OAKLAND, Calif. — The strategy of defending Stephen Curry was a testy subject for Portland coach Terry Stotts after the Golden State star torched the Trail Blazers in the Warriors’ 116-94 Game 1 win.
After Curry scored a game-high 36 points Tuesday night, Stotts responded with dry sarcasm when asked if he considered utilizing traps like the Houston Rockets did in the previous round instead of having the big man drop in pick-and-roll coverage.
“I can’t remember — when he had 33 in the second half, were they trapping then?” Stotts said, referring to Curry’s performance in the Game 6 win to close out the series against the Rockets. “They were? And he scored 33 in the second half? OK, yeah, we’ll look at that.”
Portland is certainly searching for solutions after Curry matched his career playoff high for made 3-pointers with nine on 15 attempts in the Western Conference finals opener. According to ESPN Stats & Information, seven of the 3s Curry swished were uncontested shots.
“That was very poor execution defensively on our part,” said Portland point guard Damian Lillard, who scored 19 points but was only 4-of-12 from the floor and committed seven turnovers. “Just having our bigs back that far; understanding the team we are playing against, they are not going to shoot midrange jumpers and try to attack the rim. If they see the opportunity to shoot a 3, they are going to tell you. They shoot it at a high clip. We’ve got to bring our guys up and run them off the line, and tonight, they were setting solid screens and coming off shooting practice shots.
“That’s the last thing we need if we want to have any chance to beat this team.”
Center Enes Kanter confirmed that the Blazers’ game plan against Curry was for the on-ball defender to fight through screens while the big man dropped back in coverage.
“In the fourth quarter, we kind of changed it,” Kanter said. “But I think it’s going to change in the second game.”
While Curry finished the second round with a flourish — scoring all 33 of his Game 6 points in the second half, including 23 in the fourth quarter — he struggled for most of the series against the Rockets. Curry had a particularly poor shooting series, hitting only 40.3 percent of his shots from the floor and 27.9 percent from 3-point range in the West semifinals.
Curry had no such problems Tuesday night, when he picked Portland apart, going 12-of-23 from the floor, dishing out seven assists and committing only one turnover.
Figuring out better ways to contain Curry will be one of Portland’s primary focuses during the day off before Game 2.
“Anything but what we did tonight,” Blazers guard CJ McCollum said.
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