Steph Curry, Draymond Green are the keys to the Warriors’ NBA best defense

PHOENIX – About 20 games in a season is when a team begins to establish an identity, according to Golden State coach Steve Kerr, and this year’s Warriors are no different.

“We’re obviously a defensive-minded team. Everything comes out of our defense,” Kerr said. “The team has definitely got a really good identity and has a good sense of itself.”

The Warriors’ showdown on Tuesday in Phoenix not only pits the teams with the NBA’s two best records against each other; it also has two of its top-rated defenses. Golden State’s tour de defense hits its second city after overthrowing the Clippers, the No. 2 defense in the NBA, on Sunday.

Their defensive success is what has fueled the league’s top-scoring attack. The combination of the two has allowed them to run out to the NBA’s best record and one of the best starts in franchise history, 18-2, into Tuesday.

But, as Draymond Green said recently, “half do not know what the hell they’re looking at,” when talking about defense. So let’s dissect it.

The evolution of Steph Curry

Effort has never been the issue for Curry defensively, if ever there has been one.

If anything, he used to be too overzealous in defense. He was so frequently an offender of the range that he used to arouse the anger of Green and the coaching staff so often that he eventually knew it was on its way.

“We used to harp on him, like ‘Yo, stop reaching, stop reaching,'” Green recalled. “It got to the point where he wanted to reach and be like, ‘Ah,’ as soon as he wanted to do that.”

Curry has become a champion in the passing lane, most recently exhibited with eight deflections, resulting in six steals, against the Clippers. The Warriors are top of the league in takeaways, and likewise Curry’s 1.8 per game is his most since 2017 (and is in ninth place in the NBA this season). He has also proven to be more adept this season than ever at defending opposing point guards in the absence of Klay Thompson, who would normally be tasked with carrying out this task. And do you remember the early pair of double-digit rebound games? Well, Curry has not quite repeated those efforts, but his 5.8 per game is most of his career.

All of that – in addition to a stronger frame, according to everyone, and the benefit of 12 seasons of experience – has produced the best defensive rating of his career, 96.0 on Tuesday, surpassed only by three other qualifying players (one of whom is Otto Porter Jr. ).

“He’s been great defensively all year. I hope people recognize that,” Kerr said. “Everyone is obviously stuck in his offensive brilliance, as they should be … for whatever reason he has a reputation for being a bad defender. I can not see that at all. I think he is a really good defender.”

Green has been fighting for Curry’s defense since last season, when he saw him take the leap that several observers are noticing this year. His defense is smarter than ever before without sacrificing effort, even while shining with one of the brightest stars in the game.

“When he makes the kind of effort he has made on that side of the floor, everyone else has to follow suit. It makes our defense so much better,” Green said. “You should see him in the weight room. He’s pretty strong. But you also see him put the work every day, twice a day, in the weight room.”

Green joked that Curry’s training routine can be a bit excessive. But he is not sluggish in those respects either.

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 26: Draymond Green # 23 of the Golden State Warriors reacts in the first half of the match against the Portland Trail Blazers at the Chase Center on November 26, 2021 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw / Getty Images)

Draymond Greens intense offseason

None of Green’s offseason drills go viral.

However, they are what he honors for playing his best basketball for at least three seasons.

“I’m much better off than I am,” Green said. “I feel lighter, I feel faster, I feel faster, I feel more explosive.”

Any conversation about the Warriors defense starts with the man in the middle of it. Golden State is the only team in the NBA that allows less than one point per game. possession, according to NBA.com, and surrenders the least per. match, while forcing opponents to shoot the league’s worst 41.9% off the field (and 32.1% from 3), lower than all other teams except three).

He recently sipped a smoothie after the game, saying he was once again excited about the game and discussing an improved diet, including cutting back on booze. His newfound focus on weight training has even put him in the gym after games.

This offseason, he focused on the footwork that allows the puppet master to pull on his leash.

“We work a lot on defensive sliding: the crossover step, the drop step, just different things,” Green said. “We wanted to be in the gym and do defensive slides and crossover steps that help you recover. You get beaten up and your crossover step is important. You can not keep slipping. You have to make it up. “So we do lots of it. A ton of explosive stuff. Lots of stuff working on my lateral speed. How fast can you jump after the first jump, such a few different things.”

The big surprise

The Warriors have probably always suspected that their defense would be a business card; they were fifth in the NBA last season, and tenacious defense are a few of the key elements of a successful Kerr team.

What has surprisingly also become entrenched in that identity is to clean up the glass. Twenty games into the season, the small-ball Warriors rank among the league’s best rebound team, number five in the NBA, entering on Tuesday, with 47.1 per game. match. On the defensive glass, they snatch nearly four out of every five available rebounds, the second-best rate in the NBA.

“We’ve never been a good rebound team since I’ve been here and I did not anticipate that,” Kerr said. “We do it as a team. We do not have a guy who is Dennis Rodman out there. We have five guys who box out and take the rebound lanes.”

At the heart of it is Kevon Looney, who has been a magnet ever since he got 17 boards against Minnesota. All of his four-digit performances on the boards have come in the last 10 games, a stretch where he averages a rebound every two to three minutes.

“It’s going to be like a hot streak. The ball seems to be starting to fly to you,” Looney said. “It’s something I focus on creating extra assets for our team. That’s something big for me. ”

He’s got Kerr’s approval.

“Looney plays great basketball. He is totally underrated, ”Kerr said. “He will never get the honor he deserves. Boxes out every time.”

Juan Toscano-Anderson recently passed on the same feeling to his teammate.

“I actually told Loon the other day, man, I do not think he gets the credit he deserves,” Toscano-Anderson said. “I just do not think it’s as beautiful and sexy as everyone wants it to be.… Defensively he does not get all the stats, he does not get stolen and blockages and all that, but he definitely keeps us down. He knows the system and in. … I mean, he’s consistent, he’s reliable, and what more can you ask of a guy on your team? ”

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