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Explain One Play: Stephen Curry's Eleven Threes

This is a video survey of Curry's eleven 3s from the Wizards-Warriors game on Feb 3 2016.

This head is bad for the game of basketball.
This head is bad for the game of basketball.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Welp. Stephen Curry poured in eleven three-pointers tonight on his way to 51 points.  He had a shot at the NBA record of 12 threes in a game, but he didn't push it.

He disappointingly only fired up two threes in the 4th period.  I don't know what happened when Kobe Bryant and Donyell Marshall set the record, but when you are as accomplished as Curry, it does feel disrespectful to go for a record out of the flow of the game. For instance, when you reflect on Kobe's 81, all those points were necessary in a comeback win against the Raptors.  Kobe actually had had multiple chances to go for the record before but sat out the fourth quarter of blowouts.

So anyway, let's take a quick tour of Curry's 11 threes.  A few of them come out of plays, so Advanced Readers should try to identify the play in each clip first.

This One Goes To Eleven


This is the completely classic post-cross action, where the post (Draymond Green) is fed the ball, and then two shooters cross and one (Harrison Barnes) screens for the other (Curry). Curry has to do his patented side-step for 3.  People talk about how Curry is changing the game, and that little side-step is now the standard counter to a close out.  Before Curry, the orthodox move was to wait and dribble closer for an open two pointer.

More details on this play: One Play: Warriors + Triangle Offense = Barnes 3


A wing pick and roll with Draymond Green. They love that Curry-Green pick and roll, but usually run it up top in the middle (Explain One Play: Curry & Green's Favorite Play). Wing pick-and-rolls can be trapped more easily, and here the Wizards (half-heartedly) double-team Curry.  Just a nasty stepback three, as Curry threatened to turn the corner for a baseline drive, and Draymond's roll seduced one of Curry's defenders to leave him.


The Warriors run on a miss into early offense (Explain One Play: Curry No-Look Pass For Barnes 3),  Curry does a subtle but gorgeous ball fake, shifting his weight slightly to appear to dribble towards the right, but stepping left instead.


This starts off as a version of post-cross where the "post" stands at the top of the key. (D'Antoni's Delay set, discussed at Explain One Klay: Thompson's Ten Threes).  Klay Thompson and Curry run at each other, but instead of screening, Klay cuts towards the basket. He's not open, so Andrew Bogut passes to Curry. The play has now devolved into an ISO of Curry on Wall. Curry gives a little ball fake going left which sends Wall leaning left, and that's all the space Curry needs as he quietly explodes right and gets off the shot.


This is High HORNS or 45 (One Play: The W's Stop and Steal a Clippers Play), where Curry gets a two-sided screen from Bogut and Green, but he barely uses them because he notices Marcin Gortat has sunk to the free throw circle, and that's plenty of room if you are willing to fire from three feet behind the arc.  Bonus: notice how Wall is in serious defensive position ON THE LOGO.  Curry gets literally ten feet to work with since his defender is at the logo and the big is at the free throw circle.


Come on, that's not right.  That is a bomb from five feet behind the line after a steal and he's plucked the ball out of the air and pivoted with no dribble for rhythm. Notice: extra-long stare down of the crowd afterwards. You should watch these highlights with sound. Nothing like the groans of the road crowd.


After you watch enough Curry highlights, you know, that doesn't seem like that deep a shot anymore. And this play is the interesting AMBUSH High Pick and Roll play where a big (Draymond) fakes the high pick and roll screen on one side and another big (Marreese Speights) sneaks up the other side to set the real high screen.  We recently covered this at Explain One Play: Stephen Curry's Giddyup Exorcism 3.  Folks, this isn't even close to the end of the FIRST QUARTER.


Draymond makes a simple dribble-pitch to Curry. If you're willing to shoot from three feet behind the line, you're open a lot. Draymond's big defender just is not in the habit of contesting that far outside the arc.


A broken play, the Warriors get numbers (mainly due to Leandro Barbosa's early commitment to running by his man), and the Warriors fast break emphasizes shooters running to the wings to spot up. The traditional fast break emphasizes getting a two on one play right at the rim, and some teams haven't adjusted to guarding the Warriors fast break.




That fast break again. Gortat is used to defending the break by stopping drives towards the basket. He doesn't realize he has to pick up Curry way out there.

Final Thoughts

To be completely honest, this was one of those games where Curry's layups and floaters were even more stupendous than his threes. This whole game was just a master class. Curry has improved his explosion to the rim and his finishes (WITHOUT DUNKS!) to the point where defenders have to honor his drives, so they can't just play right up on him behind the three point line.

Because I'm getting tired and this is already a long article, here is a quick summary of all the Curry two-point shots:

Did you notice how when he hits his chest, there is a second shockwave?  That's attention to detail, my friends.

Here's an actual highlight package with all his points:

Actually, I think the record for most 11-three-pointers games is a much cooler one than the actual one-game record, which indicates you got hot one day (notice the record holders aren't even that excellent as three-point shooters).

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