The Warriors were looking for a sign of improvement against the Detroit Pistons on Saturday night.
Of course, there were multiple aspects of the game that they needed to address, but after sleepwalking through their game against the Phoenix Suns two nights prior, a glaring priority was being more locked in and finding more energy.
If the Warriors could do that -- play with more heart and hustle -- the other issues that plagued the team would start to fall in place.
In their 118-91 win over the Pistons at Chase Center, they did just that. And according to Steve Kerr, one particular stat shows just how much energy his team played with: rebounding.
"It's mainly (indicative) of focus," Kerr told reporters in a post-game Zoom conference. "When we rebound well it's because everybody is locked in and hitting bodies. It really does take five guys. Tonight was one of our best games in terms of our focus and our intent."
The Warriors out-rebounded the Pistons 47-39, and limited Detroit to just seven offensive boards.
It's no coincidence the Warriors had an extra focus on Saturday. Against the Suns, they were anything but that, and Phoenix took advantage of it.
Everything needed to change after that loss. And it started with how the Warriors approached the game from tipoff.
"Right from the start, I thought we were defending with intensity, and the biggest thing was our rebounding," Kerr said. "When we can hold our own on the glass, we can get out and run. I think we're fifth in the league in defensive field goal percentage.
The stat Kerr kept sharing with his team after the game was that the Warriors are fifth in the league in defensive field goal percentage, meaning the Warriors are the fifth-best team in the NBA at preventing their opponent from scoring. But, according to Draymond Green, stopping a shot doesn't mean anything if you can't get the rebound.
"It's one of the most important things on the defensive end," Draymond Green said. "You have to finish the possession."
The Warriors are 17th in the league in rebounding, averaging 44.2 per game. It's clear that out-rebounding opponents isn't the key to winning for the Warriors. There have been losses where they have won the boards, and wins when they were out-rebounded. It's about being competitive in that area.
Golden State's rebounding issues came to a head two weeks ago in a loss at Denver. In that game, the Warriors were out-rebounded 14-8 in the first quarter alone and lost the battle on the boards by seven. Their starting front-court grabbed just 12 rebounds in 88 minutes. Steph Curry led the way with 11 in 37 minutes, a telling sign that it's not about size, but focus and determination.
"We have some small lineups out there at times and it requires everyone to gang rebounds, be physical," Curry said. "Sometimes you have to box out, not expecting to get the rebounding yourself, but to help someone else ... It's a commitment thing."
Against the Pistons, no Warrior rebounded in double-digits. But, when all 12 players who saw action grab at least one rebound -- five of which grabbed five or more -- it's OK. James Wiseman led the group with nine.
Grabbing rebounds sets the Warriors -- and any team -- up for success. It allows them to get out and play in transition, getting across half court before the defense is set.
"It fuels our offense and allows us to gain some momentum, especially early in games," Curry said. "We have capable ball-handlers who can push in transition once you get a rebound, and obviously the defense isn't allowed to get set. You can get a good flow. At the end of the day, it lessens the other team's confidence knowing that we're going to make them take tough shots and they're only going to get one shot at it."
Rebounding has been a priority for the Warriors since the offseason. It's one of the reasons they drafted Wiseman. It's why they were shopping around Marc Gasol during free agency. It's why they started the season with a three-center rotation of Wiseman, Kevon Looney and Marquese Chriss.
The Warriors know how important rebounding is. Being successful on the boards won't fix all of their problems. But, if rebounding is a sign of focus and energy, improving in that area will mean more positive changes should be around the corner.