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How to ruin Steph Curry’s game? Pacers latest to use rare defense vs. Warriors

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As NBA groups seek for methods to quell Warriors guard Stephen Curry’s greatness, they’re changing into more and more reliant on a zone protection synonymous with center faculty and highschool basketball.

Two nights after Curry endured the worst-shooting recreation of his profession as he struggled with the Raptors’ box-and-1, the Pacers determined Tuesday to see whether or not that protection may once more be efficient. Indiana head coach Nate Bjorkgren began seldom-used reserve Edmond Sumner for a easy function: blanket Curry like a cornerback on a large receiver.

After main a lot of the sport, the Warriors struggled to make the short choices the box-and-1 necessitates, collapsing within the fourth quarter for a 104-95 loss to the Pacers at Chase Heart. It was a irritating evening, provided that Indiana’s zone ought to have supplied Golden State loads of open seems to be — that’s, if it knew the best way to discover them.

A lot of the primary few weeks of the season, a new-look supporting forged targeted on acclimating to taking part in alongside one of many league’s most unusual superstars in Curry. Now, after getting vexed at instances by the box-and-1 in two straight video games, the Warriors should do what rec-league groups throughout the nation do: discover ways to exploit a zone protection designed to close down a single offensive menace.

“Finally, you are feeling such as you’ll be capable to choose it aside,” mentioned Curry, who scored simply two of his 20 factors throughout a fourth quarter through which Golden State was outscored 31-20. “I simply suppose we have to take a while to know that it’s most likely going to occur greater than in years previous, and discover some key units and appears to create photographs.”

The box-and-1 might sound ill-suited for the NBA, the place even No. 2 choices can take over video games. Warriors head coach Steve Kerr can’t recall seeing it throughout his 15-year profession as a reserve guard. Curry confronted it quite a few instances in highschool and school, however he doesn’t consider he noticed it within the NBA till the Raptors unleashed it in opposition to him in Recreation 2 of the 2019 Finals.

On that massive stage, a protection Curry referred to as “janky” held the Warriors scoreless for eight possessions. Early this season, with Curry’s lesser-known teammates failing to be worthy enhances, groups began making an attempt to copy the Raptors’ success. The Path Blazers employed the box-and-1 at instances little greater than every week in the past.

On Tuesday, after watching his former mentor, Raptors head coach Nick Nurse, tire Curry out with the gimmicky protection in Sunday’s loss to the Warriors, Bjorkgren dared somebody — anybody — apart from Curry to beat his Pacers. For almost all of the sport, Indiana had two gamers on the corners of the foul line, two on the decrease blocks and one other, Sumner, defending Curry man-to-man.

The Warriors truly responded effectively, driving a 16-5 run halfway by means of the second quarter to a nine-point lead over a Pacers group with out Victor Oladipo (proper knee harm). Kelly Oubre Jr., who entered the day mired in a much-discussed taking pictures hunch, totaled 17 factors on 6-for-10 taking pictures (3-for-6 from 3-point vary) by means of the primary three quarters to assist Golden State open the fourth with a two-point lead.

However over the ultimate 12 minutes, Curry appeared exhausted. His teammates, unable to seek out the best shooter in NBA historical past, began to overthink and make questionable choices. With their assault wheezing, the Warriors let their protection soften, permitting the Pacers to shoot 11-for-20 from the sector (4-for-8 from 3-point vary) within the fourth quarter.

“Anytime you see a protection like that, it’s actually vital to make fast, sharp choices,” mentioned Kerr, whose group, with out small-ball middle Eric Paschall (coronavirus well being and security protocols), was outscored 56-34 within the paint. “I didn’t suppose we did that. I believed we have been indecisive with the ball.”

Such points are positive to by studied by Golden State’s future opponents. To exorcize the reminiscence of Tuesday’s loss and get again to their successful methods, the Warriors should first determine a protection typically seen on the native YMCA.

This might sound foolish, however NBA gamers can solely know the best way to assault defenses they’re accustomed to seeing. The box-and-1 hasn’t been in most of their psychological rolodexes since earlier than they have been making hundreds of thousands of {dollars} a 12 months to play basketball.

“We’ve simply received to assist Steph out in several methods,” ahead Andrew Wiggins mentioned. “Attempt to be aggressive and assault the rim. No matter we will do to assist out, we’ve received to attempt to do.”

Connor Letourneau is a San Francisco Chronicle employees author. E-mail: cletourneau@sfchronicle.com. Twitter: @Con_Chron

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