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.
We are very lucky to be seeing Mr. Curry in his prime. We've simply never seen a player in the NBA who could dominate the game from the three point line like Stephen Curry. Bird and Magic dominated with playmaking. Jordan dominated attacking the rim. Shaq dominated with speed and mass right at the rim. LeBron also dominated with drives to the rim.
But the three point shot is in general too erratic to consistently score when you just need a single score, and a switching defense that overplays the three point shot can usually stop a catch-and-shoot player. But between Curry's (1) general accuracy shooting (2) lightning quick release threes (3) off the dribble from (4) range out to 30 feet, Curry can get a decent look for 3 against any single coverage, and often against double team blitzes.
Tonight in crunch time, the Heat did NOT double team Curry, and he had to hit not one but two long three pointers to take the lead in the last two minutes.
Get Out of Here #1
The Warriors pulled out a crunch time look they don't use often, which is a high double screen. In the usual look, Draymond Green sets a high screen himself (see for instance Explain One Play: Curry & Green's Favorite Play). In this case, Andrew Bogut was out on the floor to defend Hassan Whiteside. So Bogut also sets a high screen with Draymond for Stephen Curry.
Here's the play.
Goran Dragic is swallowed up by the double screen. There is a momentary pause as Luol Deng and Whiteside have to decide who is going to switch and jump out at Curry. Deng is the correct choice, as otherwise Bogut has a free run to the basket for a dunk. I'm not convinced that Whiteside realizes there is a choice here... I think Deng just does it like a savvy vet. However, that half-second is plenty of time for separation if you are willing to shoot from the white halo logo, like Mr. Curry. I mean, if you watch Curry all the time, that is starting to look like a normal shot.
If you like, you can think of this as a one-sided version of the High HORNS set that the Warriors often use (weve written about it six times to date, for instance One Play: The W's Stop and Steal a Clippers Play).
Get Out of Here #2
Dwayne Wade, who was Harden before Harden, gets to the line and cans two clutch free throws to put the Heat up again. Now Bogut is out and Harrison Barnes is in for the good old Small Ball Death Squad.
The Warriors go back to One-Sided High HORNS again, but Dragic shadows Curry much closer this time, guarding him tightly ON THE RED BALL AT HALF-COURT. Good idea. Suddenly, Curry reverses direction with a casually sweet behind the back, and re-uses the double screen. Dragic is nailed again and this time Deng switches quickly on to Curry. Here's the rest of the play.
As Curry goes right, I don't know why but Dragic switches on to the diving Barnes and signals Whiteside to recover all the way from mid-paint to Draymond Green at the 3 point line. Curry suavely hits the open Green. Now Draymond isn't the fastest shot, and there is a certain YOLO flavor to his shot, but damn that Whiteside can really jump. Now old timers like to talk about blocking the ball to yourself as being much better than blocking it for effect. I don't know how easy it would be for Whiteside to control the ball on this kind of contest, but since he doesn't, it goes right back out to Curry.
Let's reflect. Because of the Dragic switch, we now have the classic Draymond-Steph high pick and roll situation, but being guarded by Deng and Whiteside. I haven't watched a lot of Heat games, but I don't believe they've had a lot of experience guarding the pick and roll together. Anyway, Whiteside has sagged back to contain a Curry drive, almost like an ICE position. He is counting on his absurd length to come out to contest to the three point line. Unfortunately for Whiteside, Curry shoots from three feet behind the line, and puts the Warriors ahead for good.
Illegal Screen Watch
The fact is that almost no NBA screens are completely legal, so recall that we grade the screens in our plays on a scale of 0 (illegal, insane moving octopus criminal battery) to 10 (perfectly legal). For our discussion of the NBA rules on illegal screens, go to Explain One Play: Illegal Screen Calls Wipe Out Two Curry 3s.
(1) Draymond is moving and also looks like he holds lightly Dragic at the end of the screen. Dragic is also holding Green through, and it looks like Dragic just trips (watch his foot catch). My screen rating: 5/10 legal.
(2.1) First Draymond screen. Slight hip movement, a bigger deal is that his stance is a little wide. Rating: 8/10 legal.
(2.2) Second Draymond screen. Slightly wide stance, slight but significant leaning into Deng to entangle him and keep him from Curry. Rating: 3/10 legal. I think this one was a bit worse than the actual illegal screen call on the Klay elevator that would have put the Warriors up 6, which didn't really look too bad.