Stephen Curry finished with 26 points and the Warriors won their 19th game in a row on Monday, but the Jazz did a good job of making them work for 48 minutes. After all, it took Shaun Livingston’s first 3-pointer of the season and some heroics from Curry down the stretch to leave Salt Lake City with a victory.
There were three things the Jazz did well to disrupt Curry and the Warriors leading up to the last six minutes of the game, some of which we’ve seen before.
Tactic 1: Do your homework early
Similar to what the Clippers did earlier this season (for at least one quarter), the Jazz had their bigs run to the 3-point line instead of the rim following a made or missed basket.
It’s somewhat risky since it leaves the paint unguarded, but it worked because Derrick Favors had to guard Draymond Green on the drag screen anyway and Rudy Gobert’s assignment was still running up the court. As long as the two other defenders — in this case Gordon Hayward and Rodney Hood — don’t get caught ball watching, it can help teams slow down the Warriors in transition. It also gave Raulzinho Neto some slack when fighting through screens.
It set the Jazz to trap Curry a couple of times too, one of which forced a careless turnover.
If Curry attacks off of the pick, three players are in the vicinity to swarm him. It leaves Green open rolling to the rim or popping to the 3-point line, but that’s why it’s useful having someone like Alec Burks — 6-6 with a 6-10 wingspan — guarding Curry to prevent straight-line passes. While Curry can float a pass over the defense, it gives Favors or Trevor Booker time to recover.
Tactic 2: Turn Green into a scorer
The Cavaliers did a good job of turning Green into a playmaker — a role he wasn’t comfortable with last season — in the finals. He’s made huge strides as a facilitator this season (I wrote about how he’s basically a #PointGod at Sporting News), but I still think the best chance of slowing them down is by turning Green into a scorer inside the 3-point line.
Of course, as is the case with every theoretical scenario with the Warriors, that’s much easier said than done.
It all starts with Gobert, who, like Timofey Mosgov, is a huge and imposing center in the paint. When Green catches the ball on a roll to the rim, he’s able to keep him guessing by staying between Green and his man. If everyone else does their homework, that leaves Green with a midrange jumper or a floater from the free throw line, which are options teams will likely take. In this situation, with Festus Ezeli being covered on the alley-oop, Green opted for a floater.
Because Green has basically turned himself into a walking triple-double, encouraging him to shoot 15-something times in a game (like he did on Monday) might be the way to go. For what it’s worth, Green still finished with 20 points (8-for-21 FG), 9 rebounds and 7 assists against the Jazz and was +10 when on the court.
I might be spewing nonsense.
Tactic 3: Swarm Curry on the fastbreak
Last thing I noticed: The Jazz did a good job of swarming Curry in transition rather than giving him space to be creative, which prevented a couple of layups. Green grabbed the offensive rebound and converted an And-1 in the fourth quarter (that’s what happens when a big trails the ball handler on the fastbreak), but this one led to a missed shot and turnover.
Giving Curry any sort of breathing room will make you look silly, so it was nice to see Trey Burke and Burks sprint back on defense to make a play. As a result, the Warriors only scored five transition points in the game.