Moore: How the Raptors Have Worn Out Steph Curry and Created Value on His Unders in Game 5

Moore: How the Raptors Have Worn Out Steph Curry and Created Value on His Unders in Game 5 article feature image
Credit:

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Steph Curry, Fred VanVleet, Kyle Lowry

  • Steph Curry is averaging more than 30 points per game in the NBA Finals, but the Raptors have done a brilliant job of wearing him down throughout the series.
  • Matt Moore analyzes how Toronto has done it and what it means for Curry's expected output in Game 5.

The numbers are good. The numbers are always good.

Steph Curry is averaging 33 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists per game vs. the Raptors. Dude’s putting up 33 points per game, he’s killing it.

His shooting splits — 42-36-93– are really good given his usage and the level of defensive attention. By all accounts, Curry has done everything he can to try and keep the Warriors in these Finals and he just hasn’t gotten enough help. That’s not a false narrative. Curry has been good … enough. When you dig a little, however, you start to see just what the Raptors have done to make his life miserable.

In Games 2 and 4, he shot 15-of-39 combined (38%). Outside of his blistering Game 3 when the green light was always on, he’s shooting just 40% from the field and 32% from 3 (9-of-28). He has not splashed.

Even more striking are Curry’s advanced numbers: The Warriors are a -5.6 in net rating with him on the floor. The Warriors have been outscored with the best positive-impact player, maybe in league history, on the court. There’s simply no recipe for winning that way.

The reality is that with the series, the dynasty, hell, the building on the line in Game 4, Curry couldn’t break loose vs. the Raptors. I think it’s totally fine to say that it wasn’t Curry’s fault and he did the best he could. I think it’s fine to say that with what he has to work with at this point, you can’t expect much more from him.

But I want to take you back to something I wrote about in the conference finals. No one in the NBA is unsolvable. Curry seemed close to it for so long, but we’re seeing now what that was really all about — the combination of Curry, Draymond Green’s unique set of skills (which have eroded with time), and Klay Thompson, arguably the second-best shooter of all time, was simply too much for defenses to handle.

With those two looking more like normal NBA stars, Curry, well, Curry looks more like your normal NBA superstar. Great, incredibly talented, still the best shooter of all time … but human. He’s mortal. He bleeds, like the rest, and if you double him and aren’t in mortal terror about his teammates, well …

Three things happened to Curry in Game 4: He was tired, he was beat up, and he didn’t get the ball back.

The first two are related. The result of this sequence is a good play but watch Curry’s body language from the rebound attempt to the pass and then after:

Siakam bodied Curry consistently. Even late in the fourth, with the game out of reach, watch what happens with Siakam on the switch, and Curry’s reaction to it:

The other issue was that the Warriors’ other players fell so drastically short in Game 3 that they were trying to step up. In Game 4, Warriors players were aggressively trying to create on their own, take shots, not just have to rely on Steph. Klay Thompson was back and shooting often with 10 seconds left on the clock. This isn’t a bad thing; it’s Klay Thompson. But it also means that when Curry gave the ball up, there often wasn’t time to get the ball back into his hands coming off screens.

On this next one, watch how Danny Green guards Curry from behind, reminiscent of how the Jazz (and Bucks) guarded James Harden. Then watch how Curry goes low to baseline and just … is there. By the time he makes his move to peel off screen, the ball’s already in the air.

Same deal here, this is an entire possession with Steph Curry just hanging out under the rim, doing nothing, not spacing the floor, not doing anything, and eventually getting bodied into oblivion by Fred VanVleet:

Now, even when Curry did have the ball, bad things happened. “Why don’t they run more 1-4 pick and roll?!” Warriors fans cried as they desperately maintained belief that just having Steph come off a screen and chuck it would work like it was November vs. the Suns. Well…

Other times lineups were the issue. Here they run the ol’ 1-5 to perfection. Except there’s no lob threat with Shaun Livingston, so Draymond makes the pass to Quinn Cook in the corner, but he isn’t tall enough to rise and fire. So after a great closeout from Norman Powell, Cook has to pick the ball up and goes for a mid-range jumper off the dribble while Thompson and Curry are stuck to by VanVleet and Danny Green.

In Game 5, there’s a chance Kevin Durant plays, which would, of course, reduce Curry’s usage. Conversely, if Durant doesn’t play, Curry’s going into a road elimination game after two days of rest. The last time he had two days of rest in this series were Game 1 (34 points) and Game 3 (47 points).

Still, the Warriors seem tired of it all. Tired of battling through their fifth Finals run with diminishing rewards of “another” title. Tired of the drama about Kevin Durant’s free agency and what it means for them to try and send the dynasty off right. Tired of the Raptors and their length, physicality and sheer relentlessness. Curry’s back is against the wall and his two road elimination games in the Kerr era he had 31-10-9 (OKC ’16) and 29-5-6 (Houston ’18).

But that was a different Curry, and a different Warriors. The safe play has to be on Curry’s prop unders, especially his assists, and most especially if you believe the Raptors are headed for their first NBA title.