Are the Spurs setting a trap for Stephen Curry?
In Game 1, Curry hit a few 3s off Bogut screens, while Duncan stayed within the paint as though compelled by shock collar. As I wrote after Game 2, the Spurs switched up tactics and asked Timmy to venture far outside his usual rim-protecting defensive duties to contest Curry off of screens. At Warriors practice, I asked Curry if he was surprised to see Tim Duncan race out to challenge him on the perimeter.
“I wasn’t surprised, I knew they would make an adjustment. I shot the 3 ball well off the pick and roll, so I know they would try and take that shot away. And I’ve probably took more paint layups, floaters, close range shots than I’ve taken all year last night. I missed a lot of them, but I’ll try and keep working on finishing and make the right plays. Just trying to get in the paint and attack. We got like three or four offensive rebounds off of those possessions, because we were attacking the paint and drawing defenders, so, that’s good offense.”
In this video clip of three Curry drives, you can see just how easily he skates by Timmy. Even in the last drive, where Curry gets his shot swatted, Klay Thompson’s open for a corner 3 and Harrison Barnes is open for a lob dunk.
That’s fine and well, and Steph seems to be hurting the defense once his shot’s taken away. But I can’t help but wonder if this is part of a broader effort to turn Curry into a layup artist. Note these plays where Curry meets little resistance on the perimeter after his crossover…until he gets to the rim.
The weakness in Steph’s game, aside from his ankle, is his layup accuracy (Note: Those two weaknesses might be connected, as Curry’s layup percentage took a dive after the ankle injuries started up). On the season, Steph actually converted fewer than half his shots at the rim.
Keep in mind that the 49% figure includes a lot of open breakaway layups and plays where Curry was all alone at the hoop. A contested Curry shot at the rim is about as bad as Curry gets.
Now, Steph is probably making the correct choice in driving by Duncan on the perimeter. It’s almost like getting an uncontested gimme because Timmy isn’t there protect the hoop. But the plays where Curry is using his quickness advantage (Something he cited at practice) in driving by Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green? That just might be playing into Greg Popovich’s hands. It’s hard to tell when Steph is beating the defense into the lane versus getting funnelled in that direction.
In general, the Spurs have done a great job in preventing Stephen Curry from getting clean looks above the arc, off the catch. Now they’re trying to remove his off-the-dribble opportunities. And Curry must negotiate a difficult balancing act of looking for his shot, and taking what the defense gives him.