Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: The Tale of the Golden State Warriors’ Defense
When the Golden State Warriors brought in Mark Jackson to be their head coach, Jackson promised a new commitment to defense, a foreign concept to the offensive-minded Warriors. Last season, Golden State struggled to adjust to Jackson’s system and suffered a bevy of injuries.
This year, though, the Warriors have been a much improved defensive team, which has led to their 38-30 record. However, to say that the Warriors have been consistent on defense this season would be far from the truth.
In the 2011-2012 NBA season, the Warriors allowed 101.2 points per game and allowed opponents to shoot 45.3 percent from the field and 36.5 percent from beyond-the-arc. This season, though, they’ve held opponents to 100.6 points per game and stifled opponents’ shooting efficiency to just 43.9 percent from the floor and 34.4 percent from three. They’ve made obvious improvements on that end of the floor.
Looking at the win-loss splits of the Warriors, though, it becomes clear that they haven’t been able to consistently hold teams to that level of production. In their 38 wins this season, the Warriors have held opponents to just 95 points per game and have forced them to shoot 41.9 percent from the field and 31.2 percent from long-range. That’s absolutely superb defense being played in those games.
What is not superb defense is the defense that Golden State has played in the games that they’ve lost this season. In those 30 games, the Warriors have allowed 107.7 points per game and let their opponents shoot 46.3 percent from the field and 38.3 percent from three-point range. That’s not going to win a team many basketball games, if any at all.
The Warriors seem to flip-flop on their commitment to defense. One night, they’ll show up and they’ll look engaged on that end of the floor and it shows. When they play that way defensively, it usually leads to success. Conversely, there are nights when Golden State looks like they can’t wait to take the next shot while they’re on defense, which causes them to lose focus and give up a ton of points.
As the NBA Playoffs near for the Golden State Warriors, they need to maintain a strong commitment on the defensive end of the floor. They are a fantastic offensive team, but that’s not going to matter if they allow their opponents to play even better offense. Jackson has changed this team’s defensive mindset, but there’s definitely still work to do.