry, was a key part of the game plan — and at the expense of James' offense.
"We know it's very important that we do off the ball defensively," Hamm said. "He totally agreed and understood why we were doing it. He did his part. Defensive rebounding is an important thing. Some of his blocks, some tough rebounds, which gives us a lot of flexibility defensively. ”
Meanwhile, Curry faces a lot of attention from the Lakers' defense, with Jared Vanderbilt, Schroder and Reeves each taking turns chasing him throughout the court, allowing him to overuse his ball handling and do his best to bring him inside, where Davis is stationed to block and influence Curry's shots. Curry still scored 27 points but was inefficient, shooting 10-of-24 from the field and making more turnovers (five) than his assists (three).
Still, with 1:38 left in the game, Curry led the team to a 14-0 run to tie the score to 112. The Warriors are in full swing, and their dormant spectators are finally coming alive. However, James had already prepared the Lakers for the inevitable streak of offense from the Warriors, and they scored five straight points in the final moments of the game to take a big 1-0 lead.
Curry is under more defensive pressure
"We've been playing the playoffs for about two and a half months now," James said. "We've been resilient. Tonight against teams like the defending champion Golden State Warriors, we know how great they've been at home over the years. To withstand this pressure, our team has taken another big step. ”
In many ways, the very different styles of James and Curry are on full display in the very different styles of the two teams. The Lakers are taller and stronger, occupying the interior (54-28 points inside advantage) and the free throw line (the Lakers are 25 of 29 free throws compared to 5 of 6 for the Warriors). The Warriors are far more from beyond the three-point line, shooting 21 of 53 from three-point range, and excel at their pivot shifting (30 assists) and conversion offense.
The Golden State Warriors have a combined 13-0 record with at least 15 more 3-pointers than their opponents in the regular season and playoffs, meaning the Lakers beat their opponents to win with their taller and stronger style of play. James said over the weekend that the key to beating the Golden State Warriors was to limit his own mistakes well, saying the team must rely on better defense to move forward.
"We have to do better," James said. "I think even though they played a climax late in the second half, we only conceded 48 points in the second half, which was really good. But we also got Curry, Klay and Poole some open spots and they were really committed. They're going to create empty spots for themselves anyway, so we can't have problems ourselves. We want to get better. ”
Davis became the protagonist
Most of the attention was on James and Curry, and Davis played one of the best games of his career: 44 minutes, 30 points, 23 rebounds, five assists and four blocks. He played the entire second half and was like a wall defensively. The Warriors' players, like the Grizzlies they had encountered before, struggled in the second half to avoid challenging Davis inside. Davis also joined Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O'Neal as the Lakers players to play 30+20 in the playoffs.
Davis took the most weight on both ends, but he got help from the rest of the Lakers' teammates. Russell scored 19 points, including a layup with 1:24 left and a crucial third quarter in which the Lakers opened the gap with the Warriors. Schroder scored 19 points and excelled against Curry. Vanderbilt seemed to be everywhere, showing awesome all-around effort, scoring 8 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks.
And then there's James. While he still leads the Lakers in shooting shots — he has five more shots than Davis and Russell — he spends a lot of time running off the ball and getting others offense. At some point, he needs to shoot his 3-pointers, as he only shot 18.4 percent from three-point range in this playoff. But given his reduced amount of work involved in offense, the Lakers are confident he'll have more energy later in the series.
"Now it's in the final stages, when we really need him to step up and control the ball, especially when there's a lot of gas in the tank, and he's able to do that," Hamm said.
While James and the others didn't have much time off to adjust to Game 2, the historical showdown between Curry and James remains a topic of conversation before and after Game 1. Before the game, Hamm called it "the strongest confrontation of this generation," and Kerr said: "It's not quite the same timeline as Magic (Johnson) and Larry Bird, but it's close."
The Janku showdown is so cool
Tuesday also marked James' first playoff appearance at the new Chase Center in 2019. When asked how he felt after winning the opening game, James recalled his war with the Warriors. "I have a lot of history at Oracle Arena and a lot of showdowns on that stage over the years," James said after the first game. "It's definitely a different feeling, walking into the playoffs, coming to Chase Center, the Warriors' home court hasn't changed. So my attention and respect for them hasn't changed either. ”
Curry spoke after James, where he relayed James' comments about playing the Warriors again.
"You have to reflect on what we've been through since the Finals '15 and appreciate the opportunity to make a new chapter in this battle and in the game," Curry said. "Obviously, losing this game is a different feeling, just based on the way the Lakers and the old Cavaliers play, or even just James' style of playing is a little different. He tries to treat you differently and keep you at arm's length. He made more three-pointers and things like that. It's a little different from before. ”
"But it also reflects how awesome and special this game is; In fact, we're going to do it again, you know, we want to stand out and it's going to be an interesting series. But there will definitely be a moment of reflection, and it's so cool after all these years. ”
While the nature of their work may have changed, history suggests that the ultimate fate of this series, like the other games before them (at least without the Kevin Durant), will inevitably come down to the greatness of the Janku showdown. Every shot stops, every successful defense, every pass. There are at least three more games to play, but it's almost certain that a few more will be played beyond that to determine how these two greatest players complete the next chapter of their rivalry.
"To be able to play this game at a high level, play with other great players and then look at those great players from another perspective," James said. It's an honor to be a part of history, much longer than the victory we have today. It's so spicy! ”