Warriors’ defense is, um, resting: 'It directly correlates to focus'


Warriors’ defense is, um, resting: 'It directly correlates to focus'

OAKLAND -- The Warriors have spent five weeks breaking the habit most essential to their success, and it’s a horrible look for a group with the lone goal of repeating as NBA champs.

They’ve spent four full seasons as a top-4 defense, grasping the significance of that aspect and using it to ignite an offense that shines brighter than any in the league. Even as the Warriors became synonymous with scoring they always knew their foundation was defense.

All too often lately their defense is softer than doctor’s cotton, if not altogether nonexistent. The Warriors have not forgotten how to play defense, but they go through prolonged stretches of games when it looks like they have.

“The first thing is we’re not taking care of the ball,” coach Steve Kerr told NBC Sports Bay Area after practice. “And then it’s about the detail. We’re getting beat on back cuts, boxouts and offensive rebounds. Our 3-point defense has dropped. We’re not challenging and we’re not closing out. And a lot of those 3-point shots come off offensive boards.

“As soon as our effort and our attention to detail picks up, we’re going to be right back where we were."

Which is why they spent a significant portion of Monday morning going over fundamental defensive principles.

“Just gentle film reminders; I don’t need to yell and scream,” Kerr said after practice. “We’re doing fine, but we’ve got to mix in some drill work and film work and prod them a little bit.”

Said Stephen Curry: “Boiling down to a possession game, and that’s turnovers and (rebounding). And then our defense, it’s just intensity and focus and the consistency of that game to game.”

The coaching staff also flashed some numbers that illustrate how their habit of playing solid defense has taken at least temporary absence, as if the Warriors left their defense in 2017.

“Our defensive rating...was way lower than it usually is,” Curry said rather sheepishly.

In the 16 games since the calendar turned to 2018, their 108.8 defensive rating ranks 24th in the NBA. The Knicks and Nets and Mavericks are among the teams that have been better. Moreover, the Warriors have allowed their 3-point defense to slide to 25th and their overall field-goal defense to 18th.

“It directly correlates to focus,” Draymond Green said. “And it’s that time of year where focus is a little hard to come by.”

Ron Adams, the assistant coach whose focus is on defense, is having difficulty understanding how the Warriors can allow themselves to so consistently fail at reaching their standard.

“Ron’s pissed,” Kerr, who doesn’t like the trend but is firm in his belief that he comprehends it, said. 

Adams has been in the league 26 years. He recalls the likes of Michael Jordan and Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, players whose competitive edge always seemed to be razor sharp.

“I guess I’m old-school,” Adams said. “But it seems there should be level of pride that doesn’t go away. You’d think after losing a game, there would a higher degree of intensity for the next one. The results may not always be what you want, but you’d think the desire to be great should always be there.”

Kerr, however, actually was teammates with Jordan in Chicago. As much as he remembers Jordan’s fanatical desire to win at everything, he also concedes that the third year of success is more difficult than the second and the fourth more difficult than the third.

So Kerr’s rationalization is this: After three years of unparalleled regular-season success, an NBA team finds it more and more difficult to consistently gather the energy needed to sustain excellence. When discussing the challenges the Warriors face this season, he often references those great Bulls teams on which he played.

“Ron is not happy,” Kerr said. “But we’ll be all right. I know how this works, having been through it with the Bulls.”

Curry, however, expressed a note of caution. The Warriors cannot allow themselves to fall into the trap of believing they can coast through the regular season and then pull themselves together in the playoffs.

“Can’t wait that long,” he said. "I never like giving ourselves an out because I feel like we hold ourselves to a higher standard and that’s what’s put two (championship) banners up. We’ve changed the culture around here of what it means to be a winning team, consistently.

"But there’s a little bit of us fighting that human nature. We’re four years in a row into this grind. When I went out (with injury in December), the guys were top-5 defensively. We felt threatened and everybody did their part to win those games and handle that stretch.

“We know how to put the full package together and we’ve got (29) games to figure that out.”

A big opportunity awaits Swaggy P in Game 4 and potentially beyond

A big opportunity awaits Swaggy P in Game 4 and potentially beyond

OAKLAND -- When the Warriors signed Nick Young to a contract worth $5.2 million last July, it wasn’t so he could hitchhike to the playoffs. For much of this season, with the veteran shooter trudging through limited minutes, that’s how it has looked.

