Breaking down Kevin Love's critical defensive possession on Steph Curry
Not all fairytales end happily ever after
The great thing about basketball is that you will always get another possession to redeem yourself. It didn't matter that Kevin Love's defense has been bad this season, or that he had been exposed routinely in his matchup vs. the Warriors. It didn't matter how often Stephen Curry had cooked his opponent off the dribble for the kind of 3-pointer he was purposefully looking for, or that Love should have had no chance to defend him.
Love had that possession on Sunday.
In the end, this possession would wind up as an allegory for the entire 2016 NBA Finals. The Cavaliers should have been cooked, the Warriors should have triumphed, but there will be no joy in Dubville, mighty Steph had clanged out. Kevin Love got his possession, and made it count:
If you want to boil it down, there are three things you should know about this possession:
- Steph Curry could have still made the shot he took.
- Steph Curry passed up about three looks he could have hit that would have been better shots.
- Kevin Love still did his job well enough to help force the miss.
How it happened
The Warriors targeted this matchup. This was designed. The Warriors ran two screens to force Love to first switch on to Draymond Green, and then immediately to force the switch of Love onto Curry.
Love does a good job jumping out on Curry here to contain him, and then when Curry goes behind his back (his go-to dribbling move 90 percent of the time), Love doesn't get lost, recovers, and stays on his hip.
But still, when Curry stutter steps, he winds up with this shot opportunity, but his base just isn't in position to shoot.
He's got a second, but Curry's just not ready to fire. This was what wound up being the Achilles heel for Curry on this play. He kept thinking if he just kept making moves, eventually, he'd shake Love and it would be there. He passed up good shots looking for a move that would embarrass Love. Love just didn't get embarrassed. He never got shook.
Again, he makes a move, and again, Love just stays there. Curry could have hoisted, but Love is right in his airspace. Curry then goes to a pretty standard move. He passes to Draymond Green and then immediately prepares to shoot on the pass back.
Curry extends himself all the way back to 35 feet for the catch, thinking that with his range, Love will extend his defense out that far and he can get an open look. It doesn't happen. Love's ready to contest on a shot from that far out, but he's not over-pursuing. On top of everything else, Curry hesitates here:
That's a shot he routinely takes and makes. He's got room. But for whatever reason, he doesn't pull the trigger. Now the clock is starting to run low. He makes another move.
He shakes in, shakes out, and gets space to get a shot up, but again, Love is present.
He can make this shot.
Love has played good defense, Curry still could have made it but he didn't. And in that moment, Kevin Love redeemed himself for a miserable Finals and helped make himself a champion. No one can take that away from him, just as no one can give Curry the shot back.
All year, Steph Curry did whatever he wanted. In this situation, Curry tried too hard to do whatever he wanted instead of being focused on what he needed to do.
"I was searching for a three and rushed and didn't take what was there, which was probably better to go around him and try to get into the paint," Curry said of the play after the game. "That's basically it."
The unanimous MVP couldn't shake Kevin Love, and missed the game-tying 3-pointer as he went on to finish 1-for-6 and just three points in the fourth quarter.
That was basically it.
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