SAN FRANCISCO — Let’s first flash again a few weeks. The Warriors confronted the Clippers in Los Angeles the final recreation earlier than the All-Star break. That’s the night time they gave up 134 factors and Steve Kerr and Draymond Green ripped their collective defensive effort for the whole season.
Here’s a late third-quarter glimpse. Bones Hyland, the Clippers’ new slippery scorer, had Ty Jerome in an isolation setting. The Warriors’ largest defensive subject has been on the level of assault. They’ve been getting blown previous a lot of the season. Hyland zips proper by Jerome and glides in for a layup earlier than JaMychal Green can rotate over in assist.
Fast ahead to Thursday night time. Jerome continues to be at a drawback when making an attempt to comprise Hyland in area. Nothing between the 2 has modified.
But watch this early fourth-quarter possession. Hyland is working in opposition to Jerome on the precise wing. He seems to have a step on him with a lefty dribble. But Hyland abruptly stops his drive. The defensive scheme has modified. Draymond Green is sitting behind the play, instantly within the paint, ready in Hyland’s direct path.
That forces Hyland to cease and cross it over to Russell Westbrook, who Green is ignoring. Westbrook misses a 3. The Clippers get an offensive rebound. Westbrook misses one other 3.
On the Clippers entrance, this outcome — a 115-91 dominant Warriors win — ought to solely amp up the priority degree in regards to the option to signal Westbrook. He was the point of interest of Golden State’s defensive technique. They had Green drop off him deep into the paint, play free security and beg Westbrook to beat them with jumpers. He couldn’t.
On the Warriors’ entrance, that is the newest in an encouraging string of defensive performances. During this four-game win streak with out Steph Curry or Andrew Wiggins, they’ve held the Rockets, Timberwolves, Blazers and Clippers to 101, 104, 105 and 91 factors, a stingy defensive ranking of 100.0, simply the most effective within the league throughout this mini stretch.
That consists of two straight video games of unique recreation planning and centered execution. Against the Blazers, they blitzed Damian Lillard on excessive screens and even deployed a box-and-1. Against the Clippers, they not solely sagged off Westbrook but additionally navigated nicely throughout the different areas of emphasis.
“It wasn’t just sagging off of Russ,” Green mentioned. “Everyone was locked in on their coverage. If there was a top lock with Paul George, Donte (DiVincenzo) was in the top lock. Klay (Thompson) was all over Kawhi (Leonard). (Jonathan Kuminga) came in and he was all over both when he guarded each of those guys. It was a total team effort.”
This possession is an ideal instance. Westbrook is bringing the ball up the court docket. Green is dropped method again into the paint. Kevon Looney, guarding Mason Plumlee, one other non-shooting menace, can also be in succesful assist place behind the play.
That permits DiVincenzo to top-lock Paul George, taking away his path to the perimeter with out concern of getting beat on a cross excessive. Westbrook nonetheless tries it and throws the ball into the gang.
The Warriors additionally peppered in some zone protection that was efficient and switched up the Westbrook project. Thompson is his nearest defender on this specific possession. He stays indifferent and finds himself a rebound.
This is considered one of Thompson’s 11 rebounds, the primary time since 2017 he’s had double-digit rebounds in a recreation. Eleven is his regular-season profession excessive. But he was fast to level out after the sport that he had 14 in a playoff recreation in opposition to the Spurs in 2013. Rebounding has been an added emphasis of Thompson’s exiting the deadline. It’s one other instance of an more and more centered Warriors workforce that’s now three video games over .500 for the primary time this season.
But a lot of Thursday’s recreation plan was Green-related. While watching tape on Green’s charged-up defensive efficiency in opposition to the Blazers, Kerr texted Green to let him know of the Westbrook-related recreation plan that they had been deploying in opposition to the Clippers.
“We went through it this morning at shootaround to try to get everyone to grasp the concept,” Green mentioned. “It’s very easy when a guy is sagging off and (the open guy) catches it, it’s easy to rotate to him. We didn’t want to do that.”
“Draymond, as a center fielder, is, I think, best in the league,” Kerr mentioned. “I mean, nobody can kind of muck up the lane like he can and just read what’s happening, help everywhere needs to help, and then come in and rebound.”
Here is a first-quarter possession. Leonard makes use of a excessive display screen to get previous Thompson. Looney picks him up, however Green is looming. That lures Kawhi into passing to an open Westbrook within the nook as an alternative of taking pictures the contested layup. Westbrook misses. Green rebounds.
The win moved the Warriors into sole possession of the fifth seed. They’re a recreation up on the Clippers and Mavericks. They get the Pelicans on Friday night time with an opportunity to finish a 5-0 homestand earlier than Curry is more likely to rejoin the lineup Sunday on the Lakers. This is the excessive level of the season and it’s being carried out due to an elevated degree of focus, effort and recreation planning on the defensive finish.
“We’re starting to get some momentum,” Kerr mentioned.
(Photo of Jordan Poole celebrating in entrance of the Warriors bench Thursday: Kelley L Cox / USA Today)