Seeing as Stephen Curry is making 5.2 3-pointers per game at a 45.6 percent clip, you’d think teams would do everything possible to cut down his uncontested shot attempts. And yet, while it’s far easier said than done, over 50 percent of his FGAs through 11 games have been what NBA.com classifies as open (within 4-plus feet of a defender).
As I wrote on Sporting News, there are a number of things Curry and the Warriors do well to get him open, like pull-ups from 40 feet, drag screens in transition and nifty plays for him off the ball. But the way the Warriors selflessly move the ball on offense has a way of baiting teams into mistakes. It’s no surprise, either, because the longer the Warriors swing the ball, the more teams have to rotate and make reads on the fly — deadly considering the number of weapons they have on their roster.
One play during the Warriors’ win over the Raptors on Tuesday encapsulated all of that perfectly.
No. 1: Pick-and-Roll
It all starts on a somewhat broken play. Leandro Barbosa curls off of a screen from Festus Ezeli, receives the ball from Curry and takes one dribble before hitting Ezeli rolling to the basket. Because he is quickly double-teamed, Ezeli passes the ball back to Barbosa on the perimeter and they run a pick-and-roll.
Back to square one.
To prevent Barbosa from getting to the middle of the court, Corey Joseph ices the pick-and-roll by funnelling him baseline. (Statistically, this is the right move).
No. 2: Breakdown
With Bismack Biyombo sagging on the play, Barbosa wisely attacks the basket. While he doesn’t have a great angle towards the rim, Patrick Patterson helps off of Harrison Barnes on the opposite baseline to prevent Barbosa from getting into the paint. Barbosa reads it well by whipping a pass to Barnes, which forces DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry to help out.
While that’s going on, Curry sets a half-hearted screen for Andre Iguodala on DeRozan, drawing both DeRozan and Lowry into the paint.
No. 3: Swing
Lowry is in better position to close out on Barnes, so he does. Because the Warriors move the ball so quickly (4 seconds have elapsed since the pick-and-roll), Joseph, Patterson and Biyombo are still underneath the rim. That leaves DeRozan on an island between Curry and Andre Iguodala.
No. 4: Open 3-pointer
Once Curry catches the ball, all he does is pause to see how DeRozan reacts. DeRozan gets caught up in the moment, hedges towards Iguodala and Curry drains the open shot.
DeRozan should’ve known who he was dealing with, but moving the ball quickly forces the defense to make quick reads. The Raptors prevented a layup from Ezeli to begin the play, stopped Barbosa from getting to the rim out of the pick-and-roll and shut down Barnes in the corner for an open 3. Then, they were left deciding between Curry and Iguodala shooting a 3-pointer.
Unfortunately for them, one mistake is all the Warriors need to get off a quality shot.