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The Golden Breakdown: A new wrinkle in the Curry/Durant dynamic

The Warriors inserted a new version of the Curry/Durant two-man game. Do the Warriors need to rely more on their superstars, or should they maintain faith in their tried and tested system?

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Atlanta Hawks Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The North (-ern California) remembers, and the Warriors defeat the Dallas Mavericks on their home turf. Avenging a previous defeat — albeit one that was in part due to the absences of Stephen Curry and Draymond Green — the Warriors were able to rally back from a close deficit that lasted for more than half of the game. In turn, they were able to fend off a furious rally by the Mavericks that threatened to render that comeback moot.

While the Warriors were able to display several tenets of their motion offense, the Mavericks proved that they were able to withstand a toe-to-toe exchange with the defending champions. In the end, however, the Warriors delivered a final haymaker that put the Mavericks down for good.

Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant are two of the best players in the NBA today. The fact that they co-exist and thrive together on an almost nightly basis is a blessing that was once unimaginable by a fan base that has suffered for years in basketball purgatory.

It is a natural line of thought to put Curry and Durant together in several actions — Curry’s range and gravity, coupled with Durant’s ability to score from anywhere on the floor, adds an entirely new dimension to the phrase “picking your poison.”

However, the Warriors are not keen on running Curry and Durant together in the pick-and-roll as much as fans would want them to. Steve Kerr’s principle of sharing the ball and having everyone be of equal or near-equal threats offensively simply does not allow much room for Curry and Durant to work in tandem together on every possession. But when they do choose to have Curry and Durant work with each other, there is no other combination in the league that is as lethal offensively.

In this particular sequence, Curry sets an off-ball screen for Durant, who uses Curry’s solid pick to get a good look at the basket. Durant buries the catch-and-shoot mid-range jumper.

They run the same sequence in the next possession. Durant attempts to curl off of Curry’s screen, but the Mavericks are prepared and defend the initial action easily. This flows into a more traditional pick-and-roll. Durant sets the screen for Curry, and the Mavericks elect to hedge Curry and attempt to trap him — but all it manages to do is to leave Durant alone to receive the pass from Curry. Durant goes up for the uncontested automatic jumper.

The traditional Curry/Durant pick-and-roll is obviously difficult to defend — but like every action, it is not immune to defensive adjustments. If it is used all the time, defenses will eventually find ways to shut it down.

Therefore, if the Warriors want to rely on the Curry and Durant dynamic, then they may have to be creative in how they use them together.

Instead of the traditional pick-and-roll action where one screens for the other, the Warriors introduced a new wrinkle in the Curry/Durant combination. Whether it was something that was created within the flow of the offense, or a premeditated action that they unwrapped and revealed as if were a brand new toy, this sequence certainly was interesting to watch.

Durant gets a screen from Looney, with Curry stationed at the free throw line. Durant’s drive toward the basket forces Curry’s defender to switch onto him, allowing Curry the freedom to pop out toward the three-point line for the uncontested three. Uncharacteristically, he misses the open look, but it doesn’t negate the excellent action that led to it.

It makes one wonder — as many have wondered throughout the existence of the Curry and Durant partnership — why the Warriors don’t pair up these two offensive juggernauts more often. On paper (and as proven by countless hours of games spent playing NBA 2K), this tandem is very deadly and has been proven to be virtually impossible to defend.

Again, the answer goes back to the same old schematic philosophy that Steve Kerr has instilled ever since he took over the team: constant ball and personnel movement that aim to achieve the best possible shot, whether it’s a three-point shot, a mid-range jumper, or a layup. Furthermore, for culture and morale purposes, it allows everyone on the floor to be involved in the offense, making each and every one of them feel like they are an important cog in the machine.

But has Kerr’s egalitarian system been scouted so extensively by now that teams will have counters prepared? Will he need to use more pick-and-roll actions and have the ball in either Curry’s or Durant’s hands for most of the time? Will he need to find new wrinkles to insert into the offense to keep defenses guessing, like the new version of the Curry and Durant combination in the sequence above?

Or are the Warriors simply going through the motions (no pun intended), and saving their best stuff for when it really matters, such as the playoffs?

Only time will tell.

Thirty-three down, 49 more to go.

Stay Golden, Dub Nation.