One highlight stands head and shoulders above all the rest from the Golden State Warriors’ 132-113 drubbing of the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday night: Steph Curry, feinting and probing against the smothering defense of LeBron James before knifing to the rim for a layup against the much bigger man.
The play instantly lit the internet on fire with emphatic reactions. It stood out for several reasons: the size difference between the two stars; as an illustration of Golden State’s dominance through two games in this year’s Finals; and finally, as a bit of revenge for a vicious block James had against Curry in last year’s Finals matchup.
But upon further review, there is a problem: The play technically shouldn’t have counted at all because Curry double-dribbled. How do we know this? Thanks to a clip the NBA itself shared on social media.
First, here’s the play in question, which came early in the third quarter Monday night. Watch Curry struggle to free himself from James before finally getting the separation he needs to sneak in two points.
It’s remarkable and nearly impossible to spot his double-dribble when viewing at game speed. Curry gets the advantage he’s seeking around the seven-second mark of this clip, using a head and shoulders fake near the three-point line to get James off balance before he drives to the rim.
Remember that moment.
Now, the NBA has something called a “Phantom Cam,” which is basically a camera that shoots super-slow motion in super-high quality. They use the “Phantom Cam” to create cool clips that are sharable on social media and did just that with Curry’s drive on James.
Let’s pay careful attention to the 22-second mark of this clip, though it corresponds to the seven-second mark of the first clip we showed you, the moment when Curry found his advantage on James.
But slowed down and from an alternate angle, we see this:
It turns out Curry didn’t just get James with a head-and-shoulder fake that made the Cavs star briefly expect an outside shot was coming. No, it turns out Curry was able to trick James because he actually put two hands on the ball as if he was going to shoot before double-dribbling to begin his drive to the rim.
Now, a missed call on one drive to the hoop is not even close to being the worst of Cleveland’s problems losing games one and two by a combined 41 points proves that beyond a doubt.
But perhaps Cavs fans can take solace in one small mercy: Sunday night’s viral highlight wasn’t quite what it seemed.