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June 29, 2022
Basketball

The Celtics wasted their best defensive game against Steph Curry

Heading into Game 5, Stephen Curry had made a three-pointer in every single playoff game he had ever played in. That’s 132 straight. The second-longest streak is held by Klay Thompson with 54.

The Boston Celtics held Curry to an 0-for-9 performance from three-point range, snapping his streak. His nine attempted threes are the most he’s ever taken without a make. Boston played historically great defense against the best shooter to ever grace the court.

And they wasted it.

They wasted a chance to go up 3-2 in the NBA Finals with the series heading back to Boston.

They wasted a golden opportunity.

Obviously, part of it was simply Curry having a cold night, but the Celtics pressured him more in Game 5 than any other game so far this series. Boston chased Curry around all night long, and no matter who was guarding him, the goal was simple: don’t let him touch the ball. And while they were able to effectively contest Curry’s shots, it was the ball denial that stood out the most.

Everyone that ended up on Curry face-guarded him. Their only concern was making sure that he didn’t get his hands on the basketball. Look at Al Horford here. He’s barely paying attention to the rest of the court. He’s only worried about Curry.

Just look how tightly Marcus Smart covers Curry on this play. He’s bodying Curry on the out-of-bounds line, and it takes the Golden State Warriors point guard out of the play completely.

Curry is so great at moving off the ball, that Boston barely had time to do anything but cover him. Smart isn’t even looking at the play on this possession once Curry passes the ball. His back is turned to the rest of the court as he’s determined to stop Curry from relocating.

Boston’s ball-denial defensive plan resulted in Curry rarely finding space to work with, and when he did, the Celtics were right there to contest his shot.

This was Curry’s first shot attempt of the game. He went roughly 10 minutes without even getting a shot up. And when he did, it was a contested three in transition. Derrick White got out well beyond the three-point line and put a hand in his face.

Curry didn’t even sniff the three-point line in Game 5. Every single three he took was at least 25-feet away from the basket, and three of the nine three-point attempts were over 30-feet out. That means six of Curry’s threes were at least a foot behind the three-point line and three of them were at least six feet behind it.

In every other game this series, Curry has recorded at least five three-pointers. On Monday night, that number dropped to zero. He went from setting the record for most Finals games in a row with at least five threes to having his own record snapped by Boston’s suffocating defense.

But it didn’t matter.

The Celtics’ own offensive woes prevented them from reaping the rewards of their own success. Once again, Boston got in their own way and while they may have been the best defensive team in the NBA this year, replicating the level of success they had guarding Curry in Game 5 will be a near-impossible task.

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