Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals was not as promising as the Portland Trailblazers had it would be. Golden State’s Splash Bros. went nuclear.
Once Kevin Durant sustained his strained calf injury in its previous series versus the Houston Rockets, Warriors guard Stephen Curry routinely faced traps and double teams just begging him to get rid of the ball. Although this strategy did not seem to faze Curry, considering he scored 33 points against Harden and Co., the Trailblazers opted for another method: drop the big. Let’s take a look at how that worked out for Portland.
Right from tip-off, the Portland Trailblazers indicated to all of us indeed how they were going to try and guard Curry in ball-screens. Although, most probably though, most of the basketball world assumed it was a simple miscommunication.
The Warriors began the game with a patented set within its offense, which I’d call “Swing Pin Fist” that gets Curry in a side ball-screen where he can attack the defense as he pleases. Watch how when Curry comes off, how deep #00 Enes Kanter is from where Curry releases his shot from. It is as if Steph is on the wide open plains of America’s grasslands with how much space he’s given.
Even though he misses this first attempt, it was a sign of potential similar opportunities to come throughout the entirety of the matchup.
Here’s another instance in which Curry misses a shot in transition, but the Trailblazers defense enables him to get into the lane with the greatest of ease.
Kanter is so deep in the paint that he cannot even contest a mid-range floater attempt. Curry should have just shot a good ol’ fashioned jump shot from this distance. Open looks like these gave Curry the proverbial green light as he must have realized he’d have similar type shots coming his way the rest of the night.
The end of the first half proved to be a critical sequence for the Trailblazers just as much as it was for the Warriors in extending its advantage. Again, it is another transition drag situation in which Looney is coming from a downward angle toward Lillard to set the ball-screen.
Curry influences Lillard with a subtle hesitation to allow Looney to flip the screen with Kanter NOWHERE IN SIGHT! By the time Curry releases the ball, Kanter only had time to play a round of hopscotch as he watched the basketball splash through the net.
On the ensuing possession, the Trailblazers allow Curry to get away from them, yet again, and perform his own version of acrobatics. The Trailblazers make their greatest mistake is by how low they have Kanter playing so he offers zero resistance to Curry as he dribbles to his right.
CJ McCollum, the primary defender of Curry on this particular play, is asked to chase around the 2x MVP and quite possibly greatest shooter ever without any help whatsoever. Putting someone on Curry island is about the cruelest assignment anyone could want to take on.
In this final clip, it is just a continuation of what we’ve seen already in these previous instances. The action is the carbon copy of the first clip which was shown at tip-off. Kanter is once again so far off of Curry that as he comes off the screen, which Looney sets a very solid ball-screen on Damian Lillard, all #30 needs to do is pull-up for yet another wide-open three-point shot.
Poor Damian Lillard could not get even get a hand-up on Curry’s three-point attempt.
It was a night of blunders and misery for the Trailblazers. Game 2 will offer the road team a chance to make some adjustments in the hopes that they can slow Curry and the Warriors three-point barrage as a whole.