The matchup of the game for Game 6 between the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Semi-Finals will be between Stephen Curry and the backcourt of the San Antonio Spurs.
While Stephen Curry has been slowed down by a second injury to his left ankle, it may be the defense that's helping keep him tamed on the offensive end. Even after Curry injured his ankle, he seemed to have gotten shots off and making them at an impressive rate with the exception of last game. He shot 1-7 from the 3-point arc last game while only scoring 9 points (4-14 FG). The Spurs have zoned in on him and kept him close after getting screens from his big men, but have also incorporated another aspect in the game that has made Curry a liability. The Spurs' Tony Parker, Danny Green, Manu Ginobili, and Kawhi Leonard have made Stephen Curry work for the whole game and that will show in Game 6 also.
What the Spurs must do on offense:
This is the new strategy the Spurs are trying on Curry and that's making him move on defense. Mark Jackson's demands a collapse or a help on the main post up players and cutters (Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili). This means Curry has to try to "cheat" into helping in the paint and also try to recover on the shooter. This defensive scheme has Curry pushing off the ankle on either cheat or recover and that no doubt bothered him throughout Game 5. Coach Pop has also had Danny Green take the ball off the dribble, which has to further bother Curry in cheating in the paint, trying to recover to Green, then trying to defend him off the dribble. There were many times we saw the Golden State sharpshooter quit on defense and chasing Green, an obvious sign he's closer to hurting than healthy. We've seen him on Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili a few times and that's a matchup the Spurs need to expose more than the rest. Curry was seen reaching (with no foul call) in Game 5 because of his injury and the pick and roll is a perfect way to expose his defense. With a Parker or Ginobili pick and roll, Curry has to try to get over/under the screen and then try to defend the player horizontally on the ankle. The other advantage is if there's a switch on that end, where Curry would likely switch to Tim Duncan, Tiago Splitter, or Boris Diaw. They would post up Curry easily and he'd have to fight to get position with his lower body. That would again hurt his ankles more than usual, the same post up mentality Kawhi Leonard has had on him when he's had Curry on him.
What the Spurs must do on defense:
San Antonio can't match Golden State's shots from beyond the arc, but they can match them on two point shots. The Spurs' backcourt must go over the screen and make Curry drive. With rotations, they can be aggressive and counter layups and long range shots. With the Spurs' aggressiveness on defense, they'll be able to wear Curry out more on both ends of the floor without rest. Curry has been a great passer and shooter when he's been given room and a clean view of the basket, but he's been the opposite when the Spurs have kept him at arm's length to pressure and contest. The Spurs have also implemented a great defensive switch that rests players throughout the game on the court, which makes this matchup unique. The Spurs seemed to have settled with whatever guard is closest to Curry in transition will be the one guarding him. This relieves the duties of guarding Curry for Danny Green or the others for at least every other play on offense. The fresher feet causes trouble for Curry, who seems to be on fumes going into halftime.