Defense is the key for Warriors in Game 7

May 28, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) loses control of the ball while guarded by Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) during the fourth quarter in game six of the Western conference finals of the NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
May 28, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) loses control of the ball while guarded by Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) during the fourth quarter in game six of the Western conference finals of the NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports /
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Defense wins championships.

The Golden State Warriors know this and they also know defense fuels their offense. When the Warriors are rolling it’s because of their defense forcing turnovers, missed shots, etc. Having a defense capable of forcing missed shots and turnovers allow the Warriors the opportunity to get easy baskets on the break.

Defense has been the underrated part of this series. The Thunder have defended the Warriors as well as any team all year. Their combination of size, speed, athleticism and length has made life difficult on the Warriors.

Even though the Warriors got destroyed in Games 3 and 4 the team has done a solid job defending  Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, outside of free throws. The scoring numbers won’t show it, but the shooting percentages will.

Durant alone has missed 40 shots in his last two games. He’s shooting .409 percent, while averaging 24.8 shots per game. The last three games he’s shooting .348 percent. The tag team effort of Harrison Barnes and Andre Iguodala has been tremendous. Iguodala will get the deserving credit, but those who watch the game know Barnes has done a tremendous job on Durant as well.

Durant is averaging 30 points per game, but he’s making 8.7 free throws per game. Take away his free throws and Durant might be having his worst shooting series of his career.

Granted, Durant could break out and score 50 in Game 7 because he’s that lethal, but with the heavy minutes (40.7) and physical defense by Iguodala and Barnes, Durant will have to grind to get  his points.

Westbrook is in the same boat as Durant, he’s averaging 28 points per game, but doing it on over 8 made free throws per game. Westbrook is shooting .404 percent and averaging 22.7 shots per game. Westbrook is 8-for-26 with 7 turnovers with Curry as his primary defender. So much for Curry not being a good defender.

Similar to Durant, the tag-team of Thompson and Curry has worked wonders. Curry defends Westbrook as well as he can, but he can’t stop Westbrook because he’s too small. Thompson has size, speed and athleticism to go along with length. Making Westbrook shoot over length and shoot jumpers is the key to containing him. The Warriors have done a pretty good job of this.

Though the Warriors have slowed down the two man show, the Thunder as a team are shooting .44 percent. This shows the Warriors defense has been good, but also the Thunders role players have been better than expected.

Game 7 will not be easy. The Thunder will not go down without a fight. The Warriors were fortunate to win Game 6. They didn’t play the kind of team game needed to win an elimination game. The only reason they won was because Thompson went nuclear and the Thunder became the Thunder again.

The Warriors need to impose their will on the defensive end in Game 7. If the Warriors can jump on   the Thunder early it might mean early celebration because it’s unknown what the Thunder’s mindset is at this moment.

The Warriors should start Iguodala at small forward instead of Barnes. They did this to start the second half of Game 6 and it worked beautifully. Iguodala calms everything down and changes the offensive and defensive tempo.

Starting Iguodala allows the Warriors to play their four best defensive players on the court at the same time, and also make sure Durant doesn’t go off early. Bringing Barnes off the bench to guard Durant works just as well, because he’s done a nice job on him as mentioned above and it keeps Iguodala fresh for the fourth quarter. This is significant because the Thunder are shooting just 5-19 or .26 percent with Iguodala as the primary defender in the fourth quarter.

The Warriors are playing in a Game 7 because of their heart and mental toughness. They have not played their best game yet. Tonight would be a great time for the Warriors to play their best game of the season.