Kenny Smith And Charles Barkley Had A Fascinating Argument Over How To Defend Stephen Curry

The Golden State Warriors have gotten little in the way of resistance from the Denver Nuggets through two games of their first round series, as Denver simply does not have an answer defensively for the Warriors’ shooting — and they also don’t have the offensive firepower to try and keep pace in a shootout.

Monday night’s Game 2 win by the Warriors saw them once again take control on the backs of their small-ball lineup that forces the other team to try and matchup with Stephen Curry, Jordan Poole, and Klay Thompson on the floor all at once, with Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green out there with the three elite shooters. The pressure that group is able to put on the defense on and off the ball has proven too much for the Nuggets through two games, and the frustration boiled over on Monday night in the form of bench arguments and Nikola Jokic getting himself ejected in the fourth quarter.

Part of what makes the Warriors small lineup so difficult to defend is they put people into actions they aren’t used to defending by having their guards screening for each other off the ball, while Draymond operates as the trigger man at the elbow or the top of the key, pulling the opposing center away from the rim. The good news for Denver, I guess, is that they aren’t alone in not being able to get on the same page on how you are supposed to defend those actions, because the Inside the NBA crew likewise got in a shouting match with each other when trying to break down how to cover Stephen Curry coming off of screens.

Kenny Smith is insistent that you chase over the top and have to step up with a quick hedge, which Charles Barkley disagreed with vehemently (with backup from Shaq). For a show that is often criticized by basketball diehards for not diving into actual basketball talk enough and being too much about jokes, this segment is a terrific look at how different personal approaches can be — and a pretty good look at what’s most important to guards and bigs.

It’s not surprising Smith thinks the focal point should be keeping Curry from getting a clean look, as if you’re the guard defending you want all the help you can get. It’s also not a shock that Chuck and Shaq don’t want to show high and risk leaving the backdoor cut open for a layup, because as a big that’ll end up being on you for not protecting the rim. On this particular play, I think I’d go with Chuck since Curry is off the ball and the big stepping up without switching allows the quick cut that results in the layup. Kenny’s argument is probably better for Curry being on the ball and coming around the screen as a live dribbler capable of pulling up, because if the big steps high quick enough, it’ll make for a difficult enough pass that he (or someone else) should be able to recover and at least force another pass or two.

In any case, the fact that the TNT crew couldn’t agree on a coverage shows the predicament this lineup puts opponents in, particularly since this lineup played one (1) game together all year so there wasn’t a chance to scout it prior to this series. You can bet Denver will be drilling coverages for that group before Game 3 and for any future Warriors opponents this postseason, they better know what the plan is because the Warriors are begging you to end up in conflict and leave someone open.