Play breakdown: The Threat of Stephen Curry

Stephen Curry isn’t only a threat with the ball in his hands. Because he’s just as dangerous off ball, opponents have to be a step ahead of him if they have any chance of slowing him down. One of the ways the Warriors use that to their advantage is by having Curry set screens on his teammates in the half court to confuse opponents.

Here’s an example of just that from Wednesday’s game between the Warriors and Suns following a timeout.

Part 1: The Set-up

The beauty of the Warriors is that they’re not restricted to one or two players bringing the ball up court. Draymond Green, who is putting up numbers we’ve never seen before, looks like a point guard on paper and Andre Iguodala is capable of making plays with the ball in his hands.

That allows Curry and Klay Thompson to play off ball, which is a nightmare for teams to deal with because they’re amongst the league’s best scorers off of screens.

On this play in particular, Curry and Thompson set up across from each other in the corners. Meanwhile, Iguodala (who has the ball in his hands) and Green stand behind the perimeter, while Andrew Bogut parks himself at the free throw line.

No. 1

Part 2: Diversion

Curry and Thompson exchange screens underneath the basket, but Curry breaks before they make contact to run towards Green. The Suns aren’t forced to switch — they’re trailing Curry and Thompson to prevent themselves from getting hung up on screens — and Thompson clears out to the corner.

Notice how Bogut moves from underneath the free throw line to just inside the 3-point line while that’s going on. He fakes as though he’s going to set a screen on Iguodala’s defender, which helps pull Tyson Chandler away from the rim — important for the play to unfold.

No. 2

Part 3: The Screen

Iguodala passes the ball to Thompson in the left corner and Curry sets a back screen on Green. With no rim protector in sight — again, notice Bogut pulling Chandler away — Green makes a simple cut towards the basket. Because Curry demands so much attention, Eric Bledsoe is forced to stick with him rather than switching. That puts all of the pressure on Jon Leuer to fight over the screen.

No. 3

Part 4: Bucket

As soon as Thompson catches the ball, he turns around and throws a bullet to Green for an uncontested layup. And just in case that didn’t work, Bogut moves towards Curry to set a screen and Iguodala clears out to the weak side.

Those Warriors, always thinking of ways to make you pay.

No. 4

Here’s a GIF of the play:


Pay attention to Green at the start of the play, too. Standing upright with a hand on his hip, Leuer relaxes and shifts his attention to Iguodala and Bogut. That’s all Green needs to create a passing lane by getting Leuer on his back.

Play breakdown: The Threat of Stephen Curry

Play Breakdown: Warriors ball movement

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 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.

Play Breakdown: Warriors ball movement

Film Room: Stephen Curry’s 3-pointers vs. Clippers

Stephen Curry knocked down seven 3-pointers against on Wednesday night, most of which came at the hands of poor defense from the Clippers.

Let’s take a look at what happened.

No. 1: Offensive Rebound

This is the beauty of having a stretch four like Draymond Green in the lineup. Following a pick-and-pop with Klay Thompson on the right wing, Blake Griffin is forced to close out on Green to prevent an open 3-pointer. Rather than boxing him out, though, he leaks out in transition, which puts the Clippers in a tough position — Jordan has to battle with Festus Ezeli underneath the basket, basically resulting in a 4-on-3 situation.

Lance Stephenson fails to put a body on Harrison Barnes and the Clippers get a second chance opportunity. Once Barnes grabs the offensive rebound, J.J. Redick makes the mistake of taking his eyes off of Curry and falls for a simple head fake when closing out. Curry takes one dribble into a 3-pointer and gets the shooter’s roll.

No. 2: Misdirection Screen

Teams often bait ball handlers in the pick-and-roll to settle for midrange jump shots by having their big man sag off. The problem: That doesn’t really work with Curry. Knowing that DeAndre Jordan wouldn’t outright switch, the Warriors took advantage in the second quarter by putting Draymond Green, who was playing center, in the pick-and-roll.

Curry’s second 3-pointer on the night comes off of a rather simple play: The Warriors run a misdirection in transition to get Austin Rivers out of position and Jordan is too far away to prevent him from taking a wide open shot. Curry rises for a 3-pointer within eight seconds of the shot clock and pushes the Warriors’ lead to 13 points.

No. 3: Pick-and-Roll

Less than two minutes later, the Warriors run a similar play. Off of an inbounds, Curry receives a hand off from Andre Iguodala — forcing Lance Stephenson to switch onto him — and dribbles off of Ezeli’s screen. Like Chris Paul, Stephenson gets hung up on the screen and Jordan isn’t in position to close out.

While Stephenson fouls Curry, he still knocks it down.

Just notice how far away Jordan is from Curry. Not ideal.


No. 4: Back Screen & Pop

Curry’s final 3-pointer in the quarter comes off of a nifty play call from the Warriors. Instead of bringing the ball up the court, Curry plants himself on the post and sets a back screen for Harrison Barnes. While simple, it’s enough to get Chris Paul and Austin Rivers confused — Paul wants to switch but Rivers fights over the screen, leaving the best shooter in the world unguarded.

After receiving a hand-off from Green, Curry rises for another uncontested 3-pointer. Blake Griffin isn’t quick enough to react and make up for miscommunication between Paul and Rivers, either.

No. 5-7: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Unfortunately for Jordan, the results weren’t much better when he did change his ways. First, Curry broke him down on a switch in the fourth quarter. (Maybe Paul shouldn’t pick him up from half court next time.)

Then, Curry pulled up from way out.

And then he did it again.

While those are more along the lines of the shots the Clippers will live with Curry taking, Jordan could’ve been more aggressive hedging and getting his hand up.

Film Room: Stephen Curry’s 3-pointers vs. Clippers