HomeSportsPotential playoff run for Warriors depends on when the defense meets

Potential playoff run for Warriors depends on when the defense meets

Warriors’ potential playoff run hinges on when the defense meeting originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

As the clock ticked toward 11 p.m. Tuesday night, Draymond Green sat in his booth in the Chase Center locker room discussing matters related to where the Warriors have been, where they are and where they want to go.

He talked about set plays versus reads, Chris Paul’s evolution as a Warrior and the growth young players need to make good use of the offensive gravity of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

And Draymond being Draymond, he naturally discussed defense late in the season.

“We’ve seen teams in this league for years who have made the mistake of thinking they can just put on a great offense and their defense sucks and think they’re going to win,” Green said long after the 104-100 victory of Golden State. over the Dallas Mavericks. “When you come up against the team that — it doesn’t even have to be that good on offense — it’s just competent on offense, but they’re playing defense that you’re going to lose.”

This is and always has been the road to the mountain top. While the Warriors’ offense had captivating spells during their glory years – 2015-2019 – it was their defense that was most responsible for the trophies. Good regular season habits led to phenomenal postseasons.

And it’s the defense, led by Green, that will determine whether they advance beyond the NBA play-in tournament and, if so, how far they’ll go in the playoffs. His ability to guard every position, coordinate defense in real time and play both on and off the ball is unique in the league.

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The surest way to know if there’s a red-hot sprint to the Western Conference playoffs is to take a look at the team’s end-of-season stats – specifically the offense and defense ratings. We’ll focus on each team’s final five games through Tuesday.

The Warriors are 5-0 despite being fouled in 15th place. Credit a defense ranking at No. 2 in the league, with a 102.9 rating that is No. 1 in the West.

“Our defense is the one thing that is non-negotiable,” Green said. “We have to defend at that level.”

It’s the only way the Warriors have a reasonable chance of staying close to the teams above them in the standings. And most of those teams smoked the Warriors in the regular season.

Golden State’s misfortune is that it is in the West, where the defensive ratings show an April rush building toward blowtorch intensity. No team in the West ranks among the top seven offenses over the five-game span. Eastern Conference teams usually play each other, and 24 games separate the first-place Boston Celtics from the 10th-place Hawks. It’s less a sprint than a slog in the East.

The West is downright evil. The 10th-place Warriors were just 11.5 games behind the first-place Nuggets. The much smaller gap indicates an infinitely more competitive conference. As the defense gets meaner as the games become more consistent, the offense is more and more of a struggle.

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That largely explains why the Phoenix Suns, the top-rated offense in the West during the five-game stretch, are only eighth overall.

While the East dominates the offensive charts, the West is home to five of the top eight defensive lines. Following the Warriors are the Mavericks (fourth), the Los Angeles Lakers (sixth), the Minnesota Timberwolves (seventh) and the Denver Nuggets (eighth).

Golden State’s biggest challenge is its inability to maintain momentum. The Warriors have gone 75 games without a six-game win streak. Each of their two five-game streaks was snapped with extreme prejudice, the first a double-digit loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers in November and the second by blowing a 14-point lead in the final 11 minutes against the Los Angeles Clippers in February .

“We lost control of the game defensively,” coach Steve Kerr said after the 130-125 loss to Los Angeles on Feb. 14 at Chase Center. “And I don’t think we adapted well enough as a coaching staff.”

True on both counts. The Clippers shot 61.9 percent from the field and 62.5 percent from deep in that fateful fourth quarter. They also shot 15 free throws, as Golden State committed nine fouls. Norman Powell, given enough time and space to fit a tuxedo, went 4-of-4 from deep.

The result was LA rolling to a 44-28 quarter to steal a win as Kawhi Leonard looked on in street clothes.

All because Golden State’s defense decided to rest.

Perhaps the most glaring question facing the Warriors in the final seven games and beyond is this: Which defense will emerge?

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The Warriors were 15th in defense through their first 15 games, 17th through the second 15, 29th through the third 15 – with Draymond mostly suspended – second through the fourth 15 and ninth through their last 15. The only time they were on a play -off laymen. team was when they went 11-4 during that fourth 15-game stretch.

Golden State’s last five opponents, some good and some not so good, have scored in the order: 92, 93, 97, 113 and 100 points. The most impressive of the five was the win over Dallas, because that’s the best of five and it was in Chase, where the Warriors have been mediocre all season.

And Green was an absolute star, proving once again why the Warriors tolerated these spasms of nonsense.

“Every night the defense isn’t going to be that great,” Green said in the locker room. “But it has to be with the same intentions. If we have the same intentions, play with the effort we played with tonight and with the effort we have played with in the last five six games, then that will be good for this team.

The Warriors posted a fantastic defensive rating of 99.0 in that game. It’s unrealistic to expect that in the last seven. But it will have to be close before they can advance beyond the play-in tournament.

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