SAN FRANCISCO – Crime for the show. Protection for the test!
Scoring is sold in the NBA. It attracts fans. It fills the arenas. It feeds the ratings that led to multimillion-dollar broadcast contracts and pays the players’ salaries.
While the offense brings the most glory, it is the defense that brings home the gold. It’s the hustle and bustle that turns games around and gives you the opportunity to win out of nowhere.
It’s also how the Golden State Warriors have been able to make their money lately.
For the second game in a row, the Dubs were able to survive and outlast their opponent, defeating the Utah Jazz 94–92 Sunday night at the Chase Center.
Utah (30-17) leads the league in second-half points with 59.4 points per game. The Warriors missed 38 shots. Utah leads the league in three-pointers (14.7 per game) at 36.2 percent. The Warriors allowed 11 triples on 31.4 percent shooting, 29th in the league. In total, the Jazz are gaining 47.2 points, third in the league. Against the Warriors, the Jazz shot 38.3 percent.
On a night when Stephen Curry struggled with his shot again — he was 5 of 20, including 1 of 13 of three — and the Warriors scored just 11 points in the fourth quarter, it was the clamps that made them the winners. The Warriors did it without Draymond Green, their defensive quarterback, who won for the fifth time in nine games without him.
“A huge win, especially since we were able to rely on our defense,” said Jordan Poole, who started in place of Clay Thompson (bad knee) and took the lead with 20 points. “We know how talented we are in terms of scoring, but when it comes down to it, we have been able to make a lot of stops. It just shows who we are as a team and tonight it paid off.”
Damion Lee gave the Warriors 12 points off the bench (4 triples on six attempts), but also cited the defense.
“Obviously one of the things we’re trying to hang our hats on is a really strong defensive team,” Lee said. “We had a great defensive unit, the guys were flying around, switching and understanding who their hot guys were. Trying to stay in that mode really helped us today.”
In the nine games since Green was out, the Warriors have conceded 100 or more points five times. In four of those cases, they allowed more than 115.
“I think our defensive intensity has been off a bit over the last couple of weeks.” Otto Porter Jr. said. “We are gradually coming back to it, we had to go back to the drawing boards to understand what we need to do. (Assistant coach) Mike Brown preaches pressure on the ball, and today we really tried to focus on that – more possession of the ball, dictating what to do. I think it had a big impact on our defense.”
Kevon Looney’s pressure on the ball was especially important. He played straight one-on-one, switching to Bojan Bogdanovic on several possessions and forcing him to make some difficult, controversial shots. Without Greene, Looney becomes the heart and soul of the defense.
“He has a huge impact both offensively and defensively,” Poole said of Looney. “He knows crime like no one else. We play through it so much. His energy, his influence, his fitness and game IQ help us a lot. It’s a big difference when he’s there on the floor. Huge, huge, huge credit to him. We wouldn’t be where we are without him.”
Interceptions by Gary Payton II in a row in the third quarter resulted in an easy crossover basket.
“Our defense turns into offense a lot,” Porter Jr. said. “We start from our defense. We get theft; we get out in the transition. It just makes the game a lot easier for us.”
The Warriors have the best defense in the league with a 102.6 rating. They lead the league in defensive rebounding at 36.4 per game.
“These are the schemes that we have,” Lee said. “Mike Brown is a great defensive coach. The schemes that we have, the understanding of the staff, an attempt to fixate. Sometimes we don’t have the fittest guys on the court, but a great team defense for awareness and we just lock down our defensive keys. ”
The Warriors’ defensiveness paid off in close wins over Houston and Utah in their last two games. That same fuss and intensity will be the key to finding championship gold.