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Warriors using ‘bumping off’ strategy to protect Stephen Curry from fouling out

Stephen Curry, Warriors

The Golden State Warriors have developed a new strategy to keep Stephen Curry from fouling out of games. If it wasn’t enough to scheme against the reigning MVP in James Harden, head coach Steve Kerr and his staff have also put work in to keep their star on the floor, as Curry has now picked up four or more fouls in six of his eight games played in this postseason.

Curry has yet to foul out, but he has come very close, picking up five fouls three times, including in Games 1 and 2 of this Western Conference Semifinal series.

The strategy, which the Warriors dubbed “bumping off,” consists of a high-level switching scheme, making the switch right before the Houston Rockets screen:

“It’s sort of a mini-zone,” Kerr says of these situations of clustered switches, according to Ethan Strauss of The Athletic. “If you do it well, it stagnates the offense.”

The key of it is based on anticipation, given that Mike D’Antoni ruthlessly targets Curry with pick-and-rolls to defend Harden, given his knack for reaching and often subpar physical defense on the perimeter.

The strategy was in play in Game 1, but was more evident in Game 2, as Curry would often hard-flash toward the ballhandler, only to recover and retreat to his original matchup:

“A few times we switched the coverage,” Iguodala said of their pick-and-roll defense in Game 2. “Did something different. A little cat and mouse.”

Kerr has run out of answers for Curry’s poor defensive discipline, even asking his mother to keep him from fouling players.

This is the ultimate attempt to keep him from racking up the fouls in crucial situations, by merely hiding him within the defense and trading one poor matchup for a better one:

“Just try to keep out of situations where he can foul,” Iguodala says of attempts to protect Curry. “It’s not the fourth and fifth foul that gets him. It’s the second and third one. He’s the only superstar who gets five fouls. I don’t know, it’s mind-boggling. It’s like, yo that one, you didn’t need to get that one. Just let it go.”

Even dating back to this recent Game 2, Curry has a knack for reaching and lunging for steals, but his theft rate was actually a career-low 1.3 per game, which is likely a byproduct of offenses catching up to his pickpocket antics and tighter officiating throughout the league.