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Explain One Play: Stephen Curry Dunks AGAIN (Without Traveling)

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This is a deep dive video analysis of plays from the Bulls-Warriors game on Jan 20 2016.

Chef Curry with the dunk.
Chef Curry with the dunk.
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that was a convincing victory. The Bulls were never really in it, with sluggish defense by Pau Gasol infecting what is normally a pretty good defensive squad. And along the way, the Warriors decided to dunk as much as possible.  Many of them came on plays we've already seen, so there will be quizzes along the way.

Let's start with the headliner.

Stephen Curry Dunks AGAIN

There was so much dunkage that even our polite young man Stephen Curry threw down his second dunk in four games, a personal record. It was also his first non-fast-break dunk and his first lefty dunk.

Advanced Quiz: This is a play we've discussed a lot in this series. What is it?

Yes, it is our old friend High HORNS (or "45") (first discussed thoroughly at One Play: The W's Stop and Steal a Clippers Play and twice afterwards).  Here Curry can choose between a left screen from Festus Ezeli and a right screen from Brandon Rush. He goes left, then Ezeli's man jumps out too far to stop Curry from getting an open 3, so Curry cuts back. Ezeli, not showing a lot of awareness of where Curry is, almost rolls right into him.

Once Curry is past the big defender, the Bulls have no good choices. Probably Mirotic needs to slide over and stop Curry's drive. This would leave Rush open for a three, but that would force Curry to make the pass and give time for Curry's original defender Derrick Rose time to rotate to Rush. Anyway, Mirotic instead tries to high five Curry as he drives by. The two other Bulls defenders are guarding shooters in the corners. Curry now has space to throw down the left handed dunk.

Why This Is NOT A Travel

In case you're wondering, Curry does not travel. The current NBA rule is Section XIII—Traveling.(b):

A player who receives the ball while he is progressing or upon completion of a dribble, may take two steps in coming to a stop, passing or shooting the ball.

So a player is allowed to gather up the dribble with whatever foot is down, then take two steps. If this feels funny to you, then you are probably old (like me). Basically, it used to be a travel to take more than one step, but over time referees called this less and less. Then the refs were instructed to not call it a travel, and in 2009, the NBA made an explicit rule change to the current language.  I don't like the rule change because it leads to really ridiculous looking "Euro steps" and now players are abusing it to take three or four steps. But that's the rule.

So, go back and look at the Curry drive again. You can see that he gets control of the ball after his last dribble right at 0:11.7 game clock. His right foot is down. That's the "gather". Now he's allowed two steps, and he takes two extra long strides and impressively launches himself up and throws it down. Completely legal.

On the replay, you can also see that his gather happens just after the start of the replay with his right foot down. Then two long strides left-right and dunk.

Bonus Lebron Travel

I thought I might find a clip of LeBron James traveling, as he has a bit of a reputation. For instance, see BDot (with bonus Derrick Rose):

Well, my wish was immediately answered on Twitter at press time, with Coach Nick:

Coach Nick is right. The next sentence in the rule I quoted above is:

A player who receives the ball while he is progressing must release the ball to start his dribble before his second step.

So, there is no gather step when you receive the ball before you start legally dribbling.

Quick Bonus Dunks

This is from nba.com's dunk highlights package. Go there for the highlights with sound. I'll add very brief notes afterwards -- too tired to split these into separate clips.

1. Bogut alleyoop. Cool 4-across formation to start. Turns into a Curry-Andrew Bogut high pick and roll. Pau Gasol "defends" Bogut but loses sight of him, allowing him to cut to the rim for the dunk. Gasol plays a bit like someone who wants to be traded somewhere sunny.

2. This is actually a cool version of the Curry - Draymond Green high pick and roll which we'll probably focus on some other night. Notice how Barbosa screens Draymond's defender first. That allows Draymond to screen Curry with Jimmy Butler arriving very late. Steph releases to Draymond off the blitz, easy dunk.

3. Bogut volleyball-saves the rebound, Curry with the nice dish. Notice how Bogut barely gets back in-bounds in time to catch the ball. Bogut appears to be in agony.

4. Andre Iguodala reverse dunk. Draymond with the nice dish to a streaking Andre on the fast break. Two Bulls on the right side got crossed up (and actually ran into each other). The Bulls were doomed as soon as they missed the layup and one player ended up in the stands (you can see him flying off to the right at the start of the clip). If Andre wasn't open, Curry was open for 3 on the left wing.

5. Leandro Barbosa to Andre alley-op. All in two seconds: good hustle! No Harrison Barnes you fool, you threw it away! Wait... go Blur, catch up! Where the hell are you throwing --  OH MY GOD LIFE IS WONDERFUL. Barbosa has an extended talk with the cameraman.

6. Today's Curry slam dunk.

7. Barnes to cutting Shaun Livingston. Actually, from the original angle, you can see this is a lovely post-cross, feeding Barnes and having Shaun screen for Klay. But then Shaun slips the screen and gets the dunk. (See One Play: Warriors + Triangle Offense = Barnes 3 for more on post-cross, and also search the Index.)

8. Green to Livingston. Nobody picks up S Dot in early offense when the Warriors push the pace.

9. Only a tantalizing glimpse, but it's a quick hitter where Curry sets a back screen for Livingston diving to the basket. Good pass and finish. (More on back screens at Explain 1 Play: Iguodala & Green throw down dunks.)

If you want to read more video breakdowns, check out the rest of the series of Explain One Play articles. For the full updated index, go to The Explain One Play series index.