Golden State finished the regular season 73-9, the best record in NBA history. The Warriors’ 10.8 point differential was the best in the league and the sixth-best point differential of all time. For the second season in a row, Golden State finished in the top five in offensive and defensive efficiency, and the team became the first in NBA history to make more than 1,000 3-pointers in a season.
So, can the Warriors be stopped?
The Vertical spoke to an NBA head coach, an assistant coach and an advanced scout and solicited their thoughts on how to beat the Warriors.
Scout: I don’t think you waste your time trying to devise ways to stop Steph [Curry]. You need to spend your time taking Klay [Thompson] away. You can’t take Steph away; he has the ball in his hands too much. Klay, limit his looks. He hurts your feelings when he starts making 3-point shots. It takes away all the energy you had before. You have to put someone on Klay at half court and don’t let him dribble in to open shots. Spend your time on him and he is going to get lost in the shuffle.
Head coach: You have to be disciplined defending Steph and Klay. Every pick-and-roll with them, we told our guards to get into the body and over the screen. Our big guys have to think, “I’m up” the floor; guards “into and over” [screens]. Big guys have to be up [toward the free-throw line defending]. Every time you play down, in the paint, they make you pay. You go under screens, you’re dead. Steph is just as effective when he gives the ball up. He runs off screens, gets an inch of airspace, and you’re dead. Him and Klay need zero air space.
Assistant coach: To beat them you have to have a point guard that Steph has to defend and is constantly attacking him. If you can run a lot of pick-and-rolls, and put him in pick-and-rolls, in a seven-game series, it could really wear him down. You can’t have a two guard they can throw Steph on. You can’t let him take plays off on defense. San Antonio has Tony Parker, but Steve Kerr can just put Steph on Danny Green. He can take some plays off there. If you are the Clippers, if he is not covering Chris Paul, you are running JJ Redick off a ton of screens and making him work.
Head coach: That ankle injury becomes part of the game plan. You have to run him off screens. Make him run off baseline screens over and over. Hit him with legal screens. Make him change direction. Make him push off that ankle. If he is able to do it, see if he can withstand that pounding. Putting him in pick-and-rolls is fine, but the best way to make him move is off baseline screens. Triple screens. San Antonio does a lot of that.
Assistant coach: San Antonio had one of the best defensive strategies in the game they won. They didn’t give Steph any room. They crowded him and made him give up the ball. They were really aggressive in defending against the dribble.
Scout: I like to double Draymond [Green] in the post. They run so much of the offense through him in the post. If you don’t double-team him, he gets to pick a pass, and he passes to a shooter who is wide open. It sounds crazy, but he is the whole key to their half-court offense.
Head Coach: Steph is about to be the two-time MVP. But in a weird way Draymond is the MVP of their team. He does so much: scoring, rebounding and playmaking. I tell our guys, ‘He can’t have a big day.’ That applies to the rest of them, too. You can’t have that other guy, Harrison Barnes, Andre Iguodala, go off for a big night. But Draymond, he is their X-factor. He is the guy that makes them who they are. He facilitates, he scores, he rebounds. He does it all.
Assistant coach: The problem with defending Draymond is that too often you have to play differently to defend him. San Antonio can play Kawhi [Leonard] at the four, but that’s not how they like to play. Look at the two games Brooklyn played against them. Both close [losses, one in overtime on Nov. 14]. One reason was that they had Thaddeus Young. Thad was their regular four. He could match up with Draymond, and the Nets didn’t have to change the way they played.
Scout: Another thing about Draymond: You have to make him work. When you play big, he is a 6-6 four man. You have to throw it into the post. You have to throw it in at him. Make him be a 6-6 four man vs. being a guy you try to match up with. You can’t match up with him. There is no other player that is built like him. You can’t out of the blue start a small four man. You have got to play big, and you have to make him guard you.
Head coach: We felt like we could exploit them on the glass. We made it a priority to try and beat them up in the paint, get extra possessions. We got to the foul line. When they play small, they don’t have shot-blocking. You have to attack and get to the free-throw line. A byproduct of that is it slows the game down, which they don’t want.
Assistant coach: They do such a good job of switching everything. They will switch smalls on to bigs. They don’t care. They fly around and turn teams over. You have to be patient. For us, we tried to bait their switching. We tried to create the matchup we wanted in the post. It’s hard, but when you can get the switch you want, it’s effective.
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