How Much Credit Does Dellavedova Deserve for Curry's Bad Game?
*Photo via AP
On Sunday night, the Cleveland Cavaliers won Game 2 of the NBA Finals in an overtime thriller over the Golden State Warriors. After losing All-Star Kyrie Irving to a fractured kneecap in Game 1, Cleveland started undrafted Matthew Dellavedova at point guard to matchup against the league MVP, Stephen Curry. The result was the worst performance this postseason for Curry and a loss for the Warriors. But was Dellavedova the primary reason for Curry’s struggles?
Dellavedova was given the responsibility as the primary defender on Curry by Cleveland Head Coach, David Blatt. Curry’s stat line of 19 points on 5 of 23 shooting; 2 of 15 from downtown, six rebounds, five assists and six turnovers, was horrendous by MVP standards. A deeper look into those stats shows that Curry was bad against Delly in the half court.
Now this isn’t the first time Steph has had a mediocre performance by MVP standards. Game 2 was the seventh game this postseason in which Curry has shot below 40 percent from the field. Out of those seven games, four of those (Game 2 included) he also shot below 30 percent from downtown.
So where does Dellavedova get credit?
Dellavedova’s role on the Cavs is to make Curry uncomfortable. He’s not asked to be a scorer, (his first points of the series were in the fourth quarter of Game 2,) which allows him to focus all energy on playing defense the entire possession. Dellavedova does his work early by playing defense on Curry before he even touches the ball. Delly navigates single-double action well, does his best to force Curry away from pin downs, locks and trails in pick and roll, gets into Steph’s body when he doesn’t have the ball, plays superb ball denial defense and contests every field goal attempt.
Where do the Cavaliers as a team get credit?
After a majority of Cleveland baskets, the Cav who is guarding the Golden State inbounder, helps Curry’s defender deny him the ball forcing someone else to bring the ball into the front court.
Golden State ran a lot of 1 – 4 pick & roll with Steph, with Cleveland hard hedging and Curry’s defender locking and trailing, forcing Curry to give the ball up. There were times in which Curry turned the ball over making one hand passes in traffic. There were many different outcomes after Curry passed the ball back to the screener, including turnovers, shot attempts by the screener, and extra passes which led to shot attempts. However, Steph became a facilitator and not a shooter/scorer when he was involved in pick & roll.
When Cleveland was on offense, they ran a ton of pick & roll action with LeBron as the primary ball handler and whoever Curry was guarding as the screener. With Cleveland looking for a switch, Golden State countered with Steph soft hedging and recovering to his man, making him work on defense.
Yes, Cleveland and Dellavedova played good fundamental defense and contested majority of Steph’s shots. Cleveland absolutely deserves credit for Curry’s performance, but he was also missing open looks. Curry shot 1 of 7 from the field on attempts in which the closest defender was 4+ feet away. Anytime a player can make ridiculous shots like the ones he’s made this season against the Los Angeles Clippers and the New Orleans Pelicans, I’d take my chances with him getting back on track.
Curry also had looks that he failed to convert against Cleveland bigs on cross matches off broken plays and offensive rebounds. Attempts that a shooter the caliber of Curry would normally splash.
Golden State had success when they got Curry in transition, including a flashy move against Dellavedova for a layup. On the secondary fast breaks and out of a timeout, Golden State ran a double drag screen above the three-point line, in which Curry was able to get open for a three point make, draw a foul on J.R. Smith and hit Harrison Barnes for a wide open corner three attempt.
Cleveland played solid defense throughout the game. but Curry also missed shots that he is capable of making at a high rate. Dellavedova did a good job against Curry, but could play better defense in Game 3 and still see Steph drill those shots. ESPN cafeterias may have served Delly meat after Game 2, but expect the MVP to play much better in Game 3.