It's time for the world to give the Warriors' defense the praise it deserves

It's time for the world to give the Warriors' defense the praise it deserves

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.”

Casspi defends his spot on Warriors, explains why he's not worried about being cut


Casspi defends his spot on Warriors, explains why he's not worried about being cut

OAKLAND -- Like much of the NBA and everyone with an interest in the Warriors, Omri Casspi has watched the emergence of Quinn Cook, who came out of the G-League and is making a strong bid to make the postseason roster.

Casspi, out since spraining his right ankle last Friday against Sacramento, happens to be at or near the top of the list of the tiny group of players that might be dropped should the Warriors decide to add Cook.

The 6-foot-9 veteran forward has heard the chatter.

“First of all, it’s you guys talking,” Casspi said, referring to media. “I don’t really feel it from the organization. At the end of the day, I’m focused on getting healthy and playing. That’s all I can control.

“I feel like the team needs me and know what I can do for the team. My focus is on getting healthy and playing.”

The Warriors have until April 11 to submit their playoff roster.

Casspi’s roster spot is in danger for three reasons.

One, he has lost confidence in his long-distance shooting, which was influential in the team’s decision to sign him to a one-year minimum contract last July.

Two, his defense has been a glaring weakness, with teams attacking him at every opportunity.

Three, he had fallen out of the rotation when the team was fully healthy and didn’t return until after succession of injuries. Casspi exceeded 10 minutes of playing time in only one of the 12 games before injuries to several teammates became a factor.

Stephen Curry’s ankle woes this season, along with Cook’s impressive play, are making a persuasive argument for adding the third-year point guard.

For now, Casspi is determined to get back on court after missing the last two games.

“With my role on this team, when I’m healthy I want to go out there and play, maybe not 100 percent healthy, but close to it,” he said. “That’s what I’m focused on, on feeling good and running up and down and being able to cut and move and be out there again with the guys.”

As Warriors inch closer to full health, Kerr provides update on Durant, Klay


As Warriors inch closer to full health, Kerr provides update on Durant, Klay

OAKLAND -- Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson all worked up sweat Wednesday, putting the Warriors ever closer to being whole again.

Only Draymond Green did not full participate in the non-contact practice session, but he’s expected back in a matter of days.

So while the Warriors are a little more than a week away from possibly having the full squad available, they’re starting to feel a little less vulnerable.

“They’re all kind of day-to-day,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “Steph is closer to playing than KD and Klay.”

Curry has not played since March 8, when he tweaked his surgically repaired right ankle. He missed the last six games. Durant (rib cartilage injury) and Thompson (right thumb sprain) sustained their injuries on March 11 at Minnesota, though Durant played one more game, March 14, before receiving a diagnosis. Durant missed the last three games, Thompson the last four.

Green sustained a pelvic contusion Monday night at San Antonio, but believes he will be available this weekend, either Friday against Atlanta or Sunday against Utah.

Curry, though, is fully cleared for all activities.

“Steph looks great,” Kerr said. “He’s chomping at the bit. But we’ll see how he responds in the next couple days before we decide whether he plays or not.”

Durant loathes acknowledging pain or injuries, and his return will be dictated by his ability with withstanding the contact inevitable in the course of a game.

“I don’t expect KD to play this week,” Kerr said. “It’s not like a timetable . . . just sort of a feel thing. It’s symptomatic with him.”

Thompson seems, at this point, the furthest away from full activity.

“Klay did some stuff," Kerr said, “but not full participation.”