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How Golden State’s length suffocated the Celtics’ offense

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The Warriors have disappointed on defense for most of the year. But they came alive to pester Boston.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Boston Celtics Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The Golden State Warriors can hurt you in a variety of ways. They have the best offense in the NBA. Two MVPs, three of the best shooters ever, and a do-it-all beast in Draymond Green create matchup issues everywhere. For the last 4 years, they’ve also finished with a top 5 defensive rating. However, this season the Warriors have been spotty on that end. The loss of Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli has hurt their rim protection, and they rank a mediocre 17th in defensive rating.

Despite their struggles coming into the game, the Warriors held Boston to a miserable offensive rating of 98 points per 100 possessions, per Basketball Reference. They showed how a defense can still be dominant without traditional rim protection. The Warriors made life difficult on the perimeter by clogging up passing lanes and making timely plays on the ball.

When he wants to be, Kevin Durant is a disruptive defender. He has a massive frame and the quickness to absolutely swarm a ball handler. This play is a great example.

Durant and Pachulia pressure Bradley on the pick and roll. Bradley tries to pass out of it, but Durant tips the ball away. Curry picks it up and it’s a fast-break bucket at the other end.

KD wasn’t the only one getting involved on defense for the Warriors. Steph Curry has the most steals in the league over the last two seasons, and he showed that craftiness last night. Mere seconds after the Durant alley-oop, Curry notched another steal.

He recovers from Thomas’ push just in time to sneak back into the play and steal the pass. Naturally, he finished this off with a transition three.

The Warriors racked up 10 steals, but that doesn’t capture the full extent of their pestering defense. Per NBA.com’s hustle stats, they recorded a total of 16 deflections. This has been a strength of them all season, as they lead the NBA in deflections per game. A deflection doesn’t always result in a change of possession, but it can still hamper an opposing offense. Take this play for instance.

Durant won’t get credit for a steal here, but he still disrupts the flow of the offense. He jumps the passing lane, then battles Smart all the way to the backcourt. This took a huge chunk out of the shot clock, and effectively ruined the possession for the Celtics.

The third quarter run by the Warriors was highlighted by some huge offensive plays. But it was their defense that sparked it, and put the Celtics in a hole too big to come back from.