NBA Stats

May 10 2013 2:24PM

Playing With Fire

By Brian Martin

Whenever the San Antonio Spurs play on national TV, it is a must to catch the in-game interview with Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. His dry sense of humor has led to many awkward and entertaining moments.

There was an interview with Craig Sager that contained a total of four words from Popovich; another with just 12; there was a debate with David Aldridge over the use of the word happy; and he shut down Charles Barkley for attempting to ask a third question.

During Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals, Popovich's scheduled interview took place between the third and fourth quarters, with the Spurs trailing 92-80 and Stephen Curry having just exploded for 22 points in the third quarter. After Popovich answered his first question, Aldridge said "Thanks Pop" to conclude the interview. A confused look came across his face and Popovich responded "No second question ... I'm hurt." He and Aldridge both laughed as Popovich headed back to the bench.

No one would expect Popovich to be jovial at such a critical point of a playoff game, but that's the beauty of Popovich -- you never know when he's going to get you.

After the Spurs' epic comeback, Popovich had another gem in the postgame press conference [note: 3:02 mark]. He was asked about his feelings surrounding a pair of Manu Ginobili 3-point attempts late in the second overtime-- the first being an ill-advised miss with 44 seconds left and the Spurs ahead by three and plenty of time left on the shot clock; the second being the wide-open look with 1.2 seconds left that Giniboli hit to win the game.

"I went from trading him on the spot to wanting to cook him breakfast tomorrow."

He was back at it in Game 2, with another entertaining exchange with Aldridge during the game. When asked about whether he would continue to play small ball, Popovich asked Aldridge if he would keep the answer to himself. When Aldridge replied yes -- live on national TV -- Popovich smiled and answered the question with a yes as he headed back to the bench.

Then came the postgame presser after the Warriors defeated the Spurs [note: 0:55 mark] thanks in large part to Klay Thompson's career-high 34 points and unbelievable 8-of-9 shooting from 3-point range. After Curry hit the Spurs for 44 points in Game 1, it was Thompson who was the primary offensive threat for Golden State in Game 2.

"I thought it was polite of them to at least take turns and not both be on fire on the same night," Popovich said. "Maybe the next iteration is that neither one of them will be hot in Game 3; that's what I'm hoping."

Such a good quote deserves some research from NBA.com/Stats. We looked at every Warriors game of the 2012-13 regular season and playoffs that Curry and Thompson played together and examined their shooting performances with the following criteria:.

PerformanceFG%
ColdUnder 30%
CoolBetween 30-40%
AverageBetween 40-50%
WarmBetween 50-60%
HotOver 60%
Click here to see the data breakdown

The good news for Popovich is that in 78 regular season games and eight playoff games, Curry and Thompson have not both been on fire (both shooting over 60 percent from the field) in the same contest. At least not yet.

Season (78 games, 45-33)Playoffs (8 games, 5-3)
Great Shooting Performances (9 total)Great Shooting Performances (3 total, 2-1)
PerformanceAmountRecordWin %AmountRecordWin %
Both Hot (over 60%)00-00.0000
Both Warm (b/t 50-60%)65-10.83310-10.000
Split 1 Warm/1 Hot32-10.66722-01.000
- Curry Hot11-01.00011-01.000
- Thompson Hot21-10.50011-01.000

There have been five instances where one was hot (60+%) and another was warm (50-60%) -- three in the regular season and two in the playoffs -- and the Warriors have gone 4-1 in those games, included a 2-0 mark in the playoffs.

There were six games in the regular season and one in the playoffs that saw both Curry and Thompson warm (50-60%); the Warriors went 5-1 in the regular season in those games, but dropped the playoff game, which happened to be Game 1 in San Antonio.

Season (78 games, 45-33)Playoffs (8 games, 5-3)
Poor Shooting Performances (15 total)Poor Shooting Performances (0 total)
PerformanceAmountRecordWin %AmountRecordWin %
Both Cool (b/t 30-40%)85-30.6250
Both Cold (under 30%)10-10.0000
Split 1 Cool/1 Cold63-30.5000
- Curry Cold32-10.6670
- Thompson Cold31-20.3330

Of course these two can't shoot the lights out all the time. They have had their share of poor shooting performances -- 15 by our count in the regular season -- when both shoot 40 percent or lower from the field. The key is that this has yet to happen in the postseason.

When both Curry and Thompson shot between 30 and 40 percent from the field, the Warriors still managed to go 5-3. And as long as one stayed above 30 percent, even with the other below that mark, the Warriors were able to go .500 in six games. And just like they have avoided the extreme on the hot end of the spectrum, they have only hit the bottom end together once this season -- a March 27 loss to the Sacramento Kings.

Since it's only happened once in 86 games this season, it's unlikely that Popovich and the Spurs will see Curry and Thompson both go ice cold at the same time in this series.

The far more likely scenario includes one of the sharpshooters hitting around his average (40-50%) -- on the season Curry and Thompson shot 45.1 and 42.1 percent from the field, respectively -- and the other being either hot or cold.

Season (78 games, 45-33)Playoffs (8 games, 5-3)
Average Shooting Performances (40 total)Average Shooting Performances (3 total, 2-1)
PerformanceAmountRecordWin %AmountRecordWin %
Both Average10-10.00000-00.000
Curry Average2012-80.60022-01.000
- Thompson Hot11-01.0000
- Thompson Warm97-20.7770
- Thompson Cool73-40.42911-01.000
- Thompson Cold31-20.33311-01.000
Thompson Average1912-70.63210-10.000
- Curry Hot33-01.0000
- Curry Warm85-30.6250
- Curry Cool74-30.5710
- Curry Cold10-10.00010-10.000

There were 40 games this season and three in the playoffs that saw at least one member of the dynamic duo shooting in the average range, and only one game that had both of them shooting between 40-50 percent from the field -- a Jan. 9 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.

The other 39 games saw either Curry (20 times) or Thompson (19 times) shoot between 40-50 percent from the field and their backcourt partner in another zone. The good news for the Warriors is that in those 39 games, they went 24-15 for a .615 winning percentage, which was higher than their overall winning percentage of .573 (47-35).

In the 39 games with one player in the average zone, their partner was either warm (50-60%) or hot (60+%) 21 times, with the Warriors going 16-5 (.762). In the playoffs, the Warriors have had either Curry or Thompson shooting in the average range only three times and have gone 2-1, despite the fact that in each of those games, the other shooter was either cool (30-40%) or cold (under 30%).

Season (78 games, 45-33)Playoffs (8 games, 5-3)
Split Shooting Performances (14 total)Split Shooting Performances (2 total, 1-1)
PerformanceAmountRecordWin %AmountRecordWin %
Split 1 HW/1 CC147-70.50021-10.500
- Curry Warm64-20.6670
- Curry Hot53-20.6000
- Thompson Warm10-10.00021-10.500
- Thompson Hot21-10.5000

Then there are games like Wednesday's Game 2, which saw Thompson heat up and Curry cool down, and the Warriors still prevailed. For the Spurs, the daunting fact is that you can't just slow one of them down and expect to win; it's been proven that both of them don't have to shoot a high percentage in order for Golden State to succeed. Scary.

If they are going to focus their efforts on one, the numbers point to Curry. He has the higher scoring average in both the regular season and postseason and from a hot/cold perspective he had more hot games (9) and warm games (22) than Thompson (6 and 18, respectively) during the regular season. In the playoffs, they each have one hot game, with Thompson edging Curry in warm games, four to two.

But if the first two games of this series have proved anything, it is that either one of these marksmen can catch fire in a hurry.

"I said I got the greatest shooting backcourt that's ever played the game. Call my bluff," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said after Game 2.

Game 3 is Friday in Oakland. Let's see which shooter steps up for the Warriors and what the coaches have to say about it.

Here's the data breakdown