Warriors

Why Adams says Warriors are becoming an East Coast-style team

Warriors
Warriors' Steph Curry and Draymond Green play defense

The Warriors have found their identity, but it's not the one you'd expect. 

Featuring one of the best scorers the game has ever seen, one might think the Warriors are all about offense, as has been their calling card in the past. 

But, no. This year, the Warriors are banking on their defense to get them wins. 

As Steve Kerr walked to the locker room following the Warriors' 111-107 win over the Indiana Pacers Wednesday night, Ron Adams looked at Kerr and said: "Who knew we were going to become an East Coast team, grinding it out and relying on our defense?"

Call them the grit-and-grind Warriors.

"I'm still of the mindset that we can do both -- we can get better offensively and continue to play great defense," Kerr said Wednesday in a video conference with reporters. "If we can do that, I think we've now proven over almost half the season, that we are one of the best defensive teams in the league. Top four in efficiency. So, we just got to put it together to get over the hump. We've got the potential to do so."

To be clear, this isn't the first time the Warriors have had a good defensive group.

From 2016 to 2019, they boasted a roster with Kevin Durant, Shaun Livingston, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green -- all of whom Green categorized as elite defenders. 

The similarity between those teams and this roster is their length. But this team lacks those squads' individual and collective experience, as well as their predecessors' offensive firepower.

 

Right now, the Warriors are depending on their defense to win them games, not scoring. And it was on full display against the Pacers, a game in which the Warriors shot 5-of-25 from beyond the arc and Curry hit just one 3-pointer. 

"Hell no," Green said when asked if he expected the Warriors to win on such a poor shooting night. "You've got Steph who didn't shoot well tonight, none of us shot well tonight, and to still come in this building against a very good Indiana Pacers team and come out with a win on a back-to-back ... especially with shooting like that, I can't sit here and lie to you and say I thought that's who we would be.

"As I said, I thought we had the potential to be a great defensive team, but all potential means is you haven't proven it yet."

The pure makeup of this team is what suggested to Green it would be good at defense. 

Green himself is a former Defensive Player of the Year. He knew Kelly Oubre Jr. was a good defender from his years playing against him, and he saw defensive potential in Andrew Wiggins' short stint with Golden State last season. With Erich Paschall and Juan Toscano-Anderson's physicality, plus James Wiseman and Kevon Looney up front,  all the foundational pieces were there in training camp. 

What takes them over the edge is Steph Curry's improved defense

"I think Steph's defense out there has been totally overlooked because everyone has been locked in on his scoring and shooting," Kerr said. "But his defense has been fantastic."

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Curry owes part of his improvement to his increased physical strength. Because of that, he's able to battle with players he wasn't capable of defending before. Other improvements stem from him being more consistently active.

"He would fall asleep a lot off the ball, and he's not falling asleep anymore," Green said. "He would fall asleep and give up a backdoor layup almost once a game. Sometimes twice. He would just stand there, like, 'Ah.' And now, he's not giving up that stuff off the ball. He's locked in off the ball, he's engaged, he's chipping down on the bigs, he's getting back to the elbows and rebounds, he's coming in and getting those big-boy rebounds."

"Big-boy rebounds" happen when you "go in there amongst the trees." Or, in other words, when a smaller player isn't afraid to battle opposing big men for a rebound that doesn't easily fall into his hands.

That's what Curry has been doing, averaging a career-high 5.0 defensive rebounds per game this season. But he has flown under the radar, as has the team's overall defensive identity. 

 

Like Curry as an individual, the Warriors have become almost synonymous with offense, so it's weird to think of them as a defensive team. But they are.

It has become their identity in the latter portion of the first half of the season, and as we reach the halfway mark, it will have to be the rest of the way.

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