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The Golden State Warriors' frustrations at having let 2-0 and 3-1 leads in the 2016 NBA Finals slip away boiled over in the late stages of Thursday's Game 6, and both Stephen Curry and Steve Kerr will have to pay for it. Luckily for the league's MVP and his head coach, though, all it'll cost them is money.
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The NBA announced Friday morning that both Curry and Kerr had been fined $25,000, with Curry being penalized for throwing his mouthpiece in the course of arguing a foul call with just under 4 1/2 minutes left in the fourth quarter ...
... and Kerr getting docked for his criticism of the officials after the Cavaliers' 115-101 Game 6 win, which saw him take issue with the "ticky-tack fouls" that ended up getting Curry disqualified:
With just under 4 1/2 minutes left, Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson rebounded a missed free throw by Warriors guard Klay Thompson, and passed the ball to LeBron James with the Cavaliers holding a 12-point lead. Curry, playing with five fouls, raced in to try to knock the ball loose. He did, but James leapt, regained possession, came down on Curry's back and went to the ground, resulting in a whistle and Curry's sixth personal foul, which would disqualify him from the game.
The MVP lost his mind upon realizing he'd been whistled, ripping his now-signature mouthguard out of his mouth and chucking it toward the sideline in anger ... and it hit a fan sitting courtside:
"Yeah, I've thrown my mouthpiece before. I usually aim at the scorer's table," Curry said after the game. "I was off-aim."
After calming down, Curry sought out the fan — later identified as Andrew Forbes, son of Cavs minority owner Nate Forbes — and apologized before heading off the floor and back into the locker room.
"I definitely didn't mean to throw it at a fan, but it happened," he said. "I went over and apologized to him because that's obviously not where I was trying to take my frustration out. But the last two fouls I had I thought were — I didn't think I fouled either Kyrie [Irving] or LeBron. That's just kind of my perception of the plays and I had a reaction to it."
After the game, Kerr loudly and unequivocally rushed to his superstar's defense.
"He had every right to be upset," he said. "You know, he's the MVP of the league. He gets six fouls called on him, three of them were absolutely ridiculous. You know, he steals the ball from Kyrie [Irving] clean at one point. LeBron flops on the last one, [referee] Jason Phillips falls for that, for a flop. That's the MVP of the league we're talking about, these touch fouls in the NBA Finals.
"Let me be clear: we did not lose because of the officiating," Kerr added. "They totally outplayed us, and Cleveland deserved to win. But those three — three of the six fouls were incredibly inappropriate calls for anybody, much less the MPV of the league."
Asked if he was OK with Curry's projectile-based frustration response, Kerr doubled down.
"Yeah, I'm happy he threw his mouthpiece," Kerr said. "He should be upset. It's the Finals. Everybody's competing out there. There's fouls on every play. I just think that Steph Curry and Klay Thompson — the way we run our offense, we're running and 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."
There had been some speculation as to whether Curry would receive a one-game suspension for hitting the fan with his mouthguard. As Bobby Marks of The Vertical detailed, though, the precedent in this particular situation suggested a $25,000 fine rather than a missed game:
The Curry incident is different than the one-game suspension Miami forward Udonis Haslem served during the 2006 playoffs and the one-game suspension Indiana's Reggie Miller served in 2001 for throwing his gum at referee Eddie Rush.
Haslem, in a first-round game against Chicago, threw his mouthpiece in frustration toward referee Joey Crawford.
Had Curry hit Phillips with the mouthpiece, the league office would likely have had no choice but to suspend Curry.
That also dovetails with the most recent similar regular-season incidents. Aaron Brooks, then of the Sacramento Kings, received a $25,000 fine for throwing his mouthpiece into the stands in November 2012; Enes Kanter, then of the Utah Jazz, received the same penalty for the same offense in December 2014. Los Angeles Clippers guard Austin Rivers also received a $25,000 fine this season for throwing a seat cushion that hit a fan in the stands.
If you've got questions about why hitting a fan and a referee with a thrown object, irrespective of intent, are viewed as different offenses, well, that's entirely reasonable! For the purposes of this conversation, though, they are, and that means Curry will be back on the floor for Game 7 on Sunday ... and, if Kerr's $25,000 lobbying had any impact, perhaps moving around with a bit more freedom and leeway to operate.
"It was obviously frustrating fouling out in the fourth quarter of a clinching game and not being out there with my teammates," he said. "So it got the best of me, but I'll be all right for next game."
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