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Explain One Play: Stephen Curry's Gravity = Open Shots

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Video breakdown of plays from the Warriors win against the Raptors on Dec 5, 2015.  

"♫ Way up, I feel blessed! Defying gravity! ♪"
"♫ Way up, I feel blessed! Defying gravity! ♪"
Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Okay, the Warriors have just pulled out a tight win in Toronto, and Stephen Curry has just scored 44 points and bombed in 9 three pointers with many clutch points in the 4th quarter.  What a game.

Draymond Green Does The Dirty Work

Before we talk more about Curry, I want to highlight Draymond Green's vital contributions down the stretch.  In the last three minutes, the Warriors went to Small Ball Hurt Squad (with Shaun Livingston instead of Harrison Barnes, it's not quite as good as Small Ball Death Squad) and it was anyone's game until the end. In this stretch, Draymond:

  • has two outstanding drives in early offense, using his speed to outrun the opposing bigger center, seven-footer Lucas Nogueira, drawing 4 FTs.
  • at 0:20, he fights off three Raptors to keep an offensive rebound alive. It goes out of bounds off a Raptor, turning it into a free throw contest with the Warriors up.
  • in the last 3 seconds, the Warriors are inbounding to win, and Andre Iguodala throws an offline inbounds pass way back into the Warriors backcourt. If the Raptors take over, they will have a shot to tie, inbounding in the Warriors half court. So Draymond does this:

Draymond jumps out of bounds, grabs the ball and while falling out in mid-air, turns and dishes it perfectly to Curry inbounds. He won't get a stat or a highlight, but those kinds of plays add up to wins.

Nine Curry Threes

The guy can shoot. I know you want to see the threes, so here is a highlight mix.

In case you were wondering, the plays were:

  • sideline pick and roll
  • broken play: high double ball screen (don't recognize this play)
  • early offense catch and shoot, gorgeous find from Green
  • curl around Green, drop off. Usually Bogut's play.
  • Floppy (explained)
  • catch and shoot corner 3 from Marreese Speights (shades of Pelicans Game 3)
  • quick high pick and roll with Green (explained)
  • transition stop on a dime pull up
  • quick high pick and roll with Green (explained)
The Raptors big man needs to know he has to close out beyond the three point line with Curry and hope the rest of the team can rotate behind him when Curry beats him to the basket.

Curry's Gravity

Okay, on to the main course. Here is a quick overview of what gravity is.
"In a basketball context, gravity is the tendency of defenders to be pulled to certain parts of the floor. Every offensive player has gravity -- but not all players have the same gravity."
Stephen Curry has the most gravity in the game (link, but ESPN Insider only, sorry). Tom Haberstroh has been banging this drum for a while  and it's pretty obvious to the eye.

Sometimes Curry's gravity is easy to see. For instance, he gets the ball and runs a high pick and roll with Green, their favorite play (explained). Often two defenders will run at Curry, causing him to draw them away and give the ball to Green who now gets to direct a 4-on-3 attack.

Sometimes his gravity is slightly harder to see.  What happens when other teams are defending a guy like our Mister Casual Nine Threes?  You have a scheme, for instance, to double team him, or a plan involving switching defenders. Something complicated that is hard to sort out on the fly when the Warriors run right at you in early offense.  When the Warriors run, there is confusion. Who is guarding whom?  Everyone scrambles to find their man. Curry is skilled at sowing more confusion, and sucking in defenders, freeing up other Warriors.

Gravity Play #1

The Warriors run on a rebound and Curry dribbles around and somehow finds Klay Thompson for an open corner three.  Here it is.



Don't miss:
  • at 8:00 Curry intentionally dribbles INTO a quadruple-team. Yes, the Raptors are literally guarding him with four players. Curry dribbles in to try to collapse the defense.
  • I believe Kyle Lowry #7 is guarding Klay. He loses Klay in transition. As Klay runs down court, you can almost hear him tiptoeing behind Lowry saying "Be vewy quiet, I'm hunting threes, he he he."
  • Klay hustled for that rebound. He seems to be trying harder this year on the boards.
  • Klay also got off that shot quickly, as Lowry did a good job to try to get there to contest.


Gravity Play #2

Another early offense attack. Curry pushes the ball up and Raptor big man James Johnson #3 has to pick up Curry to prevent Curry from dribbling straight to the hoop for a layup. Johnson does a nice job stopping Curry from turning the corner.  Then this happens.
  • How the heck did Shaun Livingston get so open? Once Johnson switches to Curry, Curry's defender Cory Joseph is now in charge of Johnson's man or at least has to cover somebody. Instead, he sort of zones behind Johnson in case Curry blows by him, all while looking for the unguarded Warrior. But the unguarded Warrior, like a horror movie, is right behind him.  THE LAYUP IS COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE, RUN!
  • It's also amusing to watch Livingston glide into the play. He jogs completely unguarded straight to the hoop, but Curry doesn't have a good angle to get the ball to him. Curry moves over for a better angle and then - basket.
  • You can't see it from this angle, but Shaun fakes a wraparound pass to confuse Nogueira into looking the other way, and then lays it up.
Play starts at 6:41.
One of the themes of this game is that the Warriors early offense killed the Raptors. You see it in Curry's 3s, in these gravity plays and even in Draymond's Small Ball Hurt Squad drives for fouls.

Bonus Play

This was in many ways the deciding play of the game. Warriors clinging to a 1 point lead, one minute to go. The Warriors need a good play. They pick this one, which is stopped by a foul leading to free throws and the Warriors never trailed afterwards. Advanced Quiz: Can you recognize this play?

Okay, this is the Fake Warriors Rip Into Floppy play (full explanation here).  Curry and Klay start a Floppy under the basket and Curry screens for Klay and then instead of screening for Livingston at the elbow, he turns around and gets a quick screen right back from Klay.  He is fouled, but he was to curl around the left elbow screen from Draymond.

Here's a fuller example of the play.

Final Thoughts

When I started doing this series, I decided I would do one breakdown for every Warriors win to start the season. I wasn't sure what I would do for the losses. I expected to be too bummed out, and what would I breakdown anyway?  A successful play in a loss? The depressing pivotal play pointing out Warriors mistakes? I didn't know but I was sure I would figure it out along the way.

Well, it's freaking December 5th and I've pounded out 20 of these, and I STILL don't know what I'm going to do for a loss. Savor every game while we can.

The Explain One Play Series So Far

Offense
Defense