Is the old adage of Defense Wins Championships still true in today’s NBA? Well after scoring 109 points three games in a row and only squeezing out one win, the one-time defensive juggernaut Golden State Warriors are beginning to remember how they really won three of the past four NBA titles.
“For the most part I liked the way that we played offensively,” Stephen Curry said about game three. “I don’t think that’s going to be the issue for us to win. It’s all about our defense.“
With a nod to Captain Obvious, if the Warriors give up 118 points like they did in game one in Toronto or 123 points like they did in game three at home, the likelihood of winning isn’t very high. The Warriors defensive rating in the Finals has been an unfathomable 116.2 and if that doesn’t come down dramatically, it isn’t going to matter who comes back from injury to save them.
“Any time you make it to the NBA Finals, you’re playing against another great team,” Draymond Green said. “So it’s always going to be challenging.
“We can sit and talk about the injuries until we’re blue in the face, it’s not going to change how Kevin’s calf feels or how Looney (feels).”
No one questions the Warriors ability to score, with or without the services of Kevin Durant, and even before Durant arrived on the the scene, the Warriors had built a roster that was the best on defense even as they piled up points from long range. But that was then and things have changed. This year it would be more than fair to question the Dubs defensive focus during the regular season (108.5 defensive rating) and, more importantly, in their playoff run thru the Western Conference (110.8).
“Defense wins in the playoffs, especially in The Finals,” head coach Steve Kerr acknowledged. “So we got to play better defense.”
As off right now, a Raptors defensive rating of 110.5 thru the first three games has been good enough, even if it’s up dramatically from the 102.9 they put up as they ran thru the East.
The Warriors can score points. Klay Thompson and his deadly three-point shooting will be back for game four after missing game three, but it’s his defense his team needs.
“Just being able to guard their guards out there,” Thompson explained after sitting out game three with a sore hammy. “They looked comfortable yesterday. They were playing in great rhythm. So it makes you mad. You want to get out there and stop them. I’ll try and do that tomorrow (game four).”
As a reminder, the Raptors looked pretty comfortable in game one with a healthy Thompson on the court and hoping their guards will miss open shots like Toronto did in game two really isn’t a reliable strategy. All of the Warriors need to step up their defensive effort.
“If we’re going to keep scoring 109, we got to keep them to 108 and that’s the biggest thing,” Kerr said.