Lacking sexiness, the Warriors defense is under the radar, rarely discussed, yet they have the best defensive rating in the playoffs at 101.9. No other team has a defensive rating below 103. Why is no one paying attention to what the Dubs are doing on the other end of the court? For starters, the Warriors defense isn’t a glamour subject when you have James Harden and Chris Paul trying to get to their first NBA Finals. But it is because of the Warriors defense, paired with skilled offensive players, that has the Warriors on pace to take a stranglehold of the Western Conference Finals on Wednesday night.
The Western Conference Finals series which the Rockets now trail- to the surprise of no one- reminds us of the inconsistency of the Rockets despite the brilliance of James Harden. What other team could have their best player score 41 points and lose by double digits? A team with a star player that is atrocious on defense. The Warriors attacked the weakest defensive link on the Rockets. Go at the Beard. Over and over and over again. Switching everything which the Rockets love to do covers up a bleeding wound with a bandaid. The Rockets are not physical and don’t grab and hold and do dirty stuff. On the other side of the ledger, the Warriors are happy to get chippy, ala Draymond Green getting a tech one minute into the game.
In the playoffs, the Warriors are forcing teams to shoot-surprise, surprise- 32.0% from three. The Rockets are a volume three point shooting team. They made the same amount of threes as the Warriors in game one, a bad sign. If they have any hope in this series, they have to crush the Warriors from behind the arc. Golden State’s success dictates efficient three point shooting goes way down. The Warriors are allowing 101.6 points a game.
Note to everybody: when you are the best offensive team and the best defensive team, the league is in big trouble.
Simply, the Warriors defense is creating chaos. It is suppressing everything their opponents want to do. Against the Warriors, everyone is an 8th seed and it always happens at some point in the series, the one thing you can count on: a look of stunned disbelief, shell shock, and then depression. It happens when you think you are one thing and the Warriors talent and defense tells you via their performance, fall back you ain’t all that, you are so not on our level.
The numbers from game one.
The Rockets missed 65% of the threes they took. They had 13 turnovers, 4 each by James Harden and Eric Gordon. They averaged 18 assists. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson had more offensive rebounds than Clint Capela. The Rockets two stars scored 64 points but were a -14.
The Warriors cause teams to doubt themselves. They create negative energy and insecurity and slumped shoulders. Defeat starts in the mind. The Warriors, as an offensive unit that is lethal and explosive and hyper-confident, understand they can beat you shot making. They know they can stop you from scoring.
The recipe seems pretty simple on how to get to the fourth straight NBA Finals: make long shots, contest shots and avoid, at all costs, laziness with the ball. And one other thing. Don’t get fooled by the Harden Eurostep or the Chris Paul toughness or the Rockets shooters. Just defend them.
What the Warriors do is make life miserable. Wing defenders Andre Iguodala, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Shaun Livingston are too quick for the Rockets. They contest shots. Always. When the Rockets try to drive, there should be Green or Iguodala or Thompson. When the Rockets try to pass the ball, the Warriors should be in the passing lane and create a turnover. Should be isn’t the same as will be. It was a contested three that lost the Warriors the title. Contested shots are the bane of NBA coaches. You can’t draw up a play that will keep a James Harden contested shot from going in.
Golden State covers too much ground too quickly and the Rockets are hoping P.J. Tucker is a difference maker. And Trevor Ariza, the Kevin Durant stopper. And so this is the damage the Warriors are laying on the Rockets in a perfect world, causing them to go to Plan B and Plan C, all because the Warriors defense is really that good.
Theodore Roosevelt once said. “Speak softly but carry a big stick.” That big stick hit the Rockets over the head on Monday night. Again and again. Good luck Houston. The season has to be saved on Wednesday.
photo via llananba