The Golden State Warriors at times look completely unstoppable. This past week was supposed to provide true challenges for the Warriors. Instead they made a statement by obliterating the Cavs by 34 points, and crushing the Bulls by 31, all on the road. Although they look unbeatable at times they have some holes that a team can take advantage of. Any team that can check off as many of these keys as possible will increase their chances to beat these goliaths. The blueprint reads as follows:
- Take advantage of the Warriors’ turnovers as well as limiting their own
- Force Curry to work on both offense and defense
- Control defensive rebounds
- Slow down the pace of the game
The Golden State Warriors are the best transition team in the NBA and when it is all said and done they may go down as the best transition team ever. They average 20 fast break points a game, first in the league, rank seventh in points off turnovers at nearly 18 points a game, and force just under 15 turnovers per game. Live ball turnovers (steals, etc) really triggers the Warriors’ transition game, like the examples below against the Indiana Pacers illustrate. The Pacers are scrambling to match up on defense after these live ball turnovers and give up a dunk to Iguodala then a wide-open three to Curry.
As Golden State leads the league in transition points and are in the top ten in points off turnovers, they also rank sixth in turnovers in the NBA. The Warriors average 15 turnovers per game and give up over 17 points a game off of those turnovers. A stat from inpredictable.com have the Warriors giving up 1.22 points per defensive possession after a turnover, higher than their normally stingy 1.01 points per defensive possession. Their turnovers can be used against them as the example below shows the Pacers taking advantage of a Warrior live ball turnover and turning it into a dunk in transition.
Transition defense alone will not be enough to beat the Warriors. Just as important as limiting the Warriors’ fast break opportunities, a team has to be able to defend Curry.
It is counterintuitive but defending Curry actually starts on the offensive end. Thompson often guards the better backcourt player and Curry takes the other guard. Teams must attack Curry on the offensive end, by putting him in pick-and-rolls, running him off of multiple screens, and if they have the ability posting him up on the block. Getting Curry in foul trouble and off the court is a 30-point swing in the wrong direction for the Warriors’ offensive ratings. Even though he may not get in foul trouble, making Curry exert himself on the defensive end can tire him out quicker. The examples below shows the Bulls’ Derrick Rose attacking Curry off the dribble and the Celtics Avery Bradley running off of multiple screens for a three.
Attacking him on the offensive end is only part of defending the reigning MVP. Having personnel with the ability to defend Curry is a requirement to slow him down. Rose does a great job in the example below staying with Curry on multiple screens and in the second example denying him from getting the ball at all. It takes that kind of hyper-focus to guard the best shooter the NBA has ever seen.
Another important piece to defending the Warriors, is limiting them to single shot possessions. Once a shot goes up, defenses scramble for the rebound and should the offense grab the board, defensive players are out of position, which can lead to an open shot. According to an article by ESPN’s Zach Lowe, teams are shooting 39% from three within five seconds of an offensive rebound. The Warriors shoot a league high 42.4% from three and attempt the second most at 30 a game. In the clip below the Warriors get three shots in one possession ultimately killing any momentum the Pacers have.
The Warriors bring one of the most prolific offensive attacks to the floor. They score a league high 114.7 points and are second in pace at 99.3 possessions per game. In 44 games, only four times have the Warriors scored less than 100 points and they lost three of them.
Teams are constantly forced into playing the Warriors’ style of small-ball and speed up the game. Teams should take advantage of the small lineups and attack them in the post. With a strong post game, teams can slow down this speedy attack and bring down the pace of the game. The two examples show a clip where the Rockets and Pacers are able to score in the post against the Warriors especially when they go small.
The Warriors have changed the way the NBA plays, teams have completely overhauled their philosophy and roster to emulate them. No one can copy the Warriors; they have two of the best shooters in NBA, a versatile power forward, and a bench unit that could start for at least a third of the league. There are a few teams that have what it takes to beat the Warriors without having to change their identity, the San Antonio Spurs, Cleveland Cavaliers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers, Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets and Toronto Raptors. If these teams stay true to their identity they have the best chance to take down the Warriors, even then it may not be enough to get the job done.