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The Warriors' improved defense is limiting opponents to 42.5 percent shooting through the first three games of the season.
We are going to be a defensive-minded basketball team first and foremost. Were going to get after it, were going to hold each other accountable and were going to play to our strengths.
Those words were spoken by Mark Jackson more than six months ago at a San Francisco hotel. At the time, nobody had really expected the Warriors of all teams to be a good defensive team when the season began. After all, Jackson had no prior coaching experience, he wasnt known as a standout defender during his 17-year NBA playing career and he was taking over a team that was popularly known to be the exact opposite of shutdown defensive squad. Jackson made that statement upon his introduction as the new Warriors head coach, and many simply assumed that those words would ring hollow in a matter of months.
Fast forward to today and the Warriors are winning games with their defense. Case in point, Wednesday nights game against the Knicks. New York is generally thought to be a high-powered offensive machine spearheaded by perennial All-Stars Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, but the two superstars combined to shoot 8-for-27 in Golden States 92-78 victory. The Warriors held New York to 40.0 percent shooting for the game and a paltry 26.3 percent in the fourth quarter.
This is going to be strange to hear, but we are a defensive team, Jackson said after Wednesdays win. For the first time since I can remember, the defense has given (the Warriors) a chance to win a ball game. The way we defended in the first half put us into position to win the game in the second half.
Coach Jackson recently discussed the new teams new mindset and how everyone will be held to a higher standard with NBA TVs Ahmad Rashad. Watch that interview below:
The Warriors had similar success against the Bulls on Monday night. Playing on the back end of a back-to-back, Golden State played an attack-style type of defense that featured several different schemes and extra defenders assigned to all-world point guard Derrick Rose. The strategy appeared to have worked, as the reigning NBA MVP finished the night 4-for-17 from the field, Chicago shot 41.5 percent as a team and the Warriors tallied 16 steals.
Since training camp began earlier this month, the Warriors have acquired Kwame Brown, Dominic McGuire and Brandon Rush, all players with refutable reputations as strong defenders, but the sudden improvement in defensive performance cant entirely be contributed to them. Rather, its a team-wide commitment to defense and shift in attitude.
I think everybody is buying into what Coach Jackson is talking about and giving a lot of effort in the defensive end, Rush said. We are getting big stops and getting out running like we do.
Last season, the Warriors were 20th in the NBA in opponents field goal percentage (.467) and 27th in points allowed (105.7 ppg). Now it looks as if they will improve dramatically in those departments. Through three games this season, the Warriors have yet to allow an opponent to shoot better than 46 percent and they have allowed more than 25 points in a quarter just three times.
Granted, its just the first week of the season, the Warriors have not yet played on the road and there are still 63 games left to be played. But still, it cant be ignored that the Warriors have won a pair of games with their defense. In fact, they have yet to crack the 100-point barrier this season, but still have a 2-1 record. Last year, it took the Warriors 32 games before they had a pair of wins in that fashion. And its not like the Warriors are doing it against inferior opponents, either. The Knicks and Bulls were playoff teams last year and are expected to be contenders once again in the Eastern Conference.
The Warriors have lived up to Coach Jacksons bold promise so far, now the next step is to sustain that defensive focus on a nightly basis as the season unfolds.
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