Stephen Curry had himself a game against the Bulls on Friday.
Logging 34 minutes of action, Curry led the Warriors to their seventh straight win with a game-high 40 points on 15-for-24 shooting from the field (9 of 17 from 3-point range). In addition to marking his third 40-point game of the season, it’s the second time he’s hit at least nine 3-pointers. No other player in the league has one such game.
Oh, and Curry surpassed Ray Allen for the most 3-pointers made in NBA history (regular season and playoffs combined). He continues to rewrite the history books.
The Bulls had no answer for Curry all game long, but there was one particular 3-pointer he made that shined a light on his punishing connection with Draymond Green.
You know what that means — to the film room!
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Jordan Poole brings the ball up for the Warriors after coming up with a steal.
Shortly after crossing the halfcourt line, Poole moves the ball along to Green on the left wing. Andrew Wiggins makes his way to the corner closest to Green to space the floor while Curry parks himself on the opposite wing.
Poole is a few feet away from Curry, and Kevon Looney is the last Warrior up the court.
As soon as he has possession of the ball, Green directs Poole and Looney to set a staggered screen for Curry.
It’s a smart play. According to NBA.com, Curry is averaging 6.3 points per game off screens this season, which is the most in the league by a mile. (If you’re curious, Buddy Hield ranks second with 3.5 points per game. The gap between Curry and Hield is the same as the gap between Hield and Furkan Korkmaz, who ranks … 52nd with 0.7 points per game off screens.)
The crazy part? Curry finds himself in the 100th percentile with 1.49 points per possession. So not only is he the most prolific scorer off screens in the league right now, but he’s also the most efficient.
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Knowing how dangerous Curry is flying off screens, the Bulls wisely switch Lonzo Ball onto Pool and Alex Caruso onto Curry.
The Bulls are in pretty good shape. Poole isn’t able to get open on the backdoor cut, and Caruso extends himself beyond the 3-point line to prevent Curry from getting the ball.
Curry, however, has a plan.
Looking directly at Green, Curry points towards his right, one would assume to indicate where he’s going to go next.
Looney flips his screen to create some daylight for Curry, and Green throws a perfect bounce pass between Javonte Green and Caruso to Curry, who catches the ball in rhythm.
According to NBA.com, Curry is 33 of 74 (44.6 percent) on catch-and-shoot 3s to start the season. This is practically a layup for him:
Why it matters
A couple of reasons.
One, it shows how important movement is. Much has been made over the years of how Curry’s movement in particular opens up opportunities for himself and others, but it’s important that everyone else moves as well. A crucial part of this possession that can easily go unnoticed is Poole’s initial cut. Why? Because it engages Javonte Green, who is defending Looney.
He only drops slightly, but every inch counts when you’re defending Curry.
Two, it shows how in sync Curry and Green are.
Green isn’t the scorer or 3-point shooter that he once was — he’s averaging 7.4 points per game on 28.1 percent shooting from 3-point range since the 2017-18 season — but he remains one of the league’s best passers. Last season, he averaged a career-high 8.9 assists per game. This season, his 7.2 assists per game have him tied with LaMelo Ball and Ja Morant for ninth-most in the league.
Curry, of course, is on the receiving end of many of those assists. Green benefits greatly from playing next to the greatest shooter of all time — “give the ball to the guy who has made more 3-pointers than anyone else in NBA history” sounds pretty easy in principle — but Curry benefits greatly from Green’s vision. If defenders fall asleep or make the smallest of mistakes, Green will punish them by threading the needle to Curry.
“I mean, their chemistry is unbelievable, whether it’s unspoken or spoken,” Pelicans star Zion Williams said about Curry and Green last season. “I mean, they just know where to find each other. All I can say is I’ve got respect for that. I’ve got a lot of respect for that.”
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Green dished out seven assists against the Bulls. Four of those led directly to buckets for Curry.
The first came in the opening quarter when Green set Curry up for a layup on a backdoor cut.
Green’s three other assists to Curry came in the third quarter. In addition to the one above, Green set up Curry on the opening possession of the frame.
He then found Curry curling off a screen in the closing minutes of the period.
Noticing anything in particular about each of those? The passes are delivered on the money — at the perfect time and in the perfect place, making Curry’s life as easy as possible. There’s a reason why Curry is shooting 46.4 percent from 3-point range off passes from Green so far this season.
This is nothing new, of course. Green and Curry have already won three championships together as teammates. Their connection was also strong as ever last season, with Green setting up Curry for a grand total of 194 buckets, the most assists directly from one teammate to another in the entire league. (Only five duos are ahead of them right now this season.)
But that’s what makes their productivity even more impressive. Everyone knows Curry is the most dangerous shooter in the world. Everyone knows that Green is only really ever looking to pass. And yet, there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it from happening.
There’s no shortage of standout duos in the league right now, but few are as punishing as Curry and Green.