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CLEVELAND — Friday night will answer a major question for all basketball fans: Can the Warriors sweep the Cavaliers in Game 4 and stake their claim to being a true NBA dynasty? If so, we will answer a minor question, too: Who is the 2018 NBA Finals most valuable player? Is it Kevin Durant or Stephen Curry?

Curry was good in Game 1 and mesmerizing in Game 2. Durant was a one-man whirlwind of scoring and rebounding and passing in Game 3. As of now, the race is too close to handicap.

It’s our latest reminder. We are witnessing two of basketball’s true superstars, and to see how they trade and share big moments on the court is a fascinating study.

It hasn’t always been a natural fit, of course. No one figured it would be. These Warriors were built around the geometry of Curry’s long-distance shooting. To take a transcendent talent like Durant and slot him into an existing structure was exciting, and challenging, from the start.

They didn’t mesh right away. For most of his first two months playing alongside Durant, Curry was uncharacteristically tentative, and not particularly productive. You could expect most MVP-caliber players to go overboard in asserting their dominance over a newcomer. Curry, who is both humble and fully aware of his public image, was guilty of the opposite.

“Basketball doesn’t get figured out in three months, four months,” Warriors general manager Bob Myers said Thursday before the Warriors practiced at Quicken Loans Arena. “Even a year or two, it takes. So I was always confident, as long as they had the right mind and right approach, and they came with no ego, that we’d figure it out. And they did it.”

But not before things hit rock bottom on Christmas Day, 2016. In a one-point loss at Cleveland — always Cleveland — Curry took just 11 shots and scored 15 points. Afterward, the team had what Curry calls “a come-to-Jesus” meeting that helped to unshackle the game’s greatest shooter. The two stars built rapport over the rest of that season, which culminated in a 16-1 postseason run during which the Warriors looked unbeatable.

“This year has been a lot more comfortable, a lot more — just understood how we feel out the game and what plays to call,” Curry said Thursday. “Understand we all can be aggressive and we’re not going to step on anybody’s toes. We all understand that we’ll have an opportunity to impact the game, whether it’s for stretches of the game or a play here, a play there.”

He added: “It’s been fun to be on that journey and kind of learn a new system within an old system pretty quickly these last two years.”

Durant and Curry have figured out their court cohabitation. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to work every night.

During the Western Conference final series, the Warriors bogged down. The Houston Rockets’ able defense disrupted their movement and their rhythm, and frequently the result was Kevin Durant dribbling face-up on a defender while his teammates, including Curry, stood and watched. Durant missed a lot of shots, and the Rockets extended the Warriors to seven grueling games.

People howled that Durant was hogging the ball. That the beautiful, record-breaking offensive system we had come to admire was being subverted by isolation ball.

“It took us awhile to adjust to what (the Rockets) were doing,” assistant coach Ron Adams told me. “They did it well. And we were having trouble scoring in spots, at different times of the game. And that (isolation) was an answer for us for a bit. And so then, as we kind of figured things out, we needed Kevin to be a bit different. And I think the really great thing about that is he adjusted again.”

Against the Cavaliers, the full potential of the Curry-Durant partnership has been unlocked. They have traded great plays, and great quarters, and great games. Curry went crazy while Durant was still searching for his shot. And when Curry misplaced his on Wednesday, Durant picked up every inch of slack and pulled the team along.

Iso ball has its advantages when Kevin Durant is the guy you’re isolating.

“Yeah, it’s a fine line, isn’t it?” Steve Kerr said Thursday. “Bottom line, in the playoffs, the game gets much more difficult for everybody. It’s just harder to get a shot off. You can see that across the board on both teams. As you go through the playoffs, you see different teams, different matchups, everyone poses a different threat. There are just a handful of guys in the NBA who can kind of get their shot whenever they want, and Kevin happens to be one. And he happens to be 6-11 with long arms. You know, it’s almost unfair what he can do.”

Kerr credited Durant’s aggressiveness in this series. Rather than holding the ball, he’s making quick decisions and putting the Cavaliers defense on its heels. The result: The Warriors are perched on the precipice of another NBA championship, and we are debating whether the dominant player on the team is Durant or Curry.

Consider how rare it is for two larger-than-life players to play for one NBA team while each is in his prime. I’m talking about guys who can carry a team. John Stockton, James Worthy and Scottie Pippen were brilliant players, but could any of them have put a team on his back and borne it to the NBA Finals? Probably not.

So we’re left with just a handful of truly great pairings, and some of them, like Elgin Baylor and Jerry West, go back too far for my memory banks. In the past 35 years, we’re probably looking at Kareem and Magic, Julius Erving and Moses Malone, Kobe and Shaq, LeBron and Dwyane Wade, maybe Durant and Russell Westbrook. And now Durant and Curry.

It doesn’t always work. Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal won three championships together, but grew so weary of one another that the Lakers had to blow up the band. Durant and Westbrook never seemed entirely comfortable together.

“I think it’s rarer than it should be,” Myers said. “I think people should care more about winning than who was the star, or who scored. Who cares? I know people care, I don’t know why they care. That’s why you play a team sport. If you want to just be you, you can go play an individual sport.”

This is what makes Warriors so terrifying, and it’s why they are on the verge of their third NBA title under Kerr. Sometimes basketball looks like an individual sport, and because of Kevin Durant, the Warriors can win that way. But usually it’s a team sport, and largely because of Stephen Curry, they can win that way, too.

Pick your poison. Either way, it won’t taste very good.

You can reach columnist Phil Barber at 707-521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com. Follow him on Twitter: @Skinny_Post.

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