Links: