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Explain One Play: Curry’s throwback MVP night

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Video breakdown of Curry’s 43 points in three quarters in the Clippers-Warriors game on Jan 29, a tantalizing reminder of what 15-16 MVP 2.0 was like.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Golden State Warriors
Don’t call it a comeback / I’ve been here for years
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s a breakdown of Stephen Curry’s 43 points in three quarters, a tantalizing reminder of what 15-16 MVP 2.0 was like.

Here’s a full highlight reel, and I’ll add comments after. You may want to pop the video out in another window and watch alongside the comments.

FIRST QUARTER

11:22 Stephen Curry makes 2-foot layup (Zaza Pachulia assists) 3 - 2

Simple backdoor cut. Austin Rivers was overplaying to cut Curry off from the dribble handoff. Good pass from Zaza Pachulia, who's been looking a lot more comfortable in the W's offense this month.

8:36 Stephen Curry makes 29-foot three point running jumper 7 - 11.

Deep logo shot, shades of MVP 2.0. Not sure you can fault Rivers for playing Curry two feet in front of the arc.

6:20 Stephen Curry makes two point shot (Draymond Green assists) 9 - 18.

Okay pick and roll defense by Curry and Pachulia. Curry goes over the screen, but gets tripped. Pachulia contains the drive. Notice Draymond Green is lurking the entire time as goalie in the paint, to stop either Rivers from driving or DeAndre Jordan from going unabated to the hoop for an alley-oop. Rivers anticipates Green going to the rolling Jordan on the left, and tries to pass behind Green. Wrong move.

1:05 Stephen Curry makes 24-foot three point jumper (Andre Iguodala assists) 20 - 29

Raymond Felton and Jamal Crawford have to cover Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green and Curry on the fast break. No good choices here. Crawford stays with Iguodala, Felton goes to Green to prevent the dunk. Curry gets an open shot on the smart find from iguodala.

0:33 Stephen Curry makes two point shot 20 - 31

This is my favorite part of Curry's game: the drive and finishes near the rim. I mean, the threes are more important and are the unmatched part of his game, but the layups are all like snowflakes with this twist, that unusual bank, that creative fake. Curry can't just go up and dunk it over someone, so he has to be resourceful every time. Curry has been a league leader in shooting at the rim (~69% for last three years), up in the running with bigs who only dunk.

Here Felton tries to follow Curry over the very high screen set by JaVale McGee. McGee sets a flat screen (not facing either sideline), so Curry can use either side, and Curry immediately goes left to get Felton scrambling on the wrong side. Marresse Speights comes up to contain Curry, but Curry splits the double team by him and Felton and has the sweet finish. He goes to the left side to avoid the block, turns in the air, he gets the nice reverse.

Unfortunately, most smalls use Speights as a traffic cone, which is part of the reason he's not with the Warriors any more. But just like a lot of fans, I clapped for his three, just for old times sake.

SECOND QUARTER

2:38 Stephen Curry makes 27-foot three point jumper (Draymond Green assists) 42 - 55

Curry acts like he's going to the right, then suddenly goes left. Felton is doomed; Kevin Durant and Pachulia close in on him like Mafia goons demanding protection money. Curry has all day to shoot.

0:42 Kevin Durant makes driving dunk (Stephen Curry assists) 50 - 67

Should Curry really get an assist for this? I mean, it starts with a Curry-Durant pick-and-roll, which Durant slips instantly. Curry gives Durant the ball, then fakes a handoff, the Durant goes Durant and explodes by Griffin for the dunk.

0:28 Andre Iguodala makes dunk (Stephen Curry assists) 51 - 69

Here Curry gets Jordan on a switch, then dribbles by him. Jamal Crawford leaves Iguodala to stop Curry's drive. Curry throws a gorgeous bounce pass to Iguodala, which I *think* nutmegs Crawford (goes between his legs).

0:01 Stephen Curry makes 51-foot three point jumper 51 - 72

In my opinion, here are the events that make Oracle go most bananas, in order:

  • 10. Durant dunk
  • 9. JaVale dunk
  • 8. Curry three
  • 7. Iguodala dunk
  • 6. Curry logo three
  • 5. Mo Speights three
  • 4. Curry half-court shots
  • 3. Curry dunk
  • 2. Fan hitting half-court shot
  • 1. Klay setting some record

THIRD QUARTER

11:19 Stephen Curry makes 14-foot jumper (Kevin Durant assists) 51 - 74

Curry makes a simple curl around Pachulia's butt and Durant finds him for the elbow jumper. Kerr said post-game that they called this for Curry to keep him hot and get him going for the third quarter.

9:45 Stephen Curry makes driving layup 55 - 78

Curry uses Blake Griffin as a friendly-fire screen against Rivers. What a sweet controlled bank-shot finish from Curry after the bump.

8:27 Zaza Pachulia makes 2-foot layup (Stephen Curry assists) 56 - 83

This is another option out of the UCLA Buttonhook that I wrote about in Explain One Play: Stephen Curry butt-whumps for Kevin Durant dunk. In the original play, Curry feeds the wing and UCLA cuts (cuts straight down the lane line and gets a screen near the elbow), but he then turned around and screened for the wing.

Well, tonight, Curry was open on the UCLA cut, so he got the ball, and when Jordan came over to contest, Pachulia got the layup. Starting to get nervous every time Pachulia takes those Zayups.

5:41 Stephen Curry makes 26-foot three point jumper (Draymond Green assists)

Draymond Green with the one hand touch pass.

3:06 Stephen Curry makes 30-foot three point jumper 67 - 100

Logo shot. Felton looks discouraged. Game is over.

2:45 Stephen Curry makes 28-foot three point jumper 69 - 103

Curry goes away from the screen this time to get a bit extra space with the surprise. Great to see the off-the-dribble threes coming back online.

1:46 Stephen Curry makes two point shot 72 - 108

This is almost exactly what happened in Q1.0:33. Felton gets hung up on McGee's screen, Speights comes up to contain, Curry splits the double team, he goes to the hoop, finishes on the left side with a reverse to avoid the Crawford challenge from the right. This time it's an And-1.

1:28 Stephen Curry makes 29-foot three point jumper (Andre Iguodala assists)

Come on, man.

0:24 Stephen Curry makes 26-foot three point jumper (Patrick McCaw assists) 74 - 117

Heck of a drive, heck of a pass. The flop created a 5-on-4 and Curry was the lucky open man.

0:00 Stephen Curry misses 57-foot three point jumper 74 - 117

Man, what a slacker.

Final thoughts

As Curry came to the free throw line for the last part of the third quarter, the fans were booming MVP chants. Which was I think the first time all year, and the first time Curry probably deserved them.

Curry is having a very nice year, but up until January, he hasn’t been using his driving ability and decision making ability to help the W’s like he did for the previous four years.

Let’s let Steve Kerr have the final, wise words on Curry’s new aggressiveness:

If you want to read more video breakdowns — one for well-nigh every Warriors’ win since 2015 — check out the Explain One Play Mega-Index, searchable and sortable by player, play, team and date.