On Tuesday night, and perhaps beyond, Young will have a chance to give the Warriors a more substantial return on their investment. Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals looms and if Andre Iguodala is unavailable, there will be an opportunity for Young.

Suddenly, Nick Young, aka Swaggy P, often the butt of jokes and a frequent source of comic relief among his teammates, is needed in a serious role.

He already has a running start, averaging 16.7 minutes through the first three games. In the two previous playoff series, against the Spurs and the Pelicans, averaged 7.1 minutes per game.

Coach Steve Kerr said prior to Game 1 last week that Young could play a bigger role against the Rockets. That was a statement of trust in the former Laker, and Young has not disappointed. To the contrary, he had done an admirable job on the perimeter defending either James Harden or Chris Paul.

“He’s been great this series, guarding James, guarding Chris Paul, whoever he’s on,” Klay Thompson said Monday after practice. “He’s stayed disciplined, stayed in front of them. And as happy-go-lucky as Swaggy is, he’s also a competitor.”

Young’s defense, though nowhere near Iguodala’s level, has been solid against Houston. The team’s rating is a relatively 99.5 in Young’s 50 minutes on the floor.

“Luke Walton said he was the best defender on the Lakers when he was coaching him,” Thompson said, “even though Luke at the time said that wasn’t that big of an accomplishment.

“I didn’t know he moved his feet that well. But he’s definitely shown his value this series and why we brought him on, just because he stretches the floor and he’s a stalwart on defense.”

Absorb those last nine words for a moment. “Stretches the floor and he’s a stalwart on defense.” That may be the first time Nick Young has ever been described as a “stalwart” on defense. In this series, though, it’s hard to argue against it.

Still, Young’s greatest asset is on offense, where he does nothing better than stretch the floor with an extremely willing and very able three-point shot. Whereas opponents routinely sag off Iguodala, inviting him to shoot from deep, no team is foolish enough to take that risk with Young.

And that’s where he can burn the Rockets while also creating a little more room for deep-shooting teammates Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Thompson.

That ability, along with Young’s more reliable defense, is why he would be considered to start Game 4 in the absence of Iguodala, who is listed as doubtful with soreness in his left knee.

Kerr could go with Kevon Looney at center, sliding Draymond Green back to power forward and Durant back to small forward, with Curry and Thompson as the guards, with Young coming off the bench.

Or the coach could stay with Green at center, with Durant at power forward and Young moving into the small forward spot for Iguodala.

Young has not exactly been a terrific addition. His offensive production has been mostly hit-and-miss, and he usually has been a step slow on defense. His regular season was decidedly low-impact.

If he’s able to make a positive impact now, when it matters most, CEO Joe Lacob and general manager Bob Myers will feel a whole lot better about having signed Young.

Whether he starts or not, the opportunity will be there. And if Iguodala misses a game or more, the Warriors will be begging for Young to make the most of it.

Game Result/Schedule
Game 1 Warriors 119, Rockets 106
Game 2 Rockets 127, Warriors 105
Game 3 Warriors 126, Rockets 85
Game 4 Oakland -- Tuesday, May 22nd at 6pm
Game 5 Houston -- Thursday, May 24th at 6pm
Game 6 Oakland -- Saturday, May 26th at 6pm
Game 7 Houston -- Monday, May 28th at 6pm

Report: Draymond Green will not have his third technical of playoffs rescinded

Report: Draymond Green will not have his third technical of playoffs rescinded

The Warriors lobbied the league on behalf of Draymond Green and lost.

Draymond will not have his third technical of the playoffs rescinded, according to ESPN's Chris Haynes.

With just under seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter of Game 3, Draymond committed a hard foul on a driving Trevor Ariza.

Ariza wasn't fond of Draymond's decision and there was a very minor altercation (if you could even call it that).

Ultimately, a double technical was called.

"I thought it was unfair," Steve Kerr said after practice on Monday. "We'll take it up with the league. He committed a hard foul but he held Ariza up and didn't allow him to get hurt.

"And then Ariza shoved him. Didn't seem like a double technical to me."

The third technical will cost Draymond $3,000, while the first two resulted in a $2,000 fine for each.

In the playoffs, a player is suspended one game once he receives a seventh technical.

Draymond did have one technical foul rescinded during the regular season.

On Feb. 24, he was hit with his 15th tech in a game against the Thunder.

Two days later, it was taken away.

Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller