Stephen Curry won Finals MVP for the first time in his career, thanks in large part to a performance that was his best at this stage of the season. He averaged 31.2 points per game, putting the Golden State Warriors in a familiar situation: NBA champions for the fourth time in the last eight years.
Curry was clearly the most valuable player in these finals, even after an unusual all-nighter in Game 5. He was the series’ leading scorer by far, and his unparalleled ability to create offense outside of the dribble was the main reason Golden State won the series against the Boston Celtics, who had the best defense in the league. NBA during the regular season.
Curry is the best shooter in league history in part because he developed an ability to create his own shooting opportunities from distances that were rarely used before his arrival. He can create space fire against any defensive cover in the world, and with his lightning-fast release and accuracy, he can knock down those self-created shots at elite rates.
The Curry Formula is an offensive hack that not only changed professional basketball forever, but also gave the Warriors their most important advantage of these Finals: simple actions that lead to low-maintenance buckets for years. distances. In the quest for the 2022 NBA championship, it was less about the numbers and more about this simple fact: Thanks to Curry, the Warriors had a reliable offensive scorer, which the Celtics did not.
The Basketball Revolution by Curry
Twenty years ago, the NBA Finals were all about handing the ball to Shaquille O’Neal and letting him work. Between 2000 and 2002, the Los Angeles Lakers won three straight titles because O’Neal owned the no-go zone and opposing defenses had no answer.
Over the past decade, Curry has transformed the game of basketball and he’s capable of generating efficiency numbers that rival O’Neal’s, but he’s doing it from much further. And in 2022, it’s the Celtics who have no answers.
In these finals, an average possession was worth 1.09 points; an average shot in the paint was worth even less, 1.05 points. Even after his terrible shot in Game 5, Curry’s jump shot in this series was worth an average of 1.35 points per attempt.
And yes, if Curry missed all nine 3-point shots he attempted in Game 5 — the first time in his postseason career that he didn’t make a 3-point shot — it wouldn’t. is not because Ime Udoka’s defense did anything different or better than in the previous four games. According to Second Spectrum’s shot quality model, Curry’s shots were nearly the same quality in Game 5 as they were the rest of the series; he simply missed shots, making just one of 12 shots on the night. Those same shots were missed in Game 6, with 6 shots at 3-11. Even taking that terrible performance into account, Curry still had one of the most effective shots we’ve seen at this point. of the season.
In the era of player tracking, there have been 131 instances where a single player attempted 70 or more jump shots in a playoff series. In this huge group, Curry’s 1.35 points per possession on jump shots puts him in third place.
Even after his 0-for-9 night Monday, Curry has made 31 3-pointers in this series. It is the third time in his career that he has scored at least 25; every other player in NBA history has managed just one such streak (Danny Green, who had 27 for the Spurs in 2013). Curry is just one 3-point shot shy of his own record for making a Finals, set in 2016 – a streak that lasted one game longer than this.
Curry on another planet
The success of NBA superstars comes down to one simple thing: combining volume and efficiency at elite rates. While Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum produced with volume in those Finals, averaging a combined 45.0 points per game, they fell far short of Curry’s efficiency numbers. Brown shot 43.1% from the field and 34% from the arc. Tatum, meanwhile, shot 45.5% of his 3-point shots, but his unfathomable 24-for-76 mark from inside the arc caused his completion percentage to drop to 36.7%.
Meanwhile, Curry, even including Game 5, averaged 31.2 points per game while shooting 53.0 percent on both courts and 43.7 percent on three-pointers. Curry and his trainer Brandon Payne developed a unique grammar to codify Curry’s perimeter marking moves. The two men have spent more than a decade choreographing, formalizing and practicing various perimeter moves to ensure that the best shooter in the world can create his own jumps. Curry’s unassisted bag now includes step-backs, side-steps, over-the-screen shots, pull-ups, floaters and layups.
As the Warriors handed the keys to their point guard and told him to go for some baskets against the fierce Celtics defense, all that hard work paid off. When Steve Kerr took the helm at Golden State in 2014, he implemented an innovative offense that relied less on pick-and-roll actions and more on the hyperactive movement of players and the ball itself. Over the past eight years, Curry’s star has risen in part through setups that have reduced his workload on the ball and emphasized sharing the ball and creating perimeter shots. But in this series, Kerr went in the opposite direction. His biggest tactical adjustment has been to lean more into traditional pick actions, especially ones that feature his MVP.
During the regular season, Curry averaged 34.5 pick actions per 100 possessions; in this series, that number is 48.2 percent. It was Curry’s ability to turn those old-school plays into field goals that fueled his Finals MVP campaign. Tatum and Marcus Smart have totaled 212 plays as pick-and-roll ball passers in this series. Curry made 216 single-handedly. Most of his big moments in those Finals started with Warriors like Kevon Looney, Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green setting up old-school ball screens for him over the arc.
In the third quarter of Game 4, when Tatum and Derrick White tried to battle on screens at the top of the arc, they were unable to recover fast enough to prevent huge 3-point shots who changed the game and potentially this whole series. When Al Horford dropped their cover, Curry rushed to dribble straight to juicy shots from the center.
No matter what the Celtics tried to do on defense against those pick actions, Curry adapted and roasted that elite Boston defense by making the right plays. When the Celtics switched positions, Curry grilled them to the tune of 1.32 points per possession. When they tried to fight on the screens, the efficiency was slightly lower, but still a ridiculous 1.18 points per possession.
Those numbers are staggering, especially when you consider the fleet of defenders he does this against. There are no bad defensemen in Boston’s rotation. They ranked first in defensive efficiency this season. Smart was named Defensive Player of the Year and served as Curry’s primary defenseman throughout the series. It didn’t matter. No one in green was able to effectively contain the most dangerous jump shot professional basketball has ever seen.
During the regular season, the Celtics had the best defense in the league, in part because they limited opposing jump shots to 0.97 points per shot. In the first round, they held Kevin Durant to 0.83 points per shot on his jumpers. But despite a nightmare in Game 5, Curry hit 40 of 82 jump shots, including 31 of 71 3-point attempts. He scored 12.2 points per game on unassisted jumps; Brown ranked second in the series with 4.8 points.