Warriors provide proof of concept with defensive gem against Mavericks


SAN FRANCISCO — The Mavericks had won 11 of 12 games. Their two stars, Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, are as dangerous of scorers the NBA has, and they’ve been playing off each other brilliantly. They’ve engineered the fourth most efficient offense in the league since the All-Star break.

They came into the Chase Center and didn’t crack the century mark.

Golden State, which has suddenly clicked into playoff-caliber defense, held Dallas to 100 points — the Mavericks’ lowest total since Jan. 31. It carried them to a victory on a night in which Steph Curry scored 13 and Klay Thompson logged only 13 points.

“Just a little bit more aware and understanding (of) our coverages, trying to communicate early,” Chris Paul said. “It’s funny, all season, we sort of just didn’t know where to be. Sometimes guys aren’t there. We’re starting to understand that defense is what we’ve got to be able to hang our hat on. Our offense, we’ve got some amazing shooters and scorers and whatnot, but if we defend, it opens everything else up.”

By settling in defensively, the Warriors are discovering an identity. It’s what they need to “hang their hat on,” Paul said. In their five-game winning streak, they rank second in the NBA in defensive rating (102.9). And by locking down Dallas, Golden State withstood the stress-test of an outstanding offensive team on the other side.

“To me, that’s a good sign that what we did on the road was not (flukey),” Steve Kerr said.

“Our defense is the one thing, it’s non-negotiable,” said Draymond Green, Golden State’s defensive ace.

At some points this year, it has seemed like defense was not only negotiable, but the Warriors were losing their end of the bargain. Transition defense has been a common issue for Golden State this year, which often boils down to simple effort. Lack of communication led to breakdowns at inopportune times. Relatively anonymous players would go off for season-highs.

Golden State ranked 20th in defensive rating before the All-Star break — a significant portion of which Green was suspended for.

But for the past five games, as their playoff fate has hung in the balance, the Warriors have stepped it up. They held the Heat, Magic and Hornets to below 100 points before clamping down on Dallas. But each game had caveats — Miami was without their top two scorers, Orlando went ice cold even for them, and the Hornets haven’t had anything to play for for months. They enjoyed a relatively soft pocket of their schedule and some fortunate shooting luck. One could wonder how real Golden State’s defensive strides were.

The Mavericks were a true test. The Warriors passed before the teacher asked them to put their pencils down.

With the ball-dominant Doncic and Irving, the Mavericks rank fourth in turnovers per game. They take care of the ball better than nearly every team. But the Warriors still forced them to commit 15 turnovers — including a combined nine from the two All-Stars.

Although Doncic registered …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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