Stephen Curry’s record-shattering 3-point shooting and Golden State’s run to five consecutive NBA Finals have transformed basketball with more long shots, versatile playmakers and switching defensive schemes.
It’s an evolution on display in this year’s best-of-seven championship series as the Warriors, seeking a third consecutive title and fourth in five seasons, meet a Toronto squad fashioned in Golden State’s image.
“They have definitely left a stamp on basketball in this league,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said.
Curry’s uncanny ability to sink 3-pointers - he stretched his NBA Finals career 3-pointers record to 102 with four in game one - and create opportunities along with backcourt partner Klay Thompson has led a push outside from eras when giants dominated inside or stars like Michael Jordan or LeBron James ruled with acrobatic shotmaking.
“I call him a transformational player,” Nurse said of Curry. “He has got kids all over the world shooting from 40 feet away.
“As you’ve seen the 3-point shot become so rapidly used in the last three or four years, a lot of that is because of Golden State and Steph and Klay. Now you’re seeing quickly the league start to shoot six to eight feet behind the line pretty regularly. You didn’t see that maybe even a couple years ago.
“He has transformed the way people view the 3-pointer.”
The risk of a long shot is being more than overtaken by the benefits of an extra point for every made basket from beyond the arc.
Curry warns, however, that it takes exceptional work to sink them often enough to make it worth doing.
“You don’t just wake up and accidentally or coincidentally be great at something. You got to put the time in,” Curry said.
Parents say kids want to mimic the highlights they see on television and Curry is proud to be a role model.
“Hopefully they understand and appreciate the countless hours and the hard work that goes into it. Hopefully they’re inspired and motivated they can do some of the stuff I do.”
Curry works not only on accuracy but on creating opportunities.
“He’s got an incredible shooting stroke from anywhere,” Nurse said. “When people are chasing him, he just dribbles and gets around them.
“He has a great, skillful finishing game with the floaters, taking it right to the rim if you’re constantly pressed up on him, and then he’s unbelievable at giving it up and racing back outside the line and catching and firing a three.”
‘Head on a swivel’
Warriors reserve Shaun Livingston says constant motion is the secret to success for Curry and Golden State.
“You’re constantly moving. You’re keeping everybody’s head on a swivel,” he said. “They create so much space without having the ball. Not very many people that can do it. That’s kind of what makes us go.”
Defensively, the Warriors switch off coverage assignments in rapid-fire style, baffling rivals unprepared for such dynamic adapting on the fly.
“These guys brought the switching defense to prominence years ago and now everybody is doing it,” Nurse said. “Five years ago, it wasn’t like that. Now you’re seeing it so much, your guys get 100 games a year to get used to that.”
Raptors mimic Warriors
Thompson sees the Raptors as much like the Warriors in the early days of their dynasty run.
“They’re very long. They don’t really play with a traditional post player, which is kind of similar. They really spread you out,” Thompson said. “When you have playmakers everywhere, it’s hard to guard.”
Raptors guard Fred VanVleet is happy for the comparison to trendsetters.
“They were kind of revolutionary for the game, with the way that they built their team,” VanVleet said. “It’s just positionless basketball where you have multiple playmakers.
“Those guys won a couple rings. I don’t think it’s a bad compliment to remind somebody we look like them.”