The Golden State Warriors overwhelmed the Portland Trailblazers 116-94 in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals with the breezy confidence of an impressive beer pong shooter at a college frat party.
Blazers-Warriors game felt like it could have been played in January. Blazers can’t get it done with regular-season intensity. Even Warriors’ bench looked comfortable.— Matt Steinmetz (@SteinmetzNBA) May 15, 2019
Steph Curry tied his #NBAPlayoffs career-high with 9 three-pointers in the Game 1 win. The only other players to make 9+ threes in more than one postseason game are Ray Allen & Klay Thompson, with two each. #SAPStatLineOfTheNight pic.twitter.com/aYAKBW5PWv— NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) May 15, 2019
A widely discussed conclusion after this cruising victory was Portland’s defense (or lack thereof) against greatest point guard alive Steph Curry. As Joe Viray’s “Golden Breakdown” and Thomas Bevilacqua’s extended G1 analysis discussed, Portland decided to let Steph Curry come around high screens and fire away at will.
I'm sorry guys I just have no idea what Portland's bigs are doing in P&R against Stephen Curry. You can't be that far off against Curry in P&R. Looney sets a simple drag in transition, Collins is at the key and it's just another wide open three. pic.twitter.com/GdxhYMe8TK— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) May 15, 2019
Blazers’ forward Maurice Harkless spoke with The Athletic about the lack of defensive verve:
“At the end of the day, no matter what the game plan is, I just don’t think tonight we played as hard as we could have,” Harkless said.
“Yeah,” he answered. “I think after they went on a couple runs, I don’t think that we … I don’t know … to me it didn’t feel like we had that same edge.”
We can attribute Portland’s defensive failures to:
- A lack of energy (they were only 36 hours removed from a harrowing Game 7 in Denver).
- A poor scheme.
- Steph Curry being hella good.
I also believe this is merely another example of the Golden Empire doing what it does best: neutering an opponent’s aggression by forcing them to pick their poison. We’ve seen it throughout this dynastic run, and it’s been exemplified in these playoffs.
Stuck between the Splash and a hard place
When Blazers coach Terry Stotts was rightfully asked by The Athletic’s Anthony Slater if he would consider double-teaming Curry as the Houston Rockets did, Stotts flippantly reminded him that Houston’s defensive gameplan was also destroyed by the greatest shooter alive.
He has a point. The 2019 postseason Warriors already stared down and eliminated two feisty, hyperactive defensive schemes pointed towards stopping Curry.
After Mr. Unanimous averaged 32.3 points in 3 regular season games (including a 42 point outburst in December) vs the Clips, Clippers coach Doc Rivers instructed his players to deny Curry position along the three-point line in the postseason, forcing him back to the paint.
Doc Rivers on the way Clippers are defending Stephen Curry. #Warriors pic.twitter.com/doApP8eqLm— 95.7 The Game (@957thegame) April 25, 2019
Our very own resident genius Eric Apricot broke that concept down, and how the Warriors countered it.
Also, when the Warriors got annoyed, they had the luxury of just giving Kevin Durant the ball and watched him destroy Patrick Beverly. Curry finished the series with averages of 24.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 5.2 assists on 50/50/97 shooting splits.
The Rockets loved to aggressively switch any pick-and-roll with Curry involved, utilizing active, husky defenders like Eric Gordon, P.J. Tucker, and Chris Paul. Their aim was two-fold: never give Curry daylight, and lull the Warriors into feeding Durant in isolation.
Although there was the occasional hiccup, like Curry sizing up Nene for a game sealing bomb in G1...
Steph sooooo hype after this clutch— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) April 28, 2019
...the scheme (in addition to Curry’s foul trouble and finger injury) kept Curry relatively under wraps until Durant was wiped out by his calf injury.
Over the next five quarters between KD’s exit and the end of Houston’s season, Curry dropped 49 points. If you want to break it down, that’s:
- 16 points in the 4Q of G5
- 0 in the first half of Game 6
- 10 in the 3Q of G6
- 23 in the 4Q of G6
And as devastating as his scoring was, Curry also got his teammates involved when the Rockets cranked up the aforementioned trapping scheme in the fourth quarter.
And finally, the dagger. High PnR results in a hard trap, and Curry dribbles backwards to increase court size. Pass to Dray for the 4-on-3. Even by the time the ball works through three Warriors, the Rockets defense still hasn't recovered, and Klay has all the space he needs. pic.twitter.com/JIHfQxfo4H— Brady Klopfer (@BradyKlopferNBA) May 11, 2019
Warriors ran Curry/Green PnR 10 times in the 4th. Scored on 8 of those, for 19 points. Only misses were the oop to Looney and Draymond possibly fouled by Capela at the rim.— Nate Duncan (@NateDuncanNBA) May 11, 2019
I feel pity for Coach Stotts and his band of try-hards. Maybe the Blazers’ strategy of “leaving Curry wide open for three-pointers” was actually some avant-garde defense employing reverse psychology?
I mean, Curry’s so used to either bombing it over defenders or dishing to the open man, perhaps the new way to throw him off is not to defend him at all?
It didn’t seem to work in G1, but honestly, nothing really seems to work for long against the irresistibly lethal Mr. Curry. We’ll see how Portland adjusts for Game 2.
Who was the Warriors Wonder vs the Blazers in G1?
This poll is closed
....oh yeah! Steph Curry