In Curry vs. James, de­fense can­not rest

Pre­em­i­nent play­ers are huge chal­lenge to con­tain

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Brod­er­ick Turner

Both teams in the NBA Fi­nals face a mon­u­men­tal chal­lenge: How do they pre­vent Golden State’s Stephen Curry or Cleve­land’s LeBron James from tak­ing con­trol of the se­ries?

The early plans are for the War­riors and the Cava­liers to ro­tate sev­eral de­fend­ers to try to limit the dam­age of the two im­mense tal­ents.

A few day ago, James was asked for his as­sess­ment on how to slow down Curry. “The same way you slow me down,” James told re­porters in Cleve­land. “You can’t.”

Curry was also asked about James. “We have to be locked in and fo­cused,” Curry told re­porters in Oak­land. “All five guys on the f loor.”

Game 1 of the Fi­nals is Thurs­day night in


Dur­ing the regular sea­son, Curry was the ob­vi­ous tar­get of op­pos­ing de­fenses most nights, but the MVP award win­ner has been even bet­ter in the play­offs, av­er­ag­ing 29.2 points per game.

As for James, now in his 12th sea­son, no de­fen­sive scheme seems to limit him for long. This post­sea­son, James is av­er­ag­ing 27.6 points, 10.4 re­bounds and 8.3 as­sists.

“I say this for both play­ers: It’s eas­ier said than done,” TNT an­a­lyst Reg­gie Miller said. “If that was the case, one wouldn’t be a four­time MVP and the other one just wouldn’t have got­ten the MVP award.”

Miller and fel­low Hall of Fame player Charles Barkley of­fered com­pletely dif­fer­ent ideas on how to de­fend the 6-foot-8, 250-pound James.

“I would force LeBron left and force him to shoot jumpers,” said Barkley, a TNT stu­dio an­a­lyst.

“He loves to go left and step back,” Miller said. “So I would force him right.”

Miller de­scribed Curry as a “ma­gi­cian” with the bas­ket­ball who “out­side of Kobe Bryant is prob­a­bly the best bad shot-maker” in the game.

Curry’s quick re­lease drives de­fend­ers crazy. He can get his shot off the drib­ble, run­ning off screens, with hands in his face and he can strike from any­where on the court.

“As much as it pains me, I think you have to make Steph a driver,” Miller said. “And, yes, he can make those crazy one-handed, Steve Nash-type shots. But what would you rather have? Would you rather him com­ing off screens and knock­ing down threes? Or tak­ing short twos in the paint?”

Miller may be on to some­thing.

In 15 play­off games, Curry leads the league in three­p­oint­ers at­tempted with 167, while mak­ing 73 of them (or 43.7%). That means ex­actly half of Curry’s points this post­sea­son have come from be­yond the arc.

The Cava­liers will use mul­ti­ple de­fend­ers on Curry, from James to guards Iman Shumpert, Kyrie Irv­ing and Matthew Dellave­dova.

“The thing with Steph is that you can never re­lax and you have to al­ways be aware,” Cleve­land as­so­ciate head coach Ty­ronn Lue said. “You can’t never turn your head. You’ve got to be locked into Steph Curry, be­cause one mis­take and he’s go­ing to make you pay. He’s a great player and he’s go­ing to score points, but you can’t gift him points.”

Most teams try to make James into a jump-shooter and limit his drives.

His 280 two-point at­tempts in the play­offs this spring are the most of any player, and he made 48.9% of them. But James has taken only 68 three-point­ers, mak­ing just 12 for a play­off ca­reer-low 17.6%.

The War­riors will rely on for­wards Har­ri­son Barnes and Dray­mond Green, plus guards An­dre Iguo­dala and Klay Thomp­son to de­fend James.

“You’ve got a bet­ter chance of beat­ing them with [James] get­ting 40 points than him get­ting 28 [points], 13 [re­bounds] and 12 [as­sists],” War­riors as­so­ciate head coach Alvin Gen­try said. “But he is a player who is go­ing to do the right thing and he’s go­ing to make the right play.”

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