SAN FRANCISCO -- About 30 minutes after Golden State's 116-104 win over the Houston Rockets Wednesday evening, Draymond Green sat on a makeshift stage tucked inside Chase Center and made clear assistant coach Jarron Collins' prominent role in the team's best defensive outing of the season.
"You gotta give him a lot of credit for this win," he admitted. "His game plan was f-----g phenomenal.”
Such statements have been few and far between for this iteration of the Warriors. With Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala gone, Klay Thompson out for an extended time and Draymond Green hobbled, Golden State's team defense has plunged to near the bottom of league. However, the Dubs have bucked that trend in recent weeks under Collins' direction, offering a bright spot in an otherwise listless season.
"We're not the best defenses in the league but we're also not among the worst," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Thursday afternoon. "We're sort of middle of the pack over the last few weeks. That's a victory for us. J.C. deserves a lot of credit for that."
Collins' latest triumph came Wednesday when Golden State held the Rockets to 37.0 percent shooting from the field and forced Russell Westbrook to miss 21 of his 32 shot attempts. Houston's troubles came as the Warriors employed a defense that prioritized getting the ball out of star guard James Harden's hands.
Each time Harden crossed midcourt, Collins' strategy deployed two defenders to trap the former MVP. The plan often left Westbrook -- a career 30.5 percent 3-point shooter -- to attempt wide-open looks from beyond the arc. By the end of the night, he had missed all seven of his 3-point attempts, and Harden -- who averages a league-best 38.1 points per game -- finished with 24 in the contest.
The performance coincided with a mini-revival of Golden State's defense. Though ranked 28th in defensive rating, opponents are shooting just 39.6 percent from the field against the team in its last three games -- all wins. The turnaround has come despite no on-court contributions from Thompson and Stephen Curry, and as key role players like Kevon Looney, Eric Paschall and Damion Lee have all missed time with injuries.
"It's a pretty tough spot to come in, to give in to the circumstances where we were a couple months ago, where we are now," Kerr admitted. "Pretty dramatic improvement for our team and I think J.C. deserves a lot of credit."
Collins joined Golden State's staff in 2014 as a player development coach, earning a promotion to an assistant the following year. Back in May, he interviewed for the Memphis Grizzlies' head coaching vacancy. When he wasn't hired elsewhere, he was promoted to the Warriors' de-facto defensive coordinator as fellow assistant Ron Adams' role was adjusted.
A peek into Collins' past hints at why he has been successful in his current role. A 10-year veteran, he was often tasked with guarding the other team's best big man. Any queries of his playing career will be answered with a detailed breakdown of his best opponents, from Shaquille O'Neal to Tim Duncan.
About three hours before each game, Collins sits along the baseline with a laptop in hand, attempting to impart some wisdom on the next generation of Warriors.
"I think it's super beneficial for me as one of my player development coaches," forward Marquese Chriss said of Collins' contributions. "I feel like I have the same kind of mindset with guys like that, so it's been helpful for me and helpful for other players on the team."
Even coming off three consecutive victories, the Warriors still rank among the worst defensive units in the league. But if they can continue executing the game plans Collins' comes up with, comments like Green's after the win over the Rockets will become a regular occurrence.
"He's been very consistent with his efforts and his messaging with our team," Kerr said. "And we've built a stability about our defense."