What Golden State Warriors Need from Stephen Curry During NBA Playoffs

J.M. Poulard@ShyneIVContributor IIApril 21, 2014

Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry celebrates after scoring during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday, April 14, 2014, in Oakland, Calif. Golden State won 130-120. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Marcio Jose Sanchez

The Golden State Warriors’ playoff hopes hinge on Stephen Curry’s play. He is the team’s best player and arguably its most fearless.

It’s probably fair to say that Curry is an elite three-point shooter based on his career 44 percent three-point shooting mark.

And yet his game offers so much more. Curry is an exquisite ball-handler and stellar playmaker, as evidenced by the fact he finished among the top six assist men. The combination of it all makes him a lethal offensive player who warrants a substantial amount of defensive attention.

Golden State claimed a Game 1 victory against the Los Angeles Clippers, and  head coach Mark Jackson is going to need a few specifics from his point guard in order for the Warriors to advance at least to the second round.

Ball Security

Mark J. Terrill

Curry needs to do a much better job of avoiding turnovers. He opened up the postseason with seven miscues against the Clippers  in what has become a bit of a habit.

During the regular season, Curry averaged five turnovers in four games against the Clippers, per NBA.com. Los Angeles used a few strategies from the regular season to throw Curry off-kilter in the playoffs.

Clippers head coach Doc Rivers ordered his troops to aggressively defend Curry, especially in the pick-and-roll. L.A. trapped Golden State’s leading scorer and put a lot of pressure on him to get rid of the ball.

Instead, Curry spent far too much time dribbling and even tried to split the trap. Watch him cough up the rock below:

This play crystallizes Curry’s shortcomings against pressure defense. The majority of his turnovers against the Clippers occurred in this manner.

The Clippers’ defenders have done a great job of getting into defensive stances and swiping at the ball when Curry pushes it forward while attempting to dribble through double-teams.

Curry has occasionally tried to remedy the issue by accepting the extra defender and then waiting for the perfect option to become available. However, that has merely compounded his problems. With either a power forward or center converging on him, Curry hasn’t been able to consistently float passes over their arms.

Luckily for the Warriors, there are ways to avoid these problems.

The moment an extra defender commits to Curry, he must find his released teammate and give him the ball. Typically, that’s been David Lee.

Once defenses occupy Curry with two players, Lee usually finds a vacated area where he can catch a pass and create a play. Watch what happens when Curry quickly hits Lee when the double closes in:

Bay Area News Group’s Diamond Leung observed the same thing:

The Los Angeles Clippers subjected Stephen Curry to traps in order to defend the pick-and-roll offense, with two defenders often hounding the Warriors' leading scorer. But the Warriors countered that strategy, sending a big man to be Curry's outlet and often creating two-on-one advantages that led to dunks in Golden State's 109-105 upset victory in Game 1.

By making quick decisions, Curry should be able to avoid an abundance of turnovers and allow the Warriors to maximize their offensive possessions.

Pick-and-Roll Mastery

Danny Moloshok

Curry is a fantastic pick-and-roll player against smaller defenders, so the Warriors should run more of those plays.

The sharpshooter is quite good when interior players are involved in the screen-and-rolls, but bigger defenders can bother him depending on the coverage, as previously mentioned.

However, when Golden State runs these sets with perimeter players, it opens up the floor for Curry to get in on the action. Jackson called a multitude of them in the 2013 playoffs because David Lee was absent with a torn hip flexor, and the Warriors offense looked unstoppable at times.

Curry ran pick-and-rolls with Klay Thompson or Harrison Barnes and feasted on the open looks. It got to a point where opposing defenses opted to switch during screens for fear of giving Curry open jumpers. Take a peak at the action from last season's second-round matchup with the San Antonio Spurs:

The Warriors have a tendency to attack matchups they feel are advantageous instead of running a set offense, and it causes a lack of ball movement, which can result in low-percentage shots. Golden State needs a bit of variety, and the small pick-and-rolls certainly help on that front.

Watch as Curry shakes loose against the Clippers as a result of the set:

Considering that Curry didn’t see too many open looks in the playoff opener, it seems like a good idea to give him a series of different pick-and-roll looks to work with.

Part of what makes the Warriors so dangerous is Curry’s ability to score and dish. Hence, the Warriors need to get Curry some opportunities where he can finish plays instead of simply setting up the table for teammates.

It’s one of the many ways Jackson can help Curry remain unpredictable to opposing defenses.

Solo Act

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 19: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors drives to the basket during Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the NBA Playoffs against the Golden State Warriors at STAPLES Center on April 19, 2014 in Los Angele
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

There are times where Curry simply needs to get his. This isn’t about him being selfish but rather that one of the best shooters in basketball has to actually get quality attempts.

One of the ways Curry can accomplish this is by attacking his defender without the use of screens. He isn’t necessarily the quickest guy in the league, but his ball-handling should allow him to beat guys off the bounce.

What’s more, Curry is a great shooter off the dribble, which means he can make jumpers in isolation settings.

According to SportVU data tracking, Curry owned the second-best field-goal percentage (43.6 percent) of players attempting at least five pull-up shots per game during the regular season.

Hence the Warriors should bypass their traditional offense and put him in the middle of the floor with opportunities to attack his defender on a few choice occasions.

Curry will relish those opportunities based on what he shared prior to the start of the playoffs with Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News: “If I find I’ve got a good look or sometimes a suspect look but in rhythm, they’re confident in me shooting the ball.”

There are also ways to get him going within the flow of the offense, provided that Andre Iguodala is available. Indeed, in Game 1 of the first-round series with L.A., Iguodala only played 20 minutes due to foul trouble.

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 29: Head coach Mark Jackson of the Golden State Warriors speaks to Andre Iguodala #9 and Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors in the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on December 29, 2
Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

The swingman is a decent passer who has a knack for finding open teammates. During the year, Jackson used him at point guard a few times in a pinch, and he was more than serviceable.

Iguodala allows Curry to play off the ball, where the sharpshooter can go through screens to shake loose or run handoffs that force defenders to trail him. That’s one way to give him an extra step against the defense.

Golden State didn’t run enough of these sort of plays, but after watching the game film, it stands to reason that Curry and Jackson will make the necessary adjustments.

Curry has the tools to single-handedly take down teams in the playoffs; he just needs to put them to use in the proper settings. Ultimately, it will have a substantial impact on Golden State’s playoff success.


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