So this started out in a conversation in one of the threads before Game 5 vs the Pelicans. I was concerned heading into that game that Curry wasn't playing aggressively enough - that he wasn't attacking and the work he was doing on offense was to create a jumper, instead of attacking the D and putting the entire defense off-balance. If you go back and watch the series we try to forget against the Cavs...I think that was the single biggest issue. Curry was not attacking their D, rather he was putting in work to get jumpshots, and it impacts our entire offense, as Curry is the key driver of our offense. I personally think it's because he was hurt, but anyways, the general premise here is there's a reason Curry consistently puts up the biggest offensive +/- on the team - as good as Durant is, Curry is the driving force behind our entire offense.
Short version of all the concepts at play in my mind:
- Curry is the force that drives our offense
- Curry needs to attack the D by attacking the rim*
- Attacking the rim stresses the entire D much more than attacking laterally
- Curry wasn't trying to attack his first few games back
- You can visually see when someone's working to try to create a jumpshot - their moves are designed to create space backwards/laterally
- The Pels should not be able to dictate the shots we take as an offense, they just are not good enough defensively
- Our 108.8 ORat (all 5 games) vs the Pels was a big win for their D
- We are the best team in the league and when we really play our game, we're unbeatable in a 7 game series - a defense's goal against us is just to get our offense down to the point where they have a chance at an upset
- Even when not 100% Curry is capable of attacking and beating defenders, it just might take more effort. The jumpshot is the easy decision - sometimes you just have to concentrate and really make a concerted effort not to settle for the easy decision. Similar to when guys get tired, they start settling for jumpshots...part of the equation is simply mental and deciding you're going to try to do something and not take the first look you get
*Attacking the rim does not mean Curry trying to shoot layups, necessarily, it just means him trying to beat his man towards the rim to get the offense going
So after his first few games back vs the Pels
...well, I was seeing a similar trend with Curry like I saw against the Cavs two years ago, and my concern was it was again injury-related and might last into the series against Houston. The conversation inspired me to look up some tracking stats from NBA.com to see what they were telling us about our offense by comparing the Pels series vs the regular season (all stats through the first 4 games of the Pels series unless otherwise noted):
Pace: 105.7 (all 5 games) vs Pels vs 99.6 regular season (keep this context in mind for per game stats)
% of 3’s: 36.4% vs Pels vs 35.3% regular season.
% of open/wide open 3’s vs Pels is 25.4% vs 27.9% in the regular season
Drives per game: 17.3 vs Pels vs 23.9 regular season
% open 2’s: 20.6% vs Pels vs 21.9% regular season
Paint true shots per game (FGA’s + .44* FTA’s): 15.5 vs Pels vs 16.5 regular season
Off the dribble 2PA pull-ups per game: 21.5 vs Pels vs 15.7 regular season
Off the dribble 3PA pull-ups per game: 11.5 vs Pels vs 9.0 regular season
My interpretation of those stats: we're driving less. We are shooting slightly more 3's, but it's because of contested 3's, we're getting quite a few less open 3's. We're getting fewer open 2's, fewer shots in the paint, but we're taking a lot more shots off the dribble, both 2's and 3's. I think this data backs up the points I was attempting to make - that we weren't attacking the rim but rather putting in work to get jumpshots, and as a team, we were getting much lower quality shots because of it. Hence our relatively poor offensive performance. I also watched the extended highlights from Game 4 to try to visualize some of what I was seeing (my apologies for not knowing how to embed the videos):
These two plays are not necessarily bad shots, especially the first one, but just watch the movement that leads up to the shot. We're attacking laterally, we're putting in work to create a jumpshot that just doesn't stress the D and doesn't come with much opportunity to get a really high quality look, like a dunk or wide open corner 3 or something. These are shots the D can live with - these are the kinds of shots that if they're the foundation of our offense, we come back down to "beatable" levels.
Now, watch some of these:
First two plays starting from here:
And these plays:
You can see how much more we're attacking in those plays. It’s not about forcing layups, in the second play on the first link, you can see how Steph just keeps moving and the D loses him and it ends up being an open corner 3 for Steph. Great shot! A PnR with Bell that leads to an open D West dunk. A nice move by Klay that ends up being an open midrange J for West – but look at the quality of that shot. A open catch and shoot from 12, versus maybe an off the dribble jumper from 16 or even an open shot from 16….it’s a better quality look. This kind of offense puts a lot more stress on the D and opens up better opportunities for the kind of quality shots that make us flat out unbeatable.
Now, to be fair, at times lateral movement works, too:
These are the highlights, of course, the good plays and the shots that went in, it's just the lateral movement puts so much less stress on the defense as a whole. When Steph is attacking the rim, it forces the entire defense to react and gives so many more opportunities for a breakdown, all it takes is one for us to get the kind of shot WE want to take. Against the Pels, however, too many times we were letting them dictate what shot THEY want us to take, and the result was a legitimately good defensive performance from the Pels. However, I don't think it was actually their D that caused it, it was much more about what we were doing.
Now, like I said, all my points were made heading into game 5. I just wanted to see some progress from Steph when it came to attacking. I did see what I was looking for in game 5 - he was more aggressive, he wasn't looking to set up jumpshots. Now he's gotten a bunch of days off, and hopefully he's healthy and ready to play against Houston tonight. Houston is an excellent team, but if we play up to our potential, they can't beat us. If we let them dictate the shots we take like the Pels did, though, we become very beatable and this is the team that'll do it.
Anyways just some food for thought, if Curry is aggressive and attacking, I give Houston very little shot to beat us. If Houston's D can get us to look like we just did against the Pels, though...we might even be the underdog.