Of course it was a foul. But who’s going to call that?
Chris Paul did foul Stephen Curry (slightly), however Curry’s poor last-second decision making proved he’s no superstar in this league, and head coach Mark Jackson confirmed every reason for him allegedly being on the hot seat as a controversial no call propelled the Los Angeles Clippers to a 2-1 series lead over the Golden State Warriors.
In the final moments of Thursday night’s contest between the Clippers and Golden State, with eight seconds on the clock and the Warriors down two points, Andre Igoudala inbounded the ball into Stephen Curry. Curry would fight through two screens from David Lee and Jermaine O’Neal to take three dribbles to his left for a well-contested step back three pointer.
Silence, brick, and then uproar in Oracle Arena, as most thought Curry deserved three foul shots. But if there’s any blame to pass, it’s recipients should be Stephen Curry and Jackson. While the going rule is you must give a shooter space to land, Chris Paul did close out a bit too close, and gave enough contact to alter Curry’s shot. However Paul never extended his left arm, and while “getting a hand in the shooters face” is the primary objective, Paul’s defense could’ve been considered a bit overly cautious.
What’s more accurate is that Curry made a poor decision in the final moments of the game and Mark Jackson demonstrated even worse coaching. With 14 seconds left, the Clippers used their final foul to disrupt the play Jackson called, and while most seasoned coaches would’ve changed the play to surprise the defense – Jackson chose to run the same play with a losing result.
On the catch from Igoudala’s pass Curry had Paul off-balance. He could’ve taken him off the dribble to the right, and had a bit of an edge dribbling to his left. Curry chose to resort to his famous “Steph-Back” jumper with no defenders free-throw line extended as Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan were sunk towards the bottom block guarding Warriors big men O’Neal and Lee. There was also no help defense available as Matt Barnes and Klay Thompson were joined at the hip on one wing, leaving Igoudala and the undersized Darren Collison alone on the opposite wing. It was truly a last second game of one-on-one and the Warriors lost.
Curry released the shot with 5.4 seconds left. He had enough time to try and beat Paul off the dribble. There was also the possibility of a Thompson screen to force Matt Barnes and Chris Paul to switch off as defenders. That might’ve resulted in a more obvious foul, as Barnes picked up two silly fouls in the second half due to poor decision-making on the defensive end and a lack of poise. Due to meager late-game coaching from Jackson, neither happened.
Curry chose to take a low percentage shot, and as they say “high risk/ high reward”. Curry’s shot selection was too risky and cost the Warriors a possible reward in regulation, when the smarter move was to go for overtime. The Warriors lost the game 98 to 96.