CLEVELAND -- It's not often Steve Kerr can't find the right word. Before he was coaching these Golden State Warriors, the man made a living as one of the best broadcasters in sports for four years. He has a remarkable ability to say exactly the right thing at the right time.
But on this point, what's become the most important point for the Warriors in these Finals, it took him a while to find the right word to describe what Stephen Curry has been lacking in these first three games.
"I just thought he lost a little energy and ... I don't know ... life?" Kerr said of the NBA's MVP.
"We just need life from everybody, we need emotion from everybody. He's not really an emotional player like Draymond [Green] is. But we've got to fight through the down periods with just that competitive life and energy."
It's not that Curry has been bad in these Finals. He just hasn't been magic.
Curry is averaging 24 points over the past three games, which is basically what he averaged in the Warriors' second-round series against the Memphis Grizzlies. Save for his off shooting night in Game 2, he's shooting 50 percent from the field and 47 percent on 3-pointers.
It's just the magic that's been missing. When Curry flurries, it's like oxygen for his teammates. They feed off it like a runner who trains at altitude. That's what you saw in the fourth quarter of the Warriors' 96-91 loss to the Cavaliers in Game 3. Curry conjured up a bit of magic with the previously forgotten David Lee and nearly brought the Warriors all the way back in a game they really weren't in for the first three quarters.
"Certainly the way the fourth quarter went was a positive. Hopefully there's some carryover from that," Warriors general manager Bob Myers said. "But you have to try to employ that the whole time."
It's the line the Warriors have walked all season long. To play the way Curry does -- fearlessly, but always on the border of reckless -- you have to let go of all your inhibitions. Push, not pull. Let it rip, so to speak.
"We just have to play free," Curry said. "Have fun and be the aggressors if we're going to win this series."
The Warriors have gotten so used to Curry doing this, they have developed a blind faith that he will continue to do so. Someway, somehow -- no matter how far they fall behind -- he'll flurry them back to life. Coming into the Finals, the Warriors had fallen behind by double digits in the first half seven times and still managed to win five of those games.
It's a dangerous game to play on a stage as big as this one. But there have been so many flurries -- so much magic conjured this season -- it's hard to doubt them now.
"I feel like we'll wake up and we'll get there," Warriors forward Andre Iguodala said. "You know you've been down before and you can get out of it. But it's easier said than done. It's up to us to do the things that we haven't been able to do."
"It's not going to be a series where we're going to get out and run and score 125 points. The Finals rarely are played that way." Steve Kerr
Aggressiveness is the common theme here. When the Warriors are rolling, they're running. They get out on the break for easy baskets. According to SportVU data, Golden State was second only to the Phoenix Suns in total transition attempts. Coming into the Finals, the Warriors maintained that pace, averaging 10.8 fast breaks per game. In the first two games at home, they were able to run a bit -- averaging 15.5 fast-break points a game. On the road in Cleveland, it was a completely different story. Golden State got just four fast-break points on eight attempts.
With Cleveland relying on LeBron James isolation plays, the normally active Golden State defense was stagnant -- which is a problem when a team relies on its defense to start its offense. It slowed everything down: the game, the pace, the emotion. At times it felt like one of those old Big East tournament games.
"They're walking the ball up the floor," Kerr said. "That's what they do. They isolate a lot with LeBron, so the game slows down a little bit. We did a better job rebounding tonight. But we never really were able to get out and run off of our rebounds.
"It's not going to be a series where we're going to get out and run and score 125 points. The Finals rarely are played that way."
Kerr knows this firsthand, having won the Finals five times as a player. He's been trying to get his team to understand that, without spooking them into seizing and tightening up.
It's a difficult line to walk sometimes. The Warriors' strength is in their swagger. They won 67 games in the regular season and 13 playoff games by trusting that swagger, that magic will be there when they need it most. So far, it has. So for now, they'll keep trusting it.
It's not often Curry is able to explain things like this better than Kerr. He's the one making the magic, not talking about it. But on this point, he said it perfectly.
"I've got to stay -- I'll use the word 'vibrant' -- and just kind of having fun out there," Curry said. "Because the team definitely feeds off of my energy and the joy for the game. If it's not going our way, or not going my way, I've got to find different ways to get us going."