Welcome to "One Play!" Throughout the 2020-21 NBA season, our NBA.com Staff will break down certain possessions from certain games and peel back the curtains to reveal its bigger meaning.
Today, Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry takes the spotlight.
Context: Stephen Curry is on some kind of roll right now.
On Monday, the two-time MVP exploded for 49 points on 10-for-17 shooting from 3-point range in a win over the Philadelphia 76ers. It marks the 11th straight game in which Curry has scored at least 30 points, as well as the fourth time in five games that he's made at least 10 3-pointers.
Curry is now the only player in NBA history to record 11 straight 30-point games at the age of 33 or older and has set the record for most 3s in a five-game stretch.
Yeah ... ridiculous.
To get an idea of what type of zone Curry is in right now, let's take a closer look at one particular play from Golden State's win over Philadelphia.
The play: Curry draws a shooting foul on a drive to the basket.
Breakdown: Curry brings the ball up the right side of the court following a couple of free throws from Joel Embiid that gives the 76ers a one-point lead with 3:46 to go.
As he approaches the 3-point line, Curry receives a screen from Kevon Looney while Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins and Mychal Mulder space the floor by overloading the weakside.
Curry has been torching teams out of the pick-and-roll this season. According to NBA.com, he's scoring 8.9 points per game as the ball handler in pick-and-rolls, putting him behind only Trae Young (13.9), Luka Doncic (13.6), Damian Lillard (13.1), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (11.0), Donovan Mitchell (10.8), Zach LaVine (10.6) and De'Aaron Fox (10.4) for most in the league. Not only that, he's scoring at a rate of 1.15 points per pick-and-roll possession, which ranks him in the 97th percentile.
Basically, Curry is as good as it gets out of the pick-and-roll.
Out of fear of Curry pulling-up from deep, Seth Curry goes over Looney's screen while Embiid steps up to meet him on the other side.
With two defenders swarming him, Curry quickly picks up his dribble. He then fakes a pass to Looney to get his brother, Seth, up in the air.
That fake is important because it gets Seth out of position for a split-second.
Curry immediately takes advantage by passing the ball to Looney and cutting towards him for a handoff.
Guess what? Curry is also an assassin on those plays.
According to NBA.com, Curry is scoring 3.4 points per game out of handoffs this season, which leads the league. He's once again been absurdly efficient, scoring at a rate of 1.18 points per possession to rank in the 89th percentile.
With Seth out of position, there's even more pressure on Embiid to step up to prevent Curry from getting an open look at a 3.
The problem? He's a little out of control himself because he dropped back to the paint after Curry's pass to Looney.
Curry blows by Embiid and attacks the basket, drawing a shooting foul for a pair of free throws that he knocks down.
Why it matters: A couple of reasons.
First, it goes to show how terrified teams are of giving Curry even the slightest bit of daylight on the perimeter.
It doesn't help that Embiid watched Curry drain not one...
...but two pull-up 3s out of the pick-and-roll in the minutes leading up to the above possession.
Curry has long been picking teams apart with his shooting off the dribble, but he's reached a new level this season. Not only is he making 2.9 pull-up 3s per game, which is the most he's averaged in the eight seasons the NBA has been tracking pull-up 3s, he's knocking them down at a 42.2 percent clip.
For perspective, Damian Lillard is also making 2.9 pull-up 3s per game this season, only he's knocking them down at 34.9 percent clip. Still absurd given the volume and degree of difficulty of many of his 3-point attempts, but not quite Curry absurd.
It doesn't help that Curry is comfortable shooting from deep. The average distance of the 10 3-pointers he made against the 76ers was 27.4 feet. That's almost three feet behind the longest point of the 3-point arc.
Give him space, and he will punish you.
Second, it goes to show how tiring it is to defend Curry.
The initial stop would've been enough for most players, but Curry wastes no time transitioning into a handoff.
Just look at how much effort Seth has to put in to try and keep up with him.
Doesn't that look exhausting?
Now watch Embiid.
One false move, and you're toast.
Minnesota Timberwolves rookie Anthony Edwards put it best after he faced Curry for the first time in his career.
"He never stop moving," Edwards said. "You can try to switch everything, but you're going to make a mistake. I don't know how he got so much energy. He played the whole first quarter and never stopped moving. He's just hard to guard."
It doesn't matter if it's the first quarter against a Timberwolves team that ranks 28th in defensive efficiency or the fourth quarter against a 76ers team that ranks second in defensive efficiency. Curry shows no mercy.
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