Every NBA team facing the Warriors has a plan to stop Stephen Curry. No team has discovered a man to stop the back-to-back MVP.
Gary Payton wishes he had the chance. Of course he does. Though Payton scored 21,813 points in his career and is in the Hall of Fame, he was “The Glove” most famous for his skin-tight defense of such stars as Michael Jordan and Reggie Miller.
Physical is the way to go, according to Payton. And relentless is the way to be.
“When you have a guy like Stephen Curry, who handles the basketball and then pulls up, my job would have been to pressure him 94 feet – don’t forget about him,” Payton said Tuesday on The Warriors Insider Podcast.
Payton pointed out the dangers of ignoring Curry if he starts slowly. And it occasionally happens, where Curry bounces back from a poor first half with a torrid third quarter.
“Teams back off,” Payton said, adding that Curry can sense the opening.
“Once he gets on that roll, he starts to feel it and then he gets one or two dribbles over half court and he makes that,” Payton said. “I would pressure him the whole game. Pressure him.”
The Cavaliers, who knocked off the Warriors in the NBA Finals last June, were cited as an example of how best to defense Curry. Though opposite point guard Kyrie Irving is not a great defender, he was physical and got plenty of help from such muscular teammates as JR Smith, Iman Shumpert and LeBron James. Curry often ended possession on his backside.
“He doesn’t want to be on the floor; that takes a toll on you,” Payton said. “You’ve seen that happen to Dwyane Wade. It’s a lot different when you’re beating up on a guy and making him make tough shots and make difficult shots and pounding him.
"I would have to make (Curry) go to the bucket and I’d be really, really physical with him. Cleveland did a great job on him in The Finals when they beat up on him. They got him frustrated. Then he started worrying about going against LeBron, thinking about that. They were hitting him. They were pounding him.”
Curry shot 40.3 percent from the field in the seven-game series against the Cavaliers. Over the final three games, all won by Cleveland, his percentage dropped to 36.7 percent.
Payton pointed out there are few players whose defense he admires, identifying among them Draymond Green and Boston’s Avery Bradley, who has gained a reputation for making things as tough on Curry as anybody in the league.