Make him do a left hand layup. That sounds pretty basic and logical right? Basketball 101 stuff? It is that basic.
Like most with NBA League Pass I have watched many Warriors games this season and have noticed what I thought was a tiny chink in Curry’s armor, “seemingly” missing quite a few left hand side of the basket layups.
“Seemingly”, it was an observation over a number of games but I had nothing to back it up other than the eye test of watching games.
So let’s see if we can back up the eye test with some numbers:[i]
Quite clearly Curry’s FG% on layups is above the league average (not surprising) but interestingly he is finishing 10% WORSE on left hand side layups vs right hand side layups.
Compare this to the league average where left hand vs right hand side layups is near identical in FG%.
Curry’s 71% field goal percentage on right hand side layups is freakishly good, but 61% on the left hand side is bringing him back down to earth and much closer to the league average.
A 10% difference is sizeable and it looks like the Spurs were onto this.
The Warriors rolled into San Antonio on March 19 and I noticed this defensive strategy being used by the Spurs and it was quite blatant.
At times during the game it looked like the on-ball defence of the Spurs players was positioned behind Curry and totally blocking the right hand side of the court. The type of defence you would use when choosing to “ice” (not give up a side of the court) the ball handler in a pick-n-roll situation, however in many cases the Spurs players were “icing” Curry in single coverage or switching situations.
Effectively not giving up the right hand side at any cost and giving up the left hand driving lane. The Spurs were picking their poison with Curry.
How did it go?
Curry had 6 layup attempts for the game, ALL were on the left side of the basket and he ended up making 3 layups for a 50% conversion, that’s better than his usual 71% clip on the right hand side.
Yes it's Basketball 101 to force your defender to their opposite hand but have teams tried it with as much rigor and dedication as the Spurs?
There are obviously other factors at play here and Stephen Curry isn’t missing wide open left hand side layups. There needs to be a form of rim protection from your "bigs” when forcing Curry to a left side drive but what the data clearly shows is a “human” like field goal percentage when forcing Curry to a left hand layup.
Sometimes basketball 101 is the answer.
[i] Curry tried finishing with his right hand despite being on the left hand side on occasions during the Spurs game and obviously there are many occasions where this is attempted. The analysis here does not look at which hand was used in the layup but whether it was attempted on the left or right hand side of the basket. The analysis also does not look at whether rim protection was in place.
[ii] Thanks again to www.nbastuffer.com for providing play-by-play data
[iii] Stephen Curry shot chart sourced from www.basketball-reference.com