After surprising everyone in the first half of this season, the Golden State Warriors have hit a bump in the road. Just nine days ago, the Warriors sat at 30-17 and were in position for home-court advantage in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. Today, they sit at 30-21 and have dropped to the sixth seed in the Western Conference.
This is largely due to the Warriors defense of late. Over their current four-game losing streak, Golden State has allowed 118.5 points per game, including allowing the Houston Rockets to tie the NBA-record for made three-pointers in a game with 23, as well as let them score 140 points.
Even with averaging the seventh most points per game at 100.9 and having the 10th highest team field goal percentage in the Association, it’s hard to win games when you allow 118.5 points.
The interesting thing is that the Warriors’ defense has secretly been an issue for them all year.
Golden State allows the same amount of points per game to opponents as they score at 100.9. That’s the 24th ranked opposing points per game defense in the NBA. They only allow their opponents to shoot 43.9 percent, which is sixth best in the league, but they allow their opponents to shoot 85.2 field goal attempts per game, the fourth highest number this year. So even if their opponents aren’t making many of their shots, they’re still able to score well because of the high number of shot attempts they allow.
The pace that the Warriors play allows for opposing teams to have more chances to score, which essentially leaves them at a place where they are just trying to outscore in their opponents. In the context of the NBA, that’s not exactly a proven formula for success.
It’s honestly surprising that this issue hasn’t bitten them before now. Sure, head coach Mark Jackson has instituted a more sound defensive scheme and culture in Golden State, but players like David Lee, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson aren’t going to be great defenders no matter what happens. That’s just not how they play basketball.
One of their biggest issues defensively, as well as one that was exploited in that Rockets game, is their ability to defend the three-point shot. They allow their opponents to make 8.1 threes per game, tied for the third most in the NBA. Allowing teams to make that many threes shows that they struggle with denying outside shooters the ball and with closing out on shooters set-up on the outside.
We’ll see on Tuesday if they’ve made any adjustments in that regard on Tuesday when they play the Rockets once again. If they aren’t able to stop Houston’s perimeter scoring, they could be in for another beat-down, even though they probably won’t be able to put up 140 again.
Beyond that game, the Warriors have to figure out a way to tighten up their defensive game, even with the subpar defenders they have on their roster. If they aren’t able to, their newfound success may be short-lived.