Pelton mailbag: Is Steph a ‘giant killer’ or just hard to guard?

 

 


“I was reading Zach Lowe’s article on the dangerous 1-3 pick-and-roll. He mentions that an advantage Stephen Curry will have when he and Kevin Durant run it is his ability to destroy big men who get switched on him. Now, I have seen countless highlights exemplifying this (The Stifle Tower falling in Game 1 against the Jazz). I was wondering, though, what does the data show on this? Is Steph really a giant killer?”

— Ian Stratton

ESPN Stats & Information has been tracking defensive matchups throughout the playoffs, so I was able to sort Curry’s plays this season into those against perimeter players and those against big men after switches. Curry has been very good against switches, shooting 48.6 percent from the field and averaging 1.13 points per play. But he actually has been better against perimeter players, shooting 50.7 percent and averaging 1.15 points per play.

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The samples are pretty small, particularly for switches — just 46 total plays. And I didn’t separate perimeter players into those who were actually primary defenders as opposed to less-favorable defenders who picked up Curry in transition or in a scramble situation. So this is hardly definitive either way, but it’s interesting to note that Curry hasn’t been a giant killer in the playoffs so much as he has just destroyed everyone.


“What are the chances of seeing a comeback from 3-0 within the next 5 to 10 years?”

–Trenton Kim

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I don’t know that I have a good way to estimate the chances, but I suspect we will see it at some point. A handful of teams have rallied from 3-0 to force a Game 7, and if you can do that, there’s a decent chance of winning the series. We’ve also seen a number of prominent rallies from a 3-1 deficit recently — most famously in last year’s NBA Finals — and coming back from down 3-0 isn’t dramatically more difficult than that.

I do wonder whether it’s possible for a team in that situation to truly have hope of coming back, given that it’s never happened before. (Teams down 3-1 can at least think of examples of that comeback happening.) But I think if, for example, you had a higher seed go down 3-0 in fluky fashion or an injury that altered the series (think Rajon Rondo getting injured after Game 3 of this year’s Bulls-Celtics quarterfinals series instead of Game 2), then there’s nothing magical about the 3-0 comeback that prevents it from happening.

 

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