Breaking down Steph Curry’s record-setting night at Madison Square Garden

Warriors legend used full reportoire of screens, off-ball movement, improvisation, range and release

By John Krolik

Special to The Examiner

Well, he did it. After making five three-pointers in Madison Square Garden Tuesday night, Steph Curry passed Ray Allen to become the NBA’s all-time leader in three-pointers made.

Steph and his shooting prowess is nothing new. But on a record-breaking week, talking about anything else just seems wrong. So, let’s take a deep dive into each of the five threes Steph made against the Knicks on his record-setting night.

When the game started, Curry only needed one three-pointer to tie the record. Everyone in The Garden knew it. Steve Kerr decided to have a little bit of fun with the thousands in attendance and millions watching around the world, all of whom were expecting the Warriors to feed Steph early and often. Instead, the Warriors coach had Draymond Green fake a dribble hand-off to Curry, giving him a wide-open lane to the basket as two Knicks defenders raced after Steph. Unfortunately for Green, he missed the layup.

Just one minute into the first quarter of the game, Steph took matters into his own hands. He got the ball in the Warriors’ backcourt after a Knicks miss, dribbled the entire way up the court, got a screen on Alec Burks about five feet beyond the free throw line, and instantly pulled up in front of Julius Randle, who got the best look in the arena at make No. 2,973.

The three Curry made to break the record came with 7:34 left to play in the first quarter, and it was the result of Steph’s off-ball activity giving him the sliver of space he needs to make one of his long-range shots. The play started with the ball on the left side of the court and Curry setting a weak-side screen on the right side of the basket for Andrew Wiggins, who caught the entry pass on the left block.

As Wiggins considered his options from the post and Kevon Looney ran towards the basket, Alec Burks gave a split-second of thought to guarding the basket instead of sticking with Curry, and that was all Steph needed. Curry, who had been employing another one of his favorite tricks by pretending to look disinterested without the ball in his hands, immediately sprinted out to the three-point line, where he caught the pass from Wiggins and shot it in one impossibly quick motion. Burks sprinted after Curry and had his hands in the air when Curry caught the ball, but he had already made a fatal mistake, and the ball went over his outstretched hand, through the hoop, and put Curry atop the all-time leaderboard.

Curry’s third made three-pointer of the game was a bit of improvisational magic. Nemanja Bjelica slipped a screen for Curry on the right side of the floor, leaving Curry trapped in a double-team but Bjelica wide-open in the right corner. Curry lost his dribble under the pressure of the double-team, but the ball went right to Bjelica. As the two men who had double-teamed Steph actually crashed into each other due to the rapid change in direction, Curry sprinted towards Bjelica, who quickly flipped the ball right back to Steph for a quick pull-up three.

Curry’s fourth three-pointer was a product of good fortune and deep range. Andre Iguodala missed a corner three off the side of the backboard, causing it to come right back to him for the rebound. Meanwhile, Immanuel Quickley, who had been guarding Steph, got caught running in to grab the potential rebound, leaving Curry “open.” Iguodala whipped the ball to him, Steph took one dribble to get his legs under him and drained the long-range bomb.

Steph’s final made three of the night was a glimpse into what Steph’s life might look like if he got the opportunities most other three-point shooters do. That means open shots given up by the defense to prevent the offense from getting an easy shot at the basket. Green beat Randle off the dribble, causing Miles McBride, who had been guarding Curry, to step in front of the basket to try and draw a charge. The second he took his eyes off Curry, Steph sprinted to the three-point line, and Green stopped short of McBride to throw a cross-court pass to a wide-open Curry at the top of the three-point arc. Curry used a quick pump-fake to shake Derrick Rose, who was making a noble attempt to rotate from the corner shooter to Steph by sprinting at full speed, then calmly drained the resulting wide-open look.

That’s Steph Curry – using screens, off-ball movement, improvisation, range, and his lightning-quick release to get himself a look from beyond the arc. So far, it’s worked for him a record 2,977 times.

John Krolik is a freelance contributor to The Examiner.

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