The San Antonio Spurs are going to take on the Golden State Warriors later tonight. The Warriors have been one of the hotter offensive forces in the postseason. They scored 107.2 points per game in six games against the Denver Nuggets. This was already one of the better offensive teams in the league, but with the way that they’re shooting right now they seem almost impossible to stop.
Defense is the key for the Spurs to win this series. They were dominant on both ends against the Lakers. The Spurs leads all teams in the postseason with a net rating of 20.4 and they have an EFG% of 52.7%. However, the Warriors will be a different monster. They won’t be as easy to conquer–especially offensively.
The Lakers were very one dimensional with their methods of attacking. The Warriors will attack from multiple directions with an array options and they’ll attack from those options fast.
With David Lee fighting the injury bug the Warriors are going to keep the floor spread out. This is why they shot a blistering 40% from the three point line. The Warriors had four perimeter guys playing over 35 minutes per game in Stephen Curry, Jarrett Jack, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes.
Harrison Barnes could be considered the most important of those players. Once David Lee went down with his injury, Mark Jackson plugged Harrison Barnes in rather than playing with a bigger team. Jackson made up for the versatility they lost in Lee by spacing the floor and trusting Barnes. Barnes validated this decision by shooting 46% from the floor and 40% from the three point line while taking 5.3 threes per game.
This was essential to the Warriors victory because of how poorly Barnes played during the regular season. He only played 25.4 minutes per game and shot 44% from the field, but from three he only took 1.8 shots per game. The Nuggets didn’t count on him being aggressive during this series and ignored him on many of his opportunities–an insane strategy in hindsight and one that proved to be fatal in the end.
Take a look at how Barnes was blatantly ignored on this drive after the defense collapses:
Here’s another spot where Harrison Barnes gets a wide open three just minutes later. The Nuggets had a chance for a good contest but they elect not to and fail to rotate appropriately. Two defenders go to Stephen Curry on their defensive rotations:
This sort of lazy play cannot and will not win games against a team that shot 40% from beyond the arc in the playoffs. The Spurs are going to need to make sure that they do their best to chase people off of the three point line and force them into Tim Duncan to finish at the rim.
Now, getting to Stephen Curry. The Spurs are going to have a difficult time of dealing with him and the way that he’s being used in this series. Curry is the premier shooter in the league right now. Why? Because he can do it in multiple ways. Curry can shoot threes off of the dribble or spotting up so the Warriors have a lot of versatility with him. Defending him is going to be a pain because of that.
Curry is the best in the game at shooting the three ball from off of the dribble. His tight, compact handle mixed in with his quick release make it almost impossible to stop. To hamper him at all, the Spurs will need to cover him as soon as he crosses half-court in transition and the half[court. Even then, Curry may just get free and shoot one anyway.
Curry is shooting 73% on step-back jump shots on the season, with 36 of the 78 step-back jumpers he took being three point looks. Out of those 36 step-backs, he’s made 30 of them. He shoots 63% on pull up jump shots and an equal 63% on pull up three point shots. He’s taken 210 pull up jumpers this season and 115 of those have been three point shots. He’s comfortable shooting the three ball from above the break and off the dribble. That’s an elite skill set in this league.
The video below shows textbook defense on a Curry isolation:
Wilson Chandler plays perfect defense on Curry here. Even though he made the shot, this is something that you have to live with. You can’t play him any better than this.
Chandler and Miller both come over the screen in the photo above to prevent Curry from using the drag screen set from Draymond Green to find some free space. They don’t allow him to get comfortable and remain physical with him throughout the play.
This leads to an isolation which is really what you want if you’re an NBA defense. Curry ends up making a step-back three, but there really isn’t anything that you can do about that.
The Spurs are going to have to do the same thing if they want to succeed against the Warriors. Stopping the hot shooting of Stephen Curry means playing aggressively over the pick and roll like the Spurs are capable of. They also have to stick to the outside shooters that the Warriors have. Even though Klay Thompson and Jarrett Jack have yet to catch fire, they’ll surely play to their averages eventually. The Spurs can’t let that happen against them.