CLEVELAND –- Steph Curry has been whistled for fouls. He has displayed flashes of anger. He has even thrown that mouthpiece usually seen dangling from his lips.
Never, though, has Curry been ejected from an NBA game. And when the unprecedented occurred Thursday night in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, Curry went temporarily insane.
He got in the face of referee Jason Phillips, gesturing and yelling at him for whistling Curry for a blocking foul on Cleveland’s LeBron James. It was Curry’s sixth foul, disqualifying the MVP with 4:22 left in a 115-101 loss to the Cavaliers.
Curry’s tirade continued, with him flinging his mouthpiece, prompting Phillips to assess a technical foul and an ejection. Curry’s mouthpiece hit a fan. Regaining a measure of composure, he apologized to the fan before heading into the locker room.
This was a Steph Curry we’d never seen.
“Yeah, I’ve thrown my mouthpiece before. I usually aim at the scorer’s table. I was off (with my) aim,” Curry said. “I definitely didn’t mean to throw it at a fan. But it happened. I went over and apologized to him because that’s obviously not where I was trying to take my frustration out.”
Curry was displeased with the officiating, specifically as it was directed at him. And his coach, Steve Kerr, was in full support. Kerr was lit into the officials with stream of unvarnished commentary.
“That had nothing to do with the outcome,” Kerr began, speaking of the officials. “The outcome was decided. But he had every right to be upset. He’s the MVP of the league. He gets six fouls called on him, and three of them were absolutely ridiculous.
“He steals the ball from Kyrie (Irving) clean at one point. LeBron flops on the last one. Jason Phillips falls for the flop. As the MVP of the league, we’re talking about these touch fouls in the NBA Finals.
“Let me be clear,” Kerr continued. “We did not lose because of the officiating. (The Cavs) totally outplayed us, and Cleveland deserved to win. But those three of the six fouls were incredibly inappropriate calls for anybody -– much less the MVP of the league.”
Kerr didn’t stop there. He co-signed on the throwing of the mouthpiece, saying Curry had a right to be upset.
“Look, it’s the NBA Finals and everybody’s competing out there,” the coach said. “There’s fouls on every play. It’s a physical game. I just think that Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, the way we run our offense, we’re running, we’re cutting through the lane; we’re a rhythm offense. If they’re going to let Cleveland grab and hold these guys constantly on their cuts and then you’re going to call these ticky-tack fouls on the MVP of the league to foul him out, I don’t agree with that.”
Curry, the first MVP to foul out of an NBA Finals game since Shaquille O’Neal in 2000, was most upset about the last two whistles. His fifth foul came after he stole the ball from Irving, with Ken Mauer on the call.
“I didn’t think I fouled either Kyrie or LeBron,” Curry said. “That’s just kind of my perception of the plays and I had a reaction to it.
“It was obviously frustrating fouling out in the fourth quarter of a clinching game and not being out there with my teammates. So it got the best of me. But I’ll be all right for next game.”
The next game arrives Sunday, Game 7, at Oracle Arena. Kerr expects emotions to be present but not overpowering.
“I can’t wait for Sunday,” he said. “I think we’ll be fine.”