There is no great shame in losing to the Golden State Warriors and Steph Curry, and no matter how the Western Conference final shakes out, the Blazers should be proud of their season. But if there’s one thing that should have them feeling a bit embarrassed in the aftermath of their 116-94 Game 1 loss, it’s the way they defended Steph Curry.
At this point, basically everyone in the galaxy understands that the deadliest thing one can encounter on a basketball court is Steph Curry dribbling into an open look from beyond the three-point line. There is no surviving it, and the story of the NBA over the last half-decade or so has been the story of various NBA teams desperately trying to escape or mitigate that particular brand of doom. But last night, for some reason, the Blazers just… didn’t even try? Curry made nine threes in the game, and according to ESPN Stats and Info, seven of them were uncontested.
As my colleague Chris pointed out in his post about the game, the Blazers not only left slow-footed Enes Kanter on the floor to deal with Curry’s pick and rolls, they asked him to sag way into the paint, presenting Curry with the cleanest possible looks at the basket. There’s no way to really stop Steph Curry, but this certainly isn’t any way to try:
After the game, Blazers head coach Terry Stotts was asked, very politely, why he had decided to deploy such a braindead defensive scheme instead of, say, trapping Curry every now and then and forcing the ball out of his hands. Stotts responded to the question by snippily reminding everyone that Houston’s trapping scheme didn’t do them much good when Curry destroyed them in the second half of Game 6 of the conference semis:
Okay, fair enough. But also: Come on, man! Yes, Steph Curry is very hard to stop no matter what kind of defense you throw at him, but that seems like a pretty weak excuse to meet him with the least resistance possible. Stotts also ignored the fact that, aside from the 33-point second-half explosion that ended their season, the Rockets did have some success containing Curry. That 33-point run was so remarkable in part because it followed a 0-point first half, and in every game but Game 6 the Rockets held Curry’s shooting percentage from deep to 30 percent or lower.
The Blazers don’t stand much of a chance in the series, and Curry still has the ability to turn any defensive scheme into helpless flailing. But that doesn’t mean Stotts should just throw his hands up and not even try. It’s the Western Conference Finals, man. You’ve got to have a plan.