BOSTON – Stephen Curry continues to drop video game-like numbers in the playoffs which has propelled Golden State to a commanding 3-0 series lead against Houston in the Western Conference finals.
Of course he’s the star of the postseason thus far.
After all, that’s what a league MVP is supposed to do right?
But if you look deeper into the Warriors' success, especially against Houston and their high-scoring MVP runner-up James Harden, you’ll notice a former Green Teamer’s imprints having a vital part in Golden State winning so much.
They belong to former Celtics assistant Ron Adams who serves as Steve Kerr’s defensive czar with the Warriors.
It’s not a coincidence that upon Adams’ arrival, the Warriors went from being a solid defensive unit to one that’s downright dominant.
During the regular season, the Warriors were the fourth-highest scoring team at 103.5 points per game. Even more impressive was their defense which allowed just 94.3 points per game which ranked as the third-fewest points allowed per game last season. That gave them a league-best plus-9.2 point differential.
Golden State's improved defense did not go unnoticed by those outside the Bay Area, either.
San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard was this year’s Defensive Player of the Year, but the Warriors had a pair of players finish in the top 6 with Leonard edging Warriors forward Draymond Green for the award, and center Andrew Bogut finishing sixth.
Even Klay Thompson, considered a defensive liability earlier in his career, has evolved into one of the best two-way guards in the NBA.
There’s plenty of credit to go around for Golden State’s success of course.
But some of it should go to Adams whose defensive acumen was on display prior to arriving in Boston (2013-2014) while serving on two different staffs in Chicago (2003-2008; 2010-2013) as well as stints in Milwaukee (1998-2003), Oklahoma City (2008-2010), Philadelphia (1994-1996) and San Antonio (1992-1994).
In Games 1 and 2 against the Rockets, the Warriors had Thompson as the primary defender on Harden.
It worked; sort of.
Thompson forced Harden into some extremely tough shots both games, but that didn’t prevent him from averaging 33 points, 9.0 assists and 10.5 rebounds in the first two games.
The series shifted to Houston for Game 3 and despite having a 2-0 lead, Adams knew changes had to be made.
If Harden was that good with the crowd against him, how much better would he be at home?
So while giving Harden a decent dose of Thompson defensively, Adams and the Warriors went to using bigger bodies on him like Harrison Barnes and Andre Iguodala.
The strategy worked.
Not only did the Warriors blow out the Rockets, but Harden had one of his worst playoff games ever as he finished with 17 points but made just 3-of-16 shots from the field to go with four assists and three rebounds.
Adams, as he often did during those brief stretches in Boston when the team’s improvement defensively was noticeable, deflected the praise from any specific game plan adjustment and focused it more on guys simply doing what they’re supposed to do, only better.
“One of the best factors was simply we closed space on him, played with more aggressiveness,” Adams told reporters after Golden State’s Game 3 win. “We were pretty good in the first two games. This was different.”
And it has the Warriors one victory away from their first trip to the NBA Finals since 1975, a voyage that has been aided by many – among them former Celtic assistant Ron Adams.