Heading into Sunday, the non-Stephen Curry Warriors combined to hit 32.9% of their 3s. Curry alone accounted for 35.8% of the team’s triples, and he’s hit them at a 41.9% clip. Curry’s 85 3-pointers before the Raptors game were more than Jordan Poole, Andrew Wiggins, and Nemanja Bjelica — the next three best shooters in the lineup — combined.
In other words: if Steph wasn’t putting it up, it probably wasn’t going down (or at least going down at a below-league average rate). And the Warriors were still winning. Winning with spectacular Curry nights, the NBA’s most tenacious defense, and sporadic scoring eruptions from Poole and Wiggins.
Then on Sunday night in the Chase Center, the inverse happened. Toronto’s aggressive defense bottled up Curry, who went 2-for-10 for a season-low 12 points. He hit one of his six 3-pointers, while the rest of the Warriors sank 21 of 39 (53.8%).
Sunday’s shooting performance was the perfect storm for the Warriors outside of Curry. The display might not happen again all year. But as opposing teams continue to commit their entire defenses to slowing down Curry, getting 3-point production from secondary options will be necessary for Golden State (15-2).
“The biggest thing is balance,” head coach Steve Kerr said after the 119-104 victory. “The scoring balance means that teams can’t throw everything at Steph. That’s what was happening last year. Teams were throwing everything they had at Steph. It’s continued this year, but we have more overall shooting this year…The overall spacing means that if teams are going to throw the kitchen sink at Steph, they’re going to pay.”
A game where Curry went 2-for-10 almost certainly would have resulted in a Golden State loss the past two years. GSW went 4-7 last season in games in which Curry hit two or fewer 3s.
But the Warriors have filled out the 2021-22 roster with more shooting. Still, their marksmen haven’t started the season hitting bullseyes.
Poole entered Sunday at 29.9% from deep. Wiggins was at 32.5%. Andre Iguodala has hit 21.7% of his attempts.
Damion Lee (36.7%) was red-hot from deep before injuring his hip. Nemanja Bjelica (41.9%) was lights out before crashing back down to earth, bringing his still-impressive clip down from a league-best 57.9%.
The Warriors have good shooters around Curry. And with Curry’s gravity and GSW’s NBA-best ball movement, open shots will be there.
“One thing we’ve always talked about is strength and numbers and depth,” forward Draymond Green said. “And the last couple years, we haven’t had that depth. I think we have that depth back this year and it’s showing…I think it’s a testament to Bob and the front office and our ownership group, putting the pieces in place to be successful.”
Knowing how the rest of the Warriors have relatively struggled from deep, Toronto tried to take the ball out of Curry’s hands and force role players to hit shots. Fred VanVleet face-guarded Curry when he was off the ball in the halfcourt. Toronto double-teamed Curry off nearly every screen. Late in the fourth quarter, Nick Nurse called the box-and-one defense that stifled Golden State in the 2019 Finals.
The schemes were sound. But the Warriors beat them with shooting.
Poole started the game off with a 3 and hit seven more of his 11 attempts. Wiggins went 6-for-8 from behind the arc. Otto Porter Jr. added a 5-for-9 line off the bench.
Most, if not all, of the Warriors’ 3s came within the flow of the offense, often off extra passes that forced Toronto’s defense to rotate.
“We drive to the hole, everybody collapses,” Porter Jr. said. “I mean, when you drive baseline or in the middle, that’s just the natural reaction — for people to help out. And they forget about shooters in the corners. So our job is to take those shots and knock them down.”
Toronto did everything it could to make the Warriors’ supporting cast beat them. “Every team’s game plan is to try to slow Steph down,” Kerr said. Teams will almost certainly aim to replicate Toronto’s schemes.
But it won’t be tenable if the non-Curry Warriors can shoot anything like they did on Sunday.