Just look at Stephen Curry’s opponents for this three-game stretch:
Wednesday night, Chris Paul. Saturday, Steve Nash. Monday, Rajon Rondo.
It may not yet be time to insert Rondo into a group with those other two guys, but nonetheless that is a murderer’s row of point guards.
At this point, all Curry wants for New Year’s is a game against Chris Duhon and the New York Knicks. And, after battling three of the top point guards in the NBA, Curry deserves a night off against the likes of Duhon. (He’ll have to settle, though, for tomorrow night’s game against Derek Fisher. Fisher will seem like an old washed-up bum after playing Paul, Nash and Rondo in successive games. What’s that, you say? Fisher IS an old, washed-up bum? Sorry, I’d forgotten.)
If facing Rondo provides a far different challenge than playing against Nash, it still provides a tough matchup for Curry. Curry, one of the less athletic PG’s in the NBA, will have his hands full defending the uber-quick Rondo. Defending Rondo is no easy task, even for the best defensive point guards. But when you get a middling defensive guard in his rookie season, that task looks even more daunting.
“He’s doing a lot better than he was at the beginning of the season,” Don Nelson told the Contra Costa Times about Curry’s defense. “I know Coach (Keith) Smart has been working with him a lot, talking about his stance and not backing up so much in transition.”
Curry better hope that stance is looking good tonight, or he may look like he’s stuck in quicksand as Rondo blows by him play after play.
From Rondo’s side, Curry brings a (probably welcome) change of opponent. After Baron Davis used his brute strength and above-average athleticism to score 24 points and distribute 13 assists, Curry will rely more on his basketball savvy and perimeter shooting. Unlike Davis, Curry won’t put his shoulder into Rondo and try to bully his way to the hoop. He’ll be looking to pull-up for jumpers rather than to physically pound Rondo towards the basket. Rondo will likely be happy to see he’s matched up against a slower, less physical player than Baron Davis was last night.
So what’s Curry’s best hope for guarding Rondo tonight, despite his speed disadvantage?
He’s just got to hope Coach Keith Smart is better at teaching defense than Mark Price is at teaching free throws.