Was Steph Curry’s woeful shooting great Spurs defense or an off night?

(Photo via NBA.com)

Did a team finally crack the code to stop the most potent offensive weapon in the NBA or was it just an expected outlier out of a season filled with excellent performances. 

Reigning MVP Steph Curry and the Warriors took on the San Antonio Spurs at home on Saturday in what was marked as the game this NBA season, at least until these two teams meet again on April 7 and for the last time in the regular season on April 10.

The outcome was starkly different than the 120-90 shackling that the Warriors put on the Spurs in Oakland back on January 25th. The Spurs were successfully able to slow down the pace of the game & turn it into an ugly, bruising half court game that led to a 87-79 win.

The most eye catching performance of the night did not come from the Spurs side of the box score, but rather the Warriors’, where you’ll shockingly see the NBA’s leading scorer in Steph Curry shooting 4 for 18 from the field and just 1 for 12 from behind the arc.

Having watched the game play out live it was obvious that the Spurs’ game plan was to hound Curry every time he received the ball. Curry faced traps all game long and it appeared that this was the main reason for his uncharacteristically inefficient night; however, as you go back to review the shots he took in the game and the coverage you see Curry got a lot of relatively good looks and those shots that he normally hits just didn’t fall for him. While the Spurs D was definitely a major contributor to Curry’s off night, a lot was due to the expected occasional off-target shooting.

Stats via NBA.com/Stats
Stats via NBA.com/Stats

The Spurs had a defender within 2 feet of Curry’s shot in almost twice as many times as the rest of the league has been able to do all season, but that only accounted for 5 of his 18 shots on the night. That means Curry still was able to get 13 shots up with a defender at 2+ feet distance which is more than enough space for him to knock down with his normal high efficiency which is at minimum 50 percent on the season as the chart above shows.  On this night Curry wasn’t hitting those open shots, going 3 for 13 on shots with a defender 2+ feet away. Even when Curry got 4+ feet of space he was 2 for 7 which shows just how un-Curry-like he was on the night.

Quarter by Quarter Look

1st Quarter

Curry: 1-4 FG and 0-3 from deep

  • All but 1 of his 4 shots were defended well but Curry missed an open 3 he typically makes for his last shot.

2nd Quarter

Curry: 1-6 FG and 1-3 from deep

  • In the 2nd quarter the Spurs really hound Curry, contesting all but 1 of his shots, even blocking one of his 3 point attempts and his last one being a desperation nearly half court heave to beat the shot clock.

3rd Quarter

Curry: 2-4 FG and 1-2 from deep

  • Curry makes a trademark contested 3 and nice a driving layup making this his most productive and efficient quarter.
  • The 3 he missed over an arms-down Parker while sidestepping left off the dribble was definitely in Curry’s wheelhouse but like most of his shots on this night its off, this one hitting the back of the rim.

4th Quarter

Curry: 0-4 FG and 0-4 from deep

  • All but 1 of the his shot, all 3s, were contested but all 4 shots were of the difficult variety that Curry has made this season.
  • The 3rd shot in the quarter Curry pump fakes Kawhi Leonard to get an open 3 but as the theme of the night went it was off.

The Spurs deserve credit for holding the NBA most potent offensive team 36 points below their season average and 11 percentage points below their season FG% of 48.7 which is 2nd only to the Spurs. A big part of their success on defense was by stifling their offensive catalyst Steph Curry to a 4-18 shooting night and 14 points which is 16 points below his season average.

Closer look shows the Spurs were not successful in keeping Curry off the 3 point line where he still put up 12 shots which is 1 more than his season average. Yes, the Spurs contested half of those shots (had a defender within 4 feet) but as his very impressive contested shooting percentage shows Curry has knocked those down at a high rate this season, he just didn’t on this night. To further the point of just how off Curry was with this shot, he even struggled to hit the other 6 shots behind the 3 where he was open (1 for 6 with a defender within 4+ feet.)

The alarming fact in this case for the Spurs is that even though Curry was having one of his worst games of the season the Warriors were still within 1 point following a Brandon Rush 3 at the 4:01 mark in the 4th quarter. The win was well within the Warriors reach despite Curry’s woes.

Have the Spurs figured out how to defend Curry or was this just an off night? The video seems to show its more of the latter than the former. We’ll find out more when the Spurs and Warriors match up 2 more times this season with each team getting a game at home. Will we see the Curry from the late January match up where he scored 37 points and the Warriors won by 30 or what we witnessed last night? The NBA world will have the privilege of finding that out within the next 3 weeks.




Writer & NBA fan who’s been hooked since the days of Magic v Bird. Love basketball debates without it ending in a knife fight. My BBall nickname: “Todo El Dia” (All Day.) Hit me up on Twitter @fullcourtfern or Instagram: @raining3sdotcom