The sign that a Houston Rockets fan held inside the Toyota Center on Saturday was on point, except for one thing: the roles were reversed.
“Chef Harden cooking Curry,” it read, with an image of James Harden stirring Stephen Curry’s head into a bowl of basketball bliss.
Curry, as it turns out, was the one cooking Harden as his Golden State Warriors went up 3-0 in the Western Conference finals.
But Curry has been roasting opponents for much of this postseason, his spectacle of performances not only validating the MVP votes that gave him the league’s top individual award but changing the way we see today’s NBA. What Curry is doing right now is unprecedented.
By hitting seven of nine three-pointers in his latest outing, Curry broke Reggie Miller’s mark for three-pointers made in a single postseason in nine fewer games (Miller had 58 in 22 games in 2000, while Curry took 13 games to do it). Curry, who is shooting a scorching 57.6% from three-point range in the past six games (38 of 66), has hit 64. But this is simply the playoff version of what Curry has been doing in the regular season for quite some time, as he has long since become the poster boy of the league’s three-point revolution.
The dependence on beyond-the-arc scoring continues to rise to record levels, and Curry’s play is doing nothing to dispel the belief that the three-ball is the best bang-for-your-buck shot around. As Curry can attest as well as anyone, the corner three is even better: according to Synergy Sports, he is shooting an absurd 91% on threes from the left corner in the playoffs.
Rest assured, the Kareem Abdul-Jabbars, Julius Ervings and even the Larry Birds of this hoops world never knew this brand of basketball.
During the 1979-80 season when the three-point shot was introduced, the average NBA team attempted 2.75 three-pointers per game. That number rose steadily, but there has been a spike in recent years: the average team shot 18.4 threes in the 2011-12 season, then 19.95 in 2012-13, 21.55 2013-14 and 22.4 during this latest regular season.
The irony of the Western Conference finals is that this Houston team that banks on the long-ball more than anyone is falling victim to the very skill-set that their general manager and philosophical leader, Daryl Morey, cherishes so dearly. The Rockets were the league leaders in three-pointers attempted by a long shot – 2,680, with the Cleveland Cavaliers a distant second at 2,253. The Warriors, somewhat surprisingly, were a mere fourth place in those rankings (2,217).
The ripple effect of what the Warriors are doing will be interesting to watch from here – especially with the way that Phil Jackson has stoked this debate.
On May 10, the legendary coach turned New York Knicks president seemed to see the respective struggles of teams that relied on the three-ball as support for his stance. Jackson’s championship teams were, among other things, always masters of the midrange.
“NBA analysts give me some diagnostics on how 3pt oriented teams are faring this playoffs … seriously, how’s it (going)?” he tweeted on that day.
Four teams that rely heavily on the three-point shot – the Warriors, Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers and the Rockets – were all trailing 2-1 in their semifinals series at that time. The Portland Trail Blazers, who ranked third in three-point attempts, had already been eliminated in the first round by the Memphis Grizzlies.
Yet two weeks later, Jackson found himself having to clarify his comments once this tide hard turned. All four of those teams, of course, were still alive and (relatively) well.
“Some corrected thoughts,” he wrote on Twitter. ” (I) like 3pt shooters, check it out, but to play for 3pt shot is an error. Penetration, first principal of offense.”
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SOURCE: USA Today – Sam Amick