Warriors vs. Grizzlies: How Stephen Curry’s 3-point fights served to bolster his greatness

Stephen Curry has blazed a trail through the NBA history books, establishing himself as the greatest 3-point shooter ever played, both for his shot creation and the consistency of his results. No one has ever had to do harder 3s, and over the years the percentages that Curry has transformed those looks at have been amazing. But that doesn’t happen anymore.

As always, it must be stated that any talk of Curry’s shooting “fights” is relative to his own absurdly high standards, but with that caveat, Curry’s 38-percent shot of 3 this regular season was by far the worst mark of his career . It didn’t improve in the playoffs.

In nine postseason games, Curry shoots a hair below 36 percent from deep. He’s at 31 percent for the Memphis Series and 27 percent in his last three games. When Golden State had the second highest percentage of true hits For a single game in playoff history in Game 3, in which 53 percent of their triples came together as a team, Curry only made 2-of-8 from deep.

But he still led the Warriors by 30 points that night. He backed that up with 32, including 18 in the fourth quarter, in Game 4, despite only shooting 4 of 14/3. Curry now has five 30-point games this postseason. Only Giannis Antetokounmpo and Ja Morant have reached that number. That Curry does so despite struggling mightily by his standards to find his long-range shooting form is the latest testament to his still evolving greatness.

So how does he do it? The old-fashioned way: in the arch and free-throw line, where the best scorers of yesteryear made their living. Curry comes into play on Wednesday and is averaging 7.6 free throw attempts per game in the playoffs, the highest tally of his postseason career and a 62 percent increase in his regular season free throw frequency. Curry forces the action downhill as the threat of his 3-point shot, whether he makes it in a constant clip or not, will always create avenues of penetration.

If he doesn’t get fouled on these forays, he just flat out fetches buckets. Take a look at Curry’s 2-point playoff percentage so far, another career high by far.

Curry deals the majority of his damage just outside the restricted area, with over 20 percent of his shot attempts coming from between three and 10 feet, which is by far a career high in that area and is twice as common as in 2018-19. his final postseason.

Curry connects on those 3-10 feet, whether it’s floaters, short jumpers, or even the occasional fallaway, with a stunning 67 percent clip, a 17 percent improvement over his second-best postseason (2015-16, when he shot 50 percent from the 3-10 foot zone).

Early in the season, Curry was chasing 3-pointers all over the court. Whether it was because he was chasing the all-time 3-point record – which he eventually and inevitably broke – or because at age 33 he was looking for what he felt was a more efficient shot diet, and that came at the expense of some of the rhythm shots from mid Distance that used to support or reignite it amidst colder streaks.

Just six percent of Curry’s attempts came from the analytical death zone (between 16 feet and the 3-point line) during the regular season, but he’s bumped that number to nine percent in the playoffs, and he’s sinking those long middle shots on more a paltry 56.3 percent, also a post-season career high.

So, despite his relative 3-point struggles in these playoffs so far, Curry has posted an elite true shooting percentage of 61.4. That number tops what he posted in his 2014-15 and 2015-16 postseason MVPs.

Indeed, there are countless ways to define greatness, but for me, being able to be great when you don’t have the best stuff is what sets it apart. We’re watching James Harden’s decline as an elite scorer in real-time as his primary ability – drawing fouls/knocking guys out of dribble – has become less reliable. It’s easy for Harden to score 30 when he can get in the paint at will, just as it’s easy for Curry to score 30 when he throws shots from the hall. It’s like a pitcher throwing 100 miles an hour.

But since Harden has struggled to succeed via the second and third options, to see Curry stay the course without his best fastball, to see him keep grinding, forcing his way into the paint, over and over again makes contact and gets to the free throw line, just keep it to play and producing with an even keel despite immense frustration simmering underneath was extremely impressive.

If you ever thought Curry was just a Sagittarius, you were always wrong. But this postseason proves it tenfold. He is a Scorer. He’s a playmaker. Yes, he is a defender. This guy can beat you in a different way every night, and at 33 years old, without the ability to rely on a consistent 3-point shot, he’s still finding the same success he’s always had by throwing more than ever draws on that deep basketball toolbox. Warriors vs. Grizzlies: How Stephen Curry’s 3-point fights served to bolster his greatness

Justin Scacco

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