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Sport Stopping Stephen Curry: How Mikal Bridges, Suns brought Warriors superstar down to earth

14:22  03 december  2021
14:22  03 december  2021 Source:   sportingnews.com

Three observations that stand out from the Suns' 10-game win streak

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Earlier this week, the Suns did the impossible — they made Stephen Curry look human.

In the first of four meetings between the two teams this season, the Suns defeated the Warriors to record their 17th straight win despite losing Devin Booker to a hamstring injury in the first half. The Suns got big performances from Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton, but it was the way they defended Curry that grabbed headlines.

For good reason too. Curry entered the game averaging 28.6 points per game on the season. Against the Suns, he tied his season-low with 12 points while shooting 4-for-21 from the field and 3-for-14 from 3-point range.

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As many were quick to point out, it was the worst the two-time MVP has ever shot in a game in his career (playoffs included) on a minimum of 20 field goal attempts.

How did the Suns do it and more importantly, is it replicable? Let's take a closer look.

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How the Suns matched up with Stephen Curry

The matchup data is far from perfect, but it helps give an idea on what went down.

The key takeaways: Mikal Bridges spent the most time chasing Curry around and Ayton defended almost half of his field goal attempts.

According to the matchup data, Curry went scoreless on 0-for-3 shooting from the field when Bridges was defending him and shot 1-for-9 when Ayton was his primary defender.

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How the Suns defended Stephen Curry (Nov. 30)
Defender Minutes Points Assists Turnovers FGM-FGA FG% 3PM-3PA 3P%
Mikal Bridges 7:20 0 2 0 0-3 0.0 0-1 0.0
Chris Paul 1:55 2 0 1 1-2 50.0 0-1 0.0
Deandre Ayton 1:35 3 0 1 1-9 11.1 1-5 20.0
Cameron Johnson 1:11 0 0 0 0-1 0.0 0-1 0.0
Jae Crowder 1:05 0 1 0 0-3 0.0 0-2 0.0
Devin Booker 0:26 0 0 0 0-0 0.0 0-0 0.0
JaVale McGee 0:25 3 0 0 1-3 33.3 1-3 33.3
Landry Shamet 0:14 0 0 0 0-0 0.0 0-0 0.0
Cameron Payne 0:11 3 0 0 1-1 100 1-1 100

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The tale of the tape

There's no other place to start than with Bridges.

The fact that Curry only attempted three shots in the seven minutes Bridges defended him speaks to a couple of things. One, how difficult it is to get a shot off against Bridges.

It's particularly difficult for smaller guards considering Bridges stands at 6-foot-6 and sports a 7-foot wingspan. He blankets defenders with his length.

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Again, Curry didn't challenge Bridges much one-on-one, but the few times he did, it didn't end well.

Two, Bridges pays attention to details. All the details.

Usually, Curry wears teams and defenders down with his constant movement. (We've already gone over how Curry breaks defenses without even touching the ball and how there are no plays off defending him.) Knowing how well he moves off-ball — Curry is leading the league in scoring off of screens while ranking in the 98th percentile in efficiency — Bridges didn't let him out of his sights.

It's the little things like not letting your guard down and keeping your head on a swivel when Curry gives up the ball. Otherwise, it opens the door for Curry to dart off of a screen.


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Scotto: When the Celtics signed Dennis Schroeder, that’s a guy I thought could have a bounce-back year to try to rebuild his value. So far, he’s had a nice start to the season. They got him as a steal with his contract because the market dried up when they got him, but they’re not going to be able to pay him that much next summer. If Boston continues to struggle and isn’t as much of a playoff team as we thought going into the year with the addition of Al Horford and the development of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown moving forward, Schroeder’s a guy I can see potentially on the move close to the trade deadline.  Gozlan: Even if the Celtics want to keep Schroeder long-term, they’re going to have a hard time retaining him. The most they can give him since they only have his non-Bird Rights is a starting salary at $7 million. It could be a four-year deal in the low $30 million range. That’s probably not enough to keep him. If they’d want to pay him more, they’d have to dig into their mid-level exception. They probably won’t have access to the full mid-level exception because they already have so much money dedicated to Tatum, Brown and Smart. It’s going to be a challenge to keep him.  They’re also slightly over the luxury tax, and the Celtics have been struggling. It doesn’t quite make sense to finish over the tax if they’re going to hover around .500. I don’t know what they can get for him. Maybe they can get a late first-round pick at best. If they can save money and get some assets, that’s pretty good considering they got one of the biggest bargain signings in free agency.

Take a closer look at what Bridges does when Curry gives it up. Even with the ball on the opposite side of the court, Curry has Bridges' full attention.

Wherever Curry went, so did Bridges.

Of course, it takes more than one player to contain a prolific scorer like Curry. Relentless as Bridges was, the Suns showed him a lot of bodies, so much so that there were a number of times where all five defenders on the court were staring directly at Curry, almost daring anyone else on the Warriors to beat them. (That tactic becomes a little harder when Klay Thompson is playing, but that's a conversation for another day.)

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Throughout the game, the Suns did a good job of making sure Curry saw very little daylight.

Suns defending Stephen Curry © Provided by Sporting News Suns defending Stephen Curry

Now let's talk about Ayton.

The Suns usually have Ayton drop when defending pick-and-rolls to better position himself to protect the rim, but against Curry, who is the league's best 3-point shooter off the dribble, they extended him all the way out to the perimeter to take away his deep pull-ups.

It's not every day that you see a center block one of Curry's 3-point attempts.

Ayton also switched onto Curry on a number of occasions and held up pretty well against him on an island.

(Oh hey, there's Bridges again.)

There were a couple of times where Curry was able to get by Ayton off the dribble, but he was once again met by help.

(Oh wow, there's Bridges again.)

And last but not least, Ayton had some good defensive stands at the rim.

Essentially, Bridges did a lot of the heavy lifting, but his teammates provided the perfect amount of support.

“A lot of it was them,” Curry said. “Credit to their length and multiple efforts.”

Can the Suns contain Stephen Curry again?

We won't have to wait long to find out!

On Friday, the Suns and Warriors meet for the second time this season. They will then meet for a third time on Christmas Day.

It'll be fascinating to see how Golden State responds to Phoenix's aggressive defense on Curry in those matchups and whether or not the Suns can continue to make him uncomfortable.

A couple of things to watch:

  1. Despite all the attention paid to him, Curry still had a handful of looks that he wasn't able to knock down. If one or two of those shots fall, are we having a slightly different discussion?
  2. Will someone else on the Warriors take advantage of the Suns loading up on Curry?

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr talked about the second point after the game.

“Teams are going to commit people to Steph the way that Phoenix did,” Kerr said. “There are going to be openings. There are going to be openings for Jordan (Poole), openings for Otto (Porter Jr.). There are going to be openings for Klay Thompson. That’s going to be fun. A lot to look forward to, but the main thing we need to take from this is that we gotta get better. We played the Western Conference champs. They were the better team.

"We play them again in a few days. Let’s see if we can make some improvements and carry that forward so that when we do get into these types of situations, we can be more effective."

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