The highlight of NBA Christmas Day was of course the Warrior-Cavaliers Finals rematch and Kyrie Irving’s game-winning shot. The Warriors saw a 14-point lead evaporate as Lebron and Kyrie led a furious comeback that ended in a one-point victory.
Kevin Durant balled out for the Warriors with 36 points and 15 boards. Noticeably quiet for much of the game was Steph Curry (15 points on 4-11 shooting) who has evolved from the NBA’s favorite underdog into one of the guys everybody loves to hate on. It should be noted that Curry has struggled on Christmas Day games in the past, but a defender emerged for the Cavs who got the start for the injured J.R. Smith.
DeAndre Liggins, a two-time NBA D-League Defensive Player of the Year in his sixth season out of Kentucky, had started one game previously in the NBA before this season. In his first season with the Cavs though, Liggins has emerged as a valuable defender in seven starts this season filling in for injured/rested Cavaliers starters. His defense on Curry even got him a YouTube highlight reel which begs the question, “Is DeAndre Liggins the new Curry Stopper?”
There have been numerous “stoppers” of All-Star players in the past, the most notorious being the self-proclaimed “Kobe Stopper” Ruben Patterson who turned out to not be much of a Kobe Stopper at all:
The last supposed “Curry Stopper” for the Cavs was Matthew Dellavedova which was short-lived as he was undone by Curry in the final three games of the 2015 NBA Finals. So will Liggins end up just being another Matthew Dellavedova if (when) the Cavs and Warriors end up meeting in the Finals again? Maybe… Liggins is two inches taller than Delly and has the defensive credentials to back it up, although they are in the D-League. Dating back to his Kentucky days, he’s always been a defender. In his three seasons, he never averaged more than 10 points per game and wasn’t a facilitator nor was he a rebounder.
The prospects of J.R. Smith’s return later in the season dampen the impact that Liggins can have. There simply won’t be the minutes available for Liggins. However, if Curry is lighting it up in the Finals then Tyronn Lue might just opt to send Liggins out there too see if he can repeat the success he had in this game. It’s definitely too early to call Liggins a “Curry Stopper,” but it’s never too early to wonder whether it’s a possibility.