Stephen Curry torched the Rockets in last season’s Western Conference finals, scoring 31.2 points per game on 51% shooting and 49% 3-point shooting.
Why did Curry play so well?
“Steph Curry needed someone to go back at him,” Lawson told Yahoo Sports. “I thought Steph was just chillin’ on defense – and then going crazy on offense. He looked like he was just putting shots up and not working so much on the defensive end. He would just come down and hit three or four 3’s. He can shoot when he’s got his legs under him.”
The clear implication: If the Rockets had Lawson then, he would’ve forced Curry to work harder on defense – so hard, Curry wouldn’t have scored as efficiently on the other end.
Lawson is right.
But keep in mind, Houston starting point guard Patrick Beverley – who’s competing with Lawson for the starting job this year – was out injured. So, Curry was resting defensively against a 37-year-old Jason Terry. Lawson would have obviously given the Rockets a better chance than Terry did.
The more important question: Will Lawson’s offense help Houston better defend players than Beverley’s defense will?
Lawson is unquestionably the bigger offensive threat, and his point about fatigue is logical. But Beverley is clearly stronger defensively, and that might mean more than Lawson’s indirect defense.
It’s difficult to suppose what would have happened in the conference finals if the Rockets had Lawson the best comparison might be the Warriors’ first-round win over Lawson’s Nuggets in 2013, the only playoff matchup between Lawson and Curry. Curry scored 24.3 points per game on 47% shooting and 44% 3-point shooting. That’s not as good as last year’s conference finals, but it’s still pretty darn impressive and it was two years before Curry developed into the MVP.
So will the Rockets be better off with Lawson or Beverley on the court? The beauty is they have both and don’t have to decide right now. They can experiment throughout the season, using each in different matchups.
And they won’t have to rely on Terry in the rotation, which we already know won’t sufficiently slow Curry.