Curry’s 4th Quarter Struggles

Updated: November 3, 2021
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Since the Warriors are currently at the top of the West 5-1 there isn’t much to complain about for a franchise that from most analysts’ predictions is currently overachieving. It isn’t just their record but their style of play, chemistry, and overall commitment on the defensive end of the floor. Their veteran acquisitions in the offseason thus far appear to have been perfect fits to their system’s style of play, replacing the athleticism and high ceiling of Oubre for heady high IQ players in Iggy, Otto Porter, and Bjelica. Despite Jordan Poole coming back to earth after looking like the MVP of the preseason and looking quite pedestrian, the new Warrior’s squad seems to be truly embracing their old mantra in Strength in Numbers.

However, in their loss against the Memphis Grizzlies, it was highlighted that Curry has yet to score in a 4th quarter since the 2nd game of the season. Again, the reason it hasn’t become a serious issue is that they have won most of these games and he is drawing a double on literally every possession, creating wide-open jumpers cross course for the likes of Otto Porter, Poole, Wiggins, and Dray. Regardless of the doubles though, he has missed his share of open 3-point shots that are like layups for the soon-to-be 3-point all-time leader. It would be one thing if they were in games where he was dry from deep, but they have occurred in games where he had gone into God mode in the 3rd yet came up dry in the final minutes of close games.

Historically for Curry, this has always been his tendency. He has made habit of executing his prey in the 3rd quarters of games and castrating their confidence by wiping away double-digit leads after coming out halftime. However, he has never been the consistent 4th quarter killer that everyone would hope him to be. One of the reasons could be the combination of the doubles and his constant off-ball action drain his legs and the fatigue shows up in the jumper late in games. However, it is well known that Curry is one of the most toned and cardio-charged athletes in all of sports, and he rarely looks spent the way many players look deep into the 4th.

So, if it’s not physical it is presumably psychological. Now, if it were just buzzer beaters he was missing, we could attribute it to “not being clutch,” however he has been dry in 4th quarters even in games they have won by more than a basket. I am going to make the argument that there is a psychological component to his planned reentry time at 5 minutes left in the game that is playing poor voodoo tricks on Curry’s production. So, it has been his minutes’ schedule for quite a while that he plays the entire 1st, comes in the middle of the 2nd, starts and plays the majority of the 3rd, and returns for the final 5 minutes of the game. Now in the KD era, they were able to strictly stick to this method because anytime Kevin Durant is on the floor his teammates feel confident in their ability to win a basketball game. Even if they start to fade and go down, Kerr and Curry comfortably would wait until the 5-minute mark.

Well, last year when they were one of the worst teams in the league during the non-Curry minutes, the conversation on the telecast along with on the bench was if they should bring Steph in early at the 9,8, or 7 mark. Quite often, in a desperate attempt to get the W, they would…and it worked. In the last 30 games of the season, they were one of the better teams in the league…when Steph was on the floor. Well, this year, despite their early success isn’t much different since they are sporting a -13.5 with Curry on the sidelines.

The problem at the moment is there is a feeling that if they can hold Steph on the bench till the 5-minute mark and still get the victory then they someone win twice, once in the Win/Loss column and secondly in the longevity of their superstar and his overall health for the playoffs. Unfortunately, if they get the L they essentially lose twice as well, not only taking the loss but knowing they might have been able to prevent it if not being so conservative with a player who has worked so hard to be in exceptional shape.

If you watch Curry at the beginning of the 4th he has been quite serious, usually with a towel over his head after putting up monster stats as he is currently at the top of the scoring for the league at nearly 29 a game. He looks calm, powerful, that is until around the 8-minute mark when the game gets close, it is quite noticeable that he wants in. Now it’s not like Kerr doesn’t want him in, if it was a game 7 he’d come at the 9-minute mark without question. They both have a feeling that they want him to enter early but that he shouldn’t. Well, this whole moral code they have created is a fictional religion they have decided to believe in. It is clear that since the 5-minute entry has become a plastic rather than cemented time frame it has become a mental distraction so there are two easy solutions.

The first is the most obvious, and that is simply to up his minutes. Now, the day he rolls his ankle and whatever injury might occur, of course, those extra minutes will take the brunt of the blame. I would assume the Warriors and Curry have an ungodly amount of data of why this number of minutes is ideal for not only his longevity for the season but his career. Considering he just signed the biggest contract in basketball with his recent extension, he is an asset Golden State will not make hasty decisions with. However, the other solution is simply to trim the last 4 minutes of the 1st off. Now, Curry is one of the biggest superstars in the world, not only in the NBA but in all of sports and we can also assume this is the minutes that he wants to play.

Well, it isn’t working number 1 and maybe more importantly, the Warriors never keep big leads they create in the 1st quarter…and I mean never. With their style of play and their high turnover duo in Curry in Draymond, they love to give leads away as much as they like to destroy their opponents’ leads in 3rd quarters. One could argue, that this is not a Warrior’s problem perse but a modern NBA tendency as 1st quarter leads rarely mean anything with regards to the end result of a ball game. Runs are so heavily swayed by the 3 ball these days that 12 points can evaporate in the blink of an eye.

The Warrior’s might be the extreme example of this considering they often look like they prefer going into the half down by a dozen. I would even argue that Curry could play only the first 6 minutes of the 1st and it not have a huge impact on their wins or losses since whatever stats he is putting up in the 1st end up being washed away by halftime. If they simply took him out with 3 minutes remaining in the 1st they would be able to habitually bring him in at the 7-minute mark of the 4th and still have him playing 1 minute less than he currently does now. The problem at the moment is the uncertainty if he will come in at 5 or 7. 5 minutes is already crunch time. The 7-minute mark allows for a handful of possessions for him to take ill-advised (yet for him high success rate) shots with little consequence. He can also treat those first two minutes as an extension of the 3rd where he can bury a team early. The 5-minute mark does not allow for that opportunity. It doesn’t seem like a very difficult solution, because at the moment, the current setup, although likely what Curry wants on paper, his face implies otherwise in the 4th when things get close.

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