The Golden State Warriors were understandably exhausted after their seven-game road trip on the eastern side of the country. It showed against the Boston Celtics, who were playing the fourth game of their five-game Western Conference road swing. The Celtics also came in with a 13-23 record and a six-game losing streak, but it took a 23-foot jumper from Stephen Curry with two seconds left to clinch a 99-97 victory.
Since the rest of this game was pretty forgettable compared to Curry’s game-winner — at least from the Warriors’ perspective — let’s spend the rest of this post focusing on what went into that play.
The Warriors had 11.7 seconds left to get the best shot possible. Even though Andre Iguodala was the only player on the floor for Golden State who was making shots at a decent clip, they knew they wanted to go to Curry.
Mark Jackson and Curry both praised David Lee’s screen on Avery Bradley, which put Curry against lumbering power forward Kris Humphries. In retrospect, that probably wasn’t the matchup Boston was looking for unless tanking truly is their top priority.
Afterward, I asked the three main characters in this final scene about the plan and how it was executed.
1. The Inbounder: Andre Iguodala
“We had plenty of time, 11 seconds. It’s pretty much a pick-and-roll with D-Lee and Steph. So if they did trap Steph, D-Lee would’ve been open and we trust him to make a play,” said Iguodala, who finished with 22 points (9-of-14 shooting), seven assists and five rebounds. He also has two game-winners on the season already, which means Curry tied him in that department on Friday night.
“That’s what kind of makes it so hard to guard a guy like (Curry). You’ve got to pick your poison. Do you switch, do you trap and let the rest of the guys play four-on-three? They switched, and (Curry) came up with another big shot.”
2. The Screener: David Lee
“The play was diagrammed for Steph and I to be in a screen-and-roll. We assumed that they were going to trap the screen-and-roll, and that he was going to throw back to me and we’d have a four-on-three advantage on the back side,” said Lee, who had 16 points (8-of-19 from the floor) and seven rebounds.
“I think everybody was pretty surprised, including Steph, that they switched the screen-and-roll. At that point, that’s a no-brainer. Steph can iso the five-man, and if he happened to miss, which I didn’t expect him to, I had Avery Bradley on the block for a tip-in.”
3. The Shooter: Stephen Curry
“I was able to get Avery to kind of shade me one way, and D-Lee set the screen on the other side. He set a great screen, so they had no choice really but to switch at that point,” said Curry, who scored 19 points (7-of-18) along with seven rebounds and four assists.
“Then I was able to get enough space to knock down the shot. D-Lee set a great screen and I found a nice little bit of daylight to knock it down.”
Curry also had some interesting insight into what goes on in his mind during plays like these.
“We tried to go with like five seconds left for the screen-and-roll, so we can figure out how they’re going to guard … Once you’ve got the iso and the one-on-one, you kind of go into your dribble series and see how you’re going to get your open look. At that point I was comfortable and in rhythm. As long as I make it, obviously with two seconds left we can have better options on the defensive end to press up, take away a three and force a tough shot,” he said.
“When the play starts, you look up (at the clock) to know where you are. Once the iso happened, I looked up and saw there was about five (seconds). You can’t think about too much stuff, because you’ve got to get your shot up. There’s two checkpoints, then letting the dice roll.”