The Warriors face numerous challenges with Green suspended for Game 5 of the NBA Finals tonight, but perhaps no eligible Golden State player is more significantly affected than Curry.
Curry has become dependent on Green – Green’s defense, screen-setting, shooting and passing. Curry is and deserves to be the back-to-back reigning MVP, and he drives the Warriors’ success more than anyone. But within their ecosystem, Curry has mostly thrived with Green at his side.
There’s a reason Curry has played 91% of his minutes this season with Green. Steve Kerr knows what he’s doing, and Green complements Curry so well.
Green’s defensive versatility and ability to switch is instrumental to Golden State’s preferred scheme – one that allows a fair amount of ways to hide Curry. Curry is no defensive slouch, but not forcing him to stick with elite opponents eases his burden.
On offense, Green sets great screens for Curry and spaces the floor himself. Green’s elite passing for his position makes it harder to double team Curry. Trap Curry, and he gets the ball ahead to Green in a 4-on-3 situation. Now, the Cavaliers will be more likely to risk Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes or Andrew Bogut making a play with a man advantage.
Here’s how Curry’s shooting numbers change with Green on the court to off (regular season and playoffs):
- Field-goal percentage: 50% to 43%
- 3-point percentage: 46% to 36%
In the regular season, Golden State outscored opponents by 20.1 points per 100 possessions with Curry and Green on the floor. With Curry and without Green? It fell to just +1.0.
We’re dealing with a small sample of Green-less minutes for Curry, but:
1. There’s a reason it’s a small sample. The Warriors know they’re better off pairing Curry and Green as much as possible.
2. As a result, this will be unfamiliar territory for Curry. As great as he is, Curry is clearly comfortable playing with Green.
3. Curry has produced relatively poor results in the limited sample. It’d be less encouraging if he struggled over a larger sample, but any struggles should cause concern. The only debate is the degree.
Now, against a very good Cavs team – one whose matchup problems with Golden State are far less pronounced with Green sidelined – Curry must confront the challenge head on.
Curry is shooting just 10-for-31 without Green on the floor in the postseason. Curry might need to make more shots in this game alone for the Warriors to clinch a championship tonight.