As Kevin Durant and so many others have recalled in recent years, Stephen Curry is Golden State’s offensive “system” of the Steve Kerr era. However, the playmaker is not necessarily a direct system, as LeBron James or Luka Doncic may be, or as James Harden may have been, with whom the attack depends largely on their ability to score. or to find a marked partner, following the various aids.
The fact remains that the Warriors’ attack is based on the dribble exit shot of its double MVP, by the fear it inspires, the points it brings and the two-man it generates.
Take advantage of defensive strategy
These Finals were probably the most flamboyant example. Until Game 4, the Celtics chose to defend in “drop coverage” on the leader, a tactic that the Cavaliers or the Raptors had hardly used in previous Golden State Finals. This offered a lot of good shots to Stephen Curry, who shot 34.3 points at 50% success, including 49% from 3-pointers, over the first four games!
The counterpart is that Draymond Green could no longer serve as “second creator” and that the Warriors did not benefit from any excess following two-man strikes on Stephen Curry.
As noted by Thinking Basketball, this sequence in Game 4 illustrates the strength and weakness of Ime Udoka’s strategy. A strategy which however changed from Game 5, the Celtics having ended up asking their interiors to challenge the shots of Stephen Curry.
What better to hinder the leader of the Bay … but also to allow Golden State to find its secondary game.
The humility of poison
Over the last two meetings, Stephen Curry has seen his shooting average drop (mainly because of his Game 5 concluded at 7/22 including 0/9 at 3-points) to 25 points with 44% success, including 30% far. But his passing average doubled, going from 3.8 to 7.5, while Draymond Green’s went from 5.8 to 7.0.
This is perhaps Stephen Curry’s most underestimated strength, and a certain form of misunderstanding. Because when Steve Kerr compares him to Tim Duncan and praises his humility, many are surprised when they think of his celebrations and his dances. But the humility of the MVP of the last Finals is not in the attitude, it is in the acceptance of his role in the collective game plan, like the interior of the Spurs, who had gradually given up the keys to the attack on Tony Parker then Kawhi Leonard in Texas.
Stephen Curry’s humility comes from the fact that he takes advantage of the openings offered to him to shoot, but he never hesitates to use the two-man shot to serve his teammates. This is what Ime Udoka explained between the lines, compared to other superstars who did not put such pressure on defenses, precisely because they tend to keep the ball longer in their hands, even on two-man shots.
“We can mix things up, be more physical, go under the screen when he’s very far away. We were pretty good at that. But the thing is, he’s an amazing, spontaneous creator. It’s hard to press him, compared to other guys who don’t want to let go of the ball. Because he finds guys immediately in space. And of course, that’s where Draymond is at his best, when he can create for others. »
Stephen Curry’s masterpiece?
We can say that these Finals represent (for the moment) Stephen Curry’s masterpiece because they perfectly illustrate everything he is, both in terms of shooting and his role as an offensive “system”.
Still, as Todd Whitehead notes, his scoring was quite different from the regular season. Faced with “drop coverage” in four of the six matches, he thus used the “pick-and-roll” (P&R Ball Handler) and the hand-to-hand (Handoff) much more. But with the defensive pressure of the Celtics, the game without the ball (Off-ball Screen) or in “catch-and-shoot” (Spot Up) was more difficult to obtain, as were the points on counter-attack (Transition).
More powerful, and therefore more capable of outflanking his opponents, Stephen Curry was also able to shine better in one-on-one (Isolation), his efficiency falling compared to the regular season (1.20 points per possession against 1.06 in final) but remaining at a very high level against a much better defense.
These 2022 Finals are the perfect illustration of what makes Stephen Curry so unique: his extreme 3-point efficiency, especially on the dribble exit, but above all his ability to adapt to opposing defensive coverage, shooting when the opposing insides remained down, immediately making the pass when they came up to challenge his shots. And it is the fact that he does not hesitate to switch from one to another, trusting his shooting or his teammates, to punish the defenses, which is the basis of the game of the Warriors of Steve Kerr. Their system.