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Explain One Cray: Stephen Curry’s record-breaking 13 threes

Stephen Curry hit an NBA record 13 three-pointers in the Warriors-Pelicans game on November 7th, 2016. We admire them and break down the plays.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

If you want to read more video breakdowns — one for every Warriors’ win since 2015 — 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.

Welp. I guess Stephen Curry is still good.

The previous record

I think many of us remember where we were when Curry tied the NBA record for threes in a game. Here was his twelveth:

It was really a matter of time before Curry broke the NBA record for most three-pointers in a game. Part of the problem has been that the way the W’s are constructed, usually if Curry hits 9 threes, then the W’s are well ahead and Curry sits the fourth quarter. Or the defense will start double-teaming Curry and he’ll give it up.

Curry’s bad shots are not exactly bad shots

Tonight, the Warriors all pitched in and played clunky offense all game and forced Curry to bail them out with a series of irresponsible threes. I acknowledge “irresponsible” may have lost meaning with Curry, but by conventional wisdom, many of these were terrible shots.

We’ll go through the threes in a minute, but I want to point out that the broken play 3s were lucky, but not THAT lucky. Did you know that Curry actually practices those specific broken plays?

The only really surprising thing is that it came right after a dreadful 0-10 three-point shooting performance, literally his worst in 157 games.

Music for 13 threes: broken plays and early offense

So here are Curry’s 13 threes with brief comments, and pointing out four broken plays and three options in the Warriors early offense.

  1. A typical Warriors 3 in transition. Nice basic pass from Kevin Durant. Buddy Hield gave Curry way too much room in the early offense. This is the first option in the Warriors early offense: a simple pass to an arriving shooter.
  2. A funny play. The ball was whipping around the perimeter and you could see Curry’s thought process. “Swing it to Klay Thompson in the corner, nah he’s covered. WAIT A SECOND, I’M STEPH FREAKING CURRY. Bombs away!”
  3. This came right after Curry made a terrible pass and turnover. He got it back with the deflection, and Ian Clark passes up an open 3 to get Curry the even more open 3.
  4. Curry hits Draymond Green with the pass in the high post probably to try to get a handoff to a jumper. Notice how David West bumps Green’s defender to make it harder for the defender to switch with Curry’s defender. (For more on this “ram screen”, you can search the Explain One Play index for “prescreen the screener”..) In this case, it doesn’t matter because Green bobbles the pass and the ball bounces straight to Curry, making this the second broken play 3.
  5. Curry is not open, but he fakes a cut to the basket which sends #10 Langston Galloway flying toward the basket in a panic guarding nobody. In the mean time, Shaun Livingston steps up to down-screen Curry’s man. This is the second option in the Warriors early offense. By the way, Thompson was really really open in the corner, and probably Curry should have rotated to him.
  6. Curry recovers a near-turnover when Thompson throws the ball to Curry who wasn’t expecting it. He then dribbles between two players and shoots an off-balance shot with 18 on the shot clock, playing 2 on 5. This is not a good shot. Broken play three #3.
  7. More early offense, and Tim Frazier just makes a mistake leaving Curry. The pass is bad, but Curry does his side-Steph and sinks it. The Warriors have really changed the league. Two years ago, Curry was the main side-stepper, now it’s copied everywhere. Three years ago, the Warriors were considered reckless for all their threes on fast breaks. That’s copied too.
  8. A bad pass from Curry which Green kicks around. It goes right to Steph of course. Broken play three #4.
  9. At this point, Curry was PISSED. Anthony Davis had just fouled him shooting a three and Curry got no call, and a bonus technical foul for complaining. Defender Galloway forces Curry away from Green’s screen (ICE!), but ICE concedes jump shots, which is not a great strategy against Curry. As soon as Galloway’s hand goes down, swish.
  10. This should be a play that GSW runs a LOT more. Throw the ball to Durant in the post. Have off-ball screens and motion. If there’s nothing there, let Durant eat his defender alive in the post with post moves or an unblockable fadeaway. In this case, the Pels double Durant, so there’s an open Warrior somewhere if the ball moves enough. Ian Clark whips it nicely to Curry who side-Stephs. I thought Curry’s foot was on the line actually...
  11. Curry inbounds it, runs around two screens along the baseline (variation on the Triple Loop). Frazier gets hung up on the first screen by Durant and gets remarkably far behind Curry.
  12. Another heat check 3. I like Frazier, but he is one of the few Curry defenders shorter than Curry. As soon as Frazier’s hands go down even a little bit, Curry has no fear of shot blocking and just shoots it right in Frazier’s face.
  13. Nice simple play, next play down. You know the W’s want Curry to shoot for the record. You can see Durant lining up Curry’s defender the whole way down the court to nail him with a screen. Durant gets a spinning butt-whump on the defender, Green gets the ball to Curry nicely, Curry sees daylight and fires away. This is the third simple option we’ve seen for the W’s early offense: a quick curl off a high cross-screen.

Final thoughts

I won’t mess up the mood by grousing about the Warriors offense not putting players in their best position to succeed; about how Zaza Pachulia should be passing out of the post and getting putbacks, not cutting and catching hard passes in traffic; how Durant needs more curls on the perimeter and more being a hub in the post; how Andre Iguodala may not be playable at the three point line as a spacer any more; how the Warriors are best when Durant or Curry is putting pressure on the defense through on-ball power or off-ball gravity and plays need to be powered by that; and that the W’s half-court offense looked clunky and misfit. No, I won’t grouse.

Instead, here are some alternate angles of Curry’s 13 threes.

Bonus distance facts (context: three point line is at 23.75 feet, 22’ in the corners):

Good night all, and remember to vote!

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