DEFENDING CURRY HAS BEEN KEY FOR CLIPPERS
SAN FRANCISCO – Darren Collison and Chris Paul came into the Clippers’ first-round playoff series highly aware of what Stephen Curry meant to the Warriors, not just from a scoring standpoint, but everything they do offensively.
“He’s the head of the snake,” Paul said two days before the series began.
Through three games, the Clippers have earned a 2-1 lead, in large part, because they have been able to keep Curry’s scoring under wraps.
“He’s an explosive scorer, and their team, their crowd, everybody feeds off of his energy,” Paul said. “Those threes that he makes, those tough shots; those floaters, and all of the stuff like that, their team really gets going after that. It gives everybody else the chance to build their confidence. I’ve said it before, in the playoffs, it’s not about individual matchups, ‘He got 30, and he got 10.’ It’s about winning.”
Curry has been dogged by Paul whether he’s been off the ball or on it, running off screens or dribbling into pull-up jumpers. He’s averaging 18.0 points per game, six below his season average, and outside of a couple of explosive quarters, including the last few minutes of Game 3, he’s been held in check.
“Steph is an extremely good player,” said Darren Collison, who has spelled Paul and guarded Curry at times as well. “He’s going to make some tough shots. He’s going to miss some tough shots. You’ve just got to continue to play him physical and compete as much as you can and see where it goes from there. It’s been more of a team effort. It’s not just me and C.P.”
From a team standpoint, the Clippers have forced Curry into being more of distributor. He’s got 30 assists, including 15 in Game 3, but has committed a dozen turnovers. He’s shooting 6-for-21 (28.6 percent) from 3-point range and is taking 2.7 shots per game fewer than he did in the regular season.
Collison said being able to slow Curry down has been one of the biggest keys to the series.
“Without a doubt,” Collison said. “Everything starts with him. If we do a good job on him it kind of controls them, but the biggest thing is that we’ve got to keep Steph as calm as we can.”
Paul, who has been nursing a strained right hamstring, participated in practice with the Clippers at the University of San Francisco Saturday and said he will be ready for Game 4 after two days between games.
“Needed it,” Paul said of getting two days to rest his hamstring. “Man, needed it. It’s better. It’s getting there. It will be ready by 12 o’clock tomorrow.”
Asked if he would be able to play if the game were Saturday, Paul chuckled. “Let’s just say I’m happy we play tomorrow.”
Paul has averaged 18.3 points, 9.3 assists and 3.7 steals in three games, while also shooting 45.0 percent from 3-point range (9-for-20).