The Golden State Warriors have rediscovered their stifling defense and it is serving as a reminder of what the team is capable of at that end of the court
The Golden State Warriors have won two games in a row against stiff competition prior to their loss against San Antonio.
The defending NBA Champions put the clamps down on an explosive Denver Nuggets team, gutted out a tough win against the Houston Rockets, and dominated the Oklahoma City Thunder in a 22-point blowout.
The Warriors have been plagued with uneven play through February and the start of March, but this recent stretch has been an encouraging development.
The Splash Brothers, Kevin Durant, and the dizzying ball movement get most of the headlines, but defense has always been the overlooked catalyst for the Warriors’ success. The Warriors can score better than most teams, but when they lock in on defense, that is when it becomes nearly unfair to the competition.
In their last three wins, the Warriors have a stingy defensive rating of 99.0 and a stellar offensive rating of 113.0. That 14.0 net rating would lead the league if they kept that up for the entire season.
The Nuggets, Rockets, and Thunder all have MVP-caliber players, but the Warriors rose to the challenge on defense.
The Warriors held offensively-gifted big man Nikola Jokic to 16 points and forced him to be net negative (-29) for the game. James Harden usually gives the Warriors fits, and while he did pile up 29 points and 10 assists, he missed ten of his 12 three-point attempts and was limited to five points in the fourth quarter.
Paul George has been on a tear this season as he climbs his way into MVP consideration, but the Warriors were ready for him. The team held George to 36.0% shooting for the game, including 33.3% on his three-point attempts.
Perhaps the most impressive part about the wins over the Rockets and Thunder was the Warriors pulled them off without Kevin Durant.
The reigning NBA Finals MVP has missed the last two games with an ankle injury, so the Warriors have managed to beat two Western Conference rivals thanks to the Splash Brothers and a resurgent defense.
It remains to be seen if the Warriors are truly better without Durant, but one thing is clear: Defense needs to be the priority as the Warriors march towards the playoffs with a third NBA Championship in their sights.