The history of Stephen Curry in bounce-back games

On the brink of winning his 4th championship, Steph Curry speaks on the Warriors’ mindset heading into Game 6.

Stephen Curry has a history of doing things, basketball-wise, we’ve never seen before. In Game 5 of the 2022 NBA Finalshe did something that he had never done in a playoff game — he did not make a single 3-point shot.

Curry’s record streak of 132 straight playoff games with at least one 3-pointer made dating back to April 20, 2013 — and his record streak of 233 straight games encompassing the regular season, playoffs and Play-In Tournament games with at least one 3-point made dating back to Dec. 1, 2018 — were both snapped.

After Curry carried the Warriors’ offense on his back through the first four games of the series — he scored 32.5% of Golden State’s total points — his teammates picked up the slack as Curry finished 16 points on 7-for-22 (31.8%) shooting from the field and 0-for-9 from 3-point range. Getting the win softened the blow from Curry’s tough shooting night.

“Of course, it bothers me as a shooter,” Curry said after the game. “You want to impact the game that way. But thankfully that’s not the only thing that you do out there on the court.

“The fact everybody stepped up — Wiggs [Andrew Wiggins]JP [Jordan Poole]Clay [Thompson] hit some big shots, Draymond [Green] found his life and his spirit and the way he impacts the game. We could withstand going 9-for-40 as a team and me 0-for-9, and still come away with a win.

“Obviously, track record says I shoot the ball better the next game. Looking forward to that bounce-back.”

Stephen Curry had a Game 5 to forget in many ways. Come Game 6, he should be ready to get back to his usual 3-point shooting self.

Whether it was watching his reactions on the court after each missed 3-pointer or hearing him answer questions after Game 5, one could almost feel the frustration from Curry. While there was a sense of relief that the Warriors still got the win, there was also a fury that he didn’t shoot well when it mattered most.

His teammates are counting on that fury and frustration from his struggles in Game 5 to fuel Curry in Game 6 tonight (9 ET, ABC).

“He was 0-for-9 from three. He’s going to be livid going into Game 6, and that’s exactly what we need,” Green said.

“I just know he’ll respond,” Thompson said. “He’s one of the greatest competitors I’ve ever been around. And he’s a perfectionist, like myself. I know he’ll be thinking about the shots he missed. And that’s a good thing, because Thursday, hopefully, most of the time, he regresses to the mean, and it’s scary when he does.”

But what does history suggest we can expect to see from Curry as the Warriors attempt to close out the Celtics on the road?

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Let’s start by recreating this scenario and look at games where Curry failed to make a 3-point shot. There is no playoff history to examine for him with this since Game 5 was his first such 3-pointer-less game. Of the 961 career games he’s played (that total includes regular season, playoffs and Play-In games), Curry has just 40 games in which he has not made at least one 3-pointer. Game 5 of these Finals was just his sixth game without at least one 3-pointer since the Warriors’ championship run began in the 2014-15 season.

In all, we’ve got five games to look at from the past seven seasons to see how Curry responded after going without a 3-pointer in a game.

Curry’s performance after going without 3-pointer in career
12/1/18 GSW @ DET 27 3-9 (33.3%) 10-21 (47.6%) 4-4 (100%)
3/23/18 GSW vs. ATL 29 3-8 (37.5%) 10-18 (55.6%) 6-6 (100%)
2/28/17 GSW @ WAS 25 2-9 (22.2%) 9-20 (45.0%) 5-6 (83.3%)
12/8/16 GSW @ UTA 26 3-9 (33.3%) 7-16 (43.8%) 9-9 (100%)
11/7/16 GSW vs. NOP 46 13-17 (76.5%) 16-26 (61.5%) 1-2 (50%)
Averages: 30.6 ppg 24-52 (46.2%) 52-101 (51.5%) 25-27 (92.6%)

Over those five games, Curry averaged 30.6 points on 51.5% shooting overall, 46.2% on 3-pointers and 92.6% on free throws. In terms of 3-point shooting, Curry made a least two 3-pointers in each game, made at least three 3-pointers in four games and had one record-breaking performance.

On Nov. 7, 2016, Curry set the then-NBA record for most 3-pointers in a single game as he splashed 13 triples in 17 tries against the New Orleans Pelicans — just three days removed from shooting 0-for-10 from deep against the Los Angeles Lakers. two years later, Curry’s mark would be topped by Thompson, who still owns the record with 14 made 3-pointers in a single game.

While those five bounce-back games most accurately replicate the current scenario Curry faces, each of those five games came during the regular season. The stakes of those games can’t compare to what Curry is facing now in the 2022 NBA Finals.

So, let’s examine another set of games. While Game 5 was Curry’s first postseason game without a single 3-pointer made, he had nine previous playoff games with only one 3-pointer made. In those nine games — which span from April 30, 2013 to April 21, 2019 — Curry averaged just 14.8 ppg on 50-for-134 (37.3%) shooting from the field and 9-for-63 (14.3%) 3-point shooting. How did he follow up those games?

Curry’s performance after making 1 3-pointer in playoff game
4/24/19 GSW vs. LAC 24 4-5 (80%) 7-15 (46.7%) 6-6 (100%)
6/8/18 GSW @ CLE 37 7-15 (46.7%) 12-27 (44.4%) 6-6 (100%)
5/20/18 GSW vs. HOU 35 5-12 (41.7%) 13-23 (56.5%) 4-4 (100%)
5/16/18 GSW @HOU 16 1-8 (12.5%) 7-19 (36.8%) 1-1 (100%)
5/4/17 GSW vs. UTA 23 5-8 (62.5%) 8-15 (53.3%) 2-2 (100%)
5/9/16 GSW @ PO 40 5-16 (31.3%) 16-32 (50%) 3-3 (100%)
4/24/14 GSW vs. LAC 16 3-8 (37.5%) 5-12 (41.7%) 3-4 (75%)
5/16/13 GSW vs. SAS 22 2-8 (25%) 10-25 (40%) 0-0 (-)
5/2/13 GSW vs. DENE 22 4-8 (50%) 6-14 (42.9%) 6-6 (100%)
Averages: 26.1 ppg 36-88 (40.9%) 84-182 (46.2%) 31-32 (96.9%)

While Curry’s scoring and shooting percentages dropped a bit from his regular season bounce-back games, Curry was still very efficient following his 3-point shooting games from his postseason career — averaging 26.1 ppg and four 3-pointers on 40.9% shooting from beyond the arc. He made at least four 3-pointers in six of the nine follow-up games.

We’ve seen how Curry has responded from poor shooting performances while also facing the added pressure of the playoffs. But, all of these games that we’ve looked at have come from 2019 or earlier. Do we have a more recent sample that we can look at?

The Warriors missed the playoffs in 2020 and ’21, and so far in the 2022 playoffs, Curry had made at least two 3-pointers in each game prior to his Game 5 in the Finals. But he did have eight games during the 2021-22 regular season in which he made just one 3-pointer, including his last regular-season meeting with Boston (when he exited after just 14 minutes with a foot injury that kept him out until the playoffs).

Curry’s performance after making 1-pointer in regular-season game
(2021-22 season only)
4/16/22 GSW vs. DENE 16 3-6 (50%) 5-13 (38.5%) 3-3 (100%)
3/10/22 GSW @ DEN 34 5-12 (41.7%) 11-21 (52.4%) 7-7 (100%)
2/24/22 GSW @ PO 18 2-7 (28.6%) 5-11 (45.5%) 6-6 (100%)
2/14/22 GSW @ LAC 33 8-13 (61.5%) 11-18 (61.1%) 3-3 (100%)
1/25/22 GSW vs. DA 18 2-10 (20%) 7-16 (43.8%) 2-3 (66.7%)
1/9/22 GSW vs. CLE 28 4-11 (36.4%) 10-21 (47.6%) 4-4 (100%)
1/5/22 GSW @ DAL 14 1-9 (11.1%) 5-24 (20.8%) 3-4 (75%)
11/24/21 GSW vs. PH 25 6-11 (54.5%) 9-16 (56.3%) 1-2 (50%)
Averages: 23.3 ppg 31-79 (39.2%) 63-140 (45.0%) 29-32 (90.6%)

In the eight follow-up games — which includes Golden State’s playoff opener against Dallas as the follow-up to Curry’s final regular season game against Boston — Curry averaged 23.3 ppg on 45% shooting (63-for-140) and 39.2% shooting ( 31-for-79) from 3-point range while averaging 3.9 3-pointers made per game.

Here we do see a few instances of back-to-back off shooting nights from Curry as he went through a shooting slump in January. At the beginning of 2022, Curry had a 1-for-10 game against Miami on Jan. 3 and followed it up two days later with a 1-for-9 performance against Dallas. It marked the only time in his career that Curry has had back-to-back games with less than two 3-pointers made while attempting at least eight.

Later in the month, Curry had a 1-for-13 game against Utah on Jan. 23 and followed that up two days later with a 2-for-10 game against Dallas. While Boston would love to see another instance of back-to-back poor shooting games from Curry, his overall history points toward the opposite.

One thing we know about Curry is that his confidence in his shot will not waver from an off night. The shooter’s mentality remains the same headed into the next game.

“Keep shooting. Very simple,” Curry said following Game 5 “I’m not afraid to go 0-for-whatever because I’m going to keep shooting and taking shots that you normally feel like you can make. And I’ve responded well when I’ve had games like that from the 3-point line.”