CLEVELAND -- The long-distance triples with the high arcs, the dancing, the smiles and the joy have accompanied Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry in these NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
In any other year, with a 3-0 series advantage, Curry would be the undisputed Finals MVP. This year, the award is teammate Kevin Durant's to lose.
But Curry's monstrous Finals statistics shouldn't be ignored. He's averaging 28.7 points, 9.7 rebounds, 9.0 assists and 2.0 steals, and he is shooting 48 percent from 3-point range. The past two games, Curry has pulled down more rebounds than any other player on either team. He's averaging more boards than Hakeem Olajuwon did in 1994 when he won Finals MVP and more than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did in 1985 when he won the award.
Curry was criticized for perceived shortcomings in his past two Finals appearances. In an interview with ESPN, he was asked what the difference has been this time around.
"I'm not dealing with an MCL situation," Curry said. "It never was an excuse last year. I should have played much better. But yeah, there's a lot of factors that go into that, obviously. We've played only  games so far. We managed our minutes throughout the year a lot better, and I've been smarter about just taking care of my body. So this is the moment we've obviously been looking forward to. There's really no excuse for us not to be playing well."
Compared to last year's Finals, Curry is averaging more than six more points per game, more than five more assists and just under twice as many rebounds while shooting 8 percentage points better from distance. His player efficiency rating of 28.4 is more than 12 points higher than it was last year.
Leading up to the matchup with the Cavaliers last week, Curry was vocal about his desire to perform at his maximum potential.
"Talking about it is good because it kind of keeps you in the moment and the understanding that every game we have is an opportunity to do something great," he said. "Whether it comes together or not, that's my attitude, my perspective on just playing basketball and enjoying this moment because for five years of my career, we didn't even come close. So I've got to appreciate it while we got it."
Golden State is on the cusp of an unprecedented playoff feat. Now that the 16-0 challenge is right in front of them, the Warriors are up for the task that will present itself Friday night at Quicken Loans Arena. But in the grand scheme of things, achieving 16 wins was all that mattered.
"We want to win the championship however way we can do it," Curry said. "That's our goal."
A team that went 73-9 last season was somehow able to sign one of the NBA's top three players in Durant. With that merging of talent came more scrutiny, more pressure and heightened expectations -- all the more reasons Curry has prepared himself to dominate on this platform.
"Because our expectations are much greater now," Curry said. "This is our third time around. The regular season is obviously important. You have to lay the foundation for what kind of team you're going to be going into the playoffs and hopefully the ultimate goal of playing in these games. But you have to embrace the challenge and the atmosphere. I appreciate how hard it is to win a championship and what I need to do individually to try to make that happen."
Should the Warriors win Friday, and should Curry finish Game 4 with 13 assists and 11 rebounds, he will have completed the Finals averaging a triple-double. His teammates are thriving off of his playmaking, shooting a staggering 73 percent off his passes, including 11-of-13 from beyond the arc.
All that remains is one more victorious 48-minute bout. It doesn't appear that the Warriors will allow for complacency to set in. They've experienced that before.
Curry says his teammates have the proper mentality and focus, and they're determined to take back the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
"We all want it," Curry said. "We just have to go get it."