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Taking a closer look at Curry’s defense against the Rockets

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Not satisfied with the opaque NBA stats, Eric Apricot digs in deep.

NBA: Playoffs-Houston Rockets at Golden State Warriors Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

In light of the continued magnifying glass that everyone is using to look at Steph Curry’s individual defense, it makes sense that one of GSOM’s brightest basketball minds would want to dig deeper into the plays behind the numbers.

So while I (this is Duby Dub Dubs writing) pretty much hate the Buzzfeed articles that are just a summary of a Twitter thread, I’m going to do pretty much exactly that: break down Apricot’s Twitter analysis of Curry’s defense in the Golden State Warriors’ 41-point win against the Houston Rockets.

Eric Apricot is simply to busy to be bothered, but I think some of this information is especially germane heading into tonight’s critical game four - so here we go.

Starting off with the premise that maybe the NBA matchup data isn’t great

Here’s what started Apricot’s basketball head gears turning - some of the initial one-vs-one data in the NBA.com data set just looked off:

Obviously, these numbers aren’t hard science. It can be incredibly subjective trying to determine whose man was whose. While this is a known problem, it was this article by Sam Amick that first exposed the discrepancy between the official numbers from NBA, and those you get if you just watch the game and tally up the results of the relevant plays.

So? How does the discerning eye of the great Apricot judge Steph?

As my journalism teacher taught me, bottom line up front — generally, Curry was pretty darn good!

As with most statistical analyses, it’s important to couch the data within a broader understanding of the significance of these numbers. In Curry’s case, this means isolating the defensive plays that “mattered.” Now, before you all jump down our throats, yes, all plays matter - but anyone who has even passingly glanced at the Warriors this season knows that our focus comes and goes like a bad toupee on a windy day.

A couple of salient points here.

First, when the game was still in doubt, Curry was excellent. His final numbers being “fine” are the result of his play later on in the game dragging his metrics down. Maybe this is cherry-picking, but I prefer to think of it as selective analysis.

Secondly, there are some hilarious unintended consequences of Nick Young being on the floor. One of those is that tidbit about the Rockets not attacking Steph as much. In exposing a weaker defender, the Warriors may be inadvertently protecting Curry. Sun Tzu would be proud.

Bottom line

Generally, it looks like the Apricot defensive tally is fairly close to the official NBA numbers - both have Curry as an above-average defender in this series.

Click here for Apricot’s full notes on Curry’s defense in Game 3.