This game was a mild setback for the game of basketball. The Lakers played with some enthusiasm but were limited by their limited offense and bouts of sloppiness. Except for Stephen Curry, the Warriors played like bored zombies. The game was surprisingly close late into the third quarter when Curry, perhaps sensing he would need to drag the team on his back, unleashed a series of remarkable three pointers (8-16 tonight) and assists. But we're not here to talk about his 8 threes. Come on, Curry threes happen four or five times every game. And this is the EIGHTH time in this season's 37 games that he has dropped 8+ threes.
No, we're here to talk about Curry's tremendous 360-degree windmill dunk. Now this year the man has only dunked once before (v. Nets) and he muffed his last dunk attempt. In fact, a couple of years ago, he was regularly missing dunks and converting them (of course) into threes. For instance:
Well, tonight Curry decided to convert the dunk the normal way. I agree with Ros:
I think Steph Curry dunked that on purpose to energize team. He is very intentional on the rare times he dunks.
— Rosalyn Gold-Onwude (@ROSGO21) January 15, 2016
Let's see the play from the beginning, so you can just enjoy it. Then we'll look a bit at what happened on defense.
Pop Quiz for Advanced Readers: What is the play the Lakers are running?
The answer is High HORNS. (We discussed this thoroughly at One Play: The W's Stop and Steal a Clippers Play.) This is a play that the Warriors run from time to time. D'Angelo Russell handles the ball up top and gets two screens from Julius Randle (left) and Tarik Black (right). He goes right, turning the play into a pick and roll with Tarik Black.
Russell gets a step ahead of Curry, but instead of turning to stay close to the screen and keeping Curry on his back, he lets Curry squeeze around the screen and move laterally to keep Russell out of the lane. Curry turns the play into an ICE defense against this pick and roll, as he keeps Russell from going to the middle and funnels him to the waiting Festus Ezeli, who has sunk back into the lane to contain Russell's drive. (Refresher on ICE defense: Notes on the Warriors' defense.) Black rolls after the screen right down the lane, into a mess of Warriors.
The ICE defense is meant to take away the drive and the pass to the roll man. Black could have popped out for a foul line jumper or Russell had a midrange two right when he cleared the screen. But now, it's a mess. To make things worse, Shaun Livingston sinks into the lane, seemingly confident that Russell will not find the wide-open Lou Williams in the right corner. At this point, Russell seems to just lose the ball.
The ball flies out and deflects RIGHT to Tarik Black who has slowly migrated towards the basket. This should be a dunk, right? No, Ezeli seems to have gone to the Andre Iguodala school of stripping (no, don't have a naughty mind) and knocks the ball away as Black goes up. Andre recovers the ball and throws a gorgeous full-court pass to Curry who surprised everyone by dunking. The Warriors were something like 0-5 on full court passes up till then. The clip ends before you see Draymond on the bench going nuts.
Rewatch it and watch Curry. We already discussed his good D on the play, but watch to see when he starts running to the other side.
As soon as Russell loses the ball and goes flying towards the basket, you see Curry immediately start leaking out (all five Lakers are behind him at this point). By the time Andre actually gets the ball, Curry is off-screen. If he waits until Andre gets possession to start running, there is no fast break and certainly not enough room for Curry to throw down the dunk. Pretty play on all parts.
Nobody likes a party pooper, Luke. Just because Curry has a career FG% of 20% on dunks and he might hurt himself, don't bring your common sense into this.
@unstoppablebaby Steph can make 8 threes and is normal but he dunks and everyone loose their minds
— Golden Boy (@GswDub) January 15, 2016
Correct. Seriously, which would be more surprising for you to hear about next game: Curry drops 8 threes again or he dunks again? I thought so.
Curry looks superhuman so often that his quirks--his labored running gait, his canted arm defensive stance, his barely dunks--are endearing.
— shrillmatic (@theshrillest) January 15, 2016
Dunks this Season: Stephen Curry - 2 Tim Duncan - 1
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 15, 2016
Illegal Screen Watch
Some folks complain about the Warriors setting illegal screens. There are very few completely legal screens set in the NBA, so I'll grade the screens in our plays on a scale of 0 (illegal, insane moving octopus criminal battery) to 10 (perfectly legal).
In the High HORNS play, Tarik Black sets a screen on Curry at the start. You can see that it's not strictly legal because he is moving, leaning his body and shoulder into Curry. A screener, once in position, is not allowed to adjust his position. So a ref could call that, but it would feel a bit like picking on him, since this is such a common move on NBA screens. Rating: 5/10 legal.