How Stephen Curry, Jrue Holiday and Draymond Green gave us 1.9 seconds of pure basketball genius

After recovering from an eight-point deficit in the last two minutes of regulation, the Golden State Warriors had possession on the out of bounds sideline in a tie with 1.9 seconds left against the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday.

Stephen Curry was credited as the incoming passer.

This has been a disappointment to me for a long time: teams use their most dangerous sniper as a striker in short time situations. Anyone who watches NBA basketball games in any way has probably heard hundreds of TV hosts telling you that the striker is the most dangerous guy on the court. They love to tell you about it, as if they are revealing some gem of the mind that no one knows about.

News: Everyone knows. Including protection. The chances of catching an NBA defenseman napping against an elite shooter as an underdog in a short time situation are slim. What you are doing as the coach making this decision is rather willingly moving your most dangerous sniper down the list of possible snipers in the final draw.

The Hawks have done this many times with Trae Young under Nate McMillan. Strange. Young short. He won’t have a particularly good line of sight if someone with a long arm is guarding the pass. Yes, he’s a born passer and trusted decision maker, but he’s also the kind of guy you want to take on, or at least serve as a mobile decoy. Are you saying get it and get it back quickly? This is where short hours come in. The shorter they are, the more likely your best shooter is to be a spectator. In the case of Curry and the Warriors, Saturday night was again just 1.9 seconds away.

If Curry, who was on fire throughout the fourth quarter, was going to pass the ball, make a move to open up, get a return pass and land a clean shot, all in 1.9 seconds, it was going to come together in an instant.

As it turns out, the tall wire design actually worked.

And the Warriors may have managed to fully implement it.

But it was too close, and instead Draymond Green dialed his number.

It went like this: Curry was attacking Draymond Green, whose quarterback Brook Lopez understandably pulled away from Green. If Green, a 33 percent low-volume 3-point shot, wants to pull the trigger for a potential game-winning shot instead of Curry, Clay Thompson, or Jordan Poole, by all means, shoot.

However, there is one catch in playing as far away from a non-shooter as Green, and that is that it frees him up for an impromptu, unoccupied ball cover. Green does it all the time. He’s great at it. He’ll get the pass, see his defender six feet away and give it back to Curry or Poole or Thompson using a variation of dribbling and hit the ball screen straight. It hits the man covering the shooter, Green’s man is too far away to help and the great shooter looks great.

That was Green’s plan for Saturday.

Curry approached and raced straight for Green to quickly pass the ball, who then covered for Curry’s man, Jrue Holiday. Since Lopez is too far away to support the film adaptation of Holiday, Curry, if all goes according to plan, will pull away to get a clean look at the winner of the game.

But everything didn’t go according to plan. Holiday, a remarkably gifted and hyper-intelligent defender, anticipated exactly this action, immediately jumping to Curry’s upper side on an entry pass, cutting off his detour to the Green.

That’s where it gets good. Curry, an equally intelligent and instinctive striker, parried Holiday’s counterattack by taking one sharp step in the direction Holiday expected him to go, and then, as soon as Holiday began to move in one direction, throwing punches and coming back in the other direction.

It worked. Watch the play in full below and you’ll see Curry opening wide when Green decides to pull the trigger himself.

“I said to Steph, like, yo, if you can get over the top, my man will come down and I can hit you,” Green told reporters later. “As soon as he threw it, Jrue jumped to the top and I knew I was shooting.”

Steve Kerr said that there were “a few different choices” for the game’s design, and that “the way Lopez played, Draymond read it right and popped out.”

Indeed, Green jumped high to receive an incoming pass, and from there, his preemptive chemistry with Curry became a weapon. So, in this one game, you had three highly intelligent basketball players, each more or less predicting what would happen before it actually happened.

Holiday predicted that Curry was going to run high for a dribbling pass and jumped on it. Greene predicted that he could screen Holiday when his defender sagged back. Curry predicted that Holiday would cut off the top and went the other way.

Incredibly high-level stuff in the blink of an eye, and under normal circumstances, Green would be on the same wavelength as Curry in that counter glare. But with just 1.9 seconds left, once he saw Holiday jump high, he didn’t want to risk time trying to hit Curry. So he fired. And he damn well almost did it.

“It was amazing,” Green said of the potential game-winning shot. “I can’t believe he bounced. I haven’t felt such a good hitting sensation in a long time. That was incredible. But all is well.”

Everything was really good, because the Warriors still won. But in that game, it was a victory for Holiday and the Bucks. Curry was open for the game-winning shot, but Green landed it instead. This is the risk of the best scorer on the floor, and in this case, the best scorer in history, acting as a low score passer. He might not get a chance to really shoot.

In this case, he didn’t. But the Warriors still managed to win, so it didn’t cost them anything. Either way, what a great example of all the thinking, all the anticipation, counters and re-counters that can be squeezed into less than two seconds of NBA action.


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