SALT LAKE CITY -- Maybe now the pretty finally will give way to the gritty. And the constant talk of beautiful ball movement and gorgeous jump shots can be shouted down a bit by the noise the Warriors make on the other end of the court.
Through eight games this postseason they have done enough fantastic work on defense for that component of their game to get its overdue props.
Studying the offensive actions of their opponents -- with particular emphasis on the most dangerous scorers -- and applying what they’ve learned is the primary reason the Warriors are 8-0 this postseason.
They held Portland’s Damian Lillard to 43.3-percent shooting in the first round, and limited sidekick CJ McCollum to 40 percent -- 30.8 percent after Game 1.
In sweeping the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference Semifinals, the Warriors identified Gordon Hayward and Joe Johnson as the two players most likely to do damage on offense. Hayward shot 40 percent, Johnson 31.6.
The Warriors are No. 1 among playoff teams with a defensive rating of 96.9, far and way the best of any team in these playoffs. It’s better than that of the 2014-15 Warriors, whose 97.4 rating was the best of that postseason.
They’re first in field-goal defense, holding teams to 40.7 percent. They’re first in rebounds, first in blocks, first in deflections, first in points allowed and No. 1 in limiting the assist totals of opponents.
Draymond Green, the Defensive Player of the Year candidate, is the catalyst for the defense. He’s excellent in isolation, fabulous in communication and superb at recognition. But Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala also make an impact on that end.
But the real key to this team’s defensive success is its high collective IQ and the ability to switch with ease. It helps that 10 players on the roster fall are between 6-foot-6 and 6-9.
Yet Warriors conversation generally revolves around Durant’s unique scoring ability, Thompson’s picturesque jumper and Stephen Curry’s wizardry, whether handling the ball or shooting.
“We’ve got guys like Dray, Klay, myself, Matt (Barnes), all the way down the line,” Durant said after the clinching Game 4 win over the Jazz. “When Steph switches off, he’s really good. When you can guard multiple positions, it takes a lot of teams out of their actions.
“We score the ball. But we preach defense every single day. It’s not just ‘Let’s outscore our opponents.’ We’re going to try to stop you, and then we’re going to try to run the score up.”
This is not exactly new for the Warriors. They’ve been a top-five defensive team in most crucial categories for four seasons. For the regular season just concluded, they were No. 1 in field-goal defense, 3-point field goal defense, blocks, steals, turnovers forced and points per shot.
And never has their defensive ferocity been more evident than the first quarter of closeout games. The Warriors held the Blazers to 29.6-percent shooting in the opening quarter of Game 4, and held the Jazz to 24 percent Monday night.
So, yes, this team known mostly for its offensive pageantry is playing championship- level defense. It’s the ugly side of the game, and sometimes difficult to appreciate. Yet defense is what anchored such champions as the Jordan Bulls, the Bad Boy Pistons, Pop’s Spurs and the Miami Heatles. Those teams seemed to get proper notice.
It’s long past time the Warriors get theirs.
“I hope so,” Brown said. “These guys work hard defensively. They communicate well and they understand when they make mistakes. We don’t have to show 30 examples of them making the same mistake, because they pick up on it very easily and they try not to do it the next time. And for the most part they don’t.
“So hopefully they’ll start, as a group, to get some recognition on that end of the floor.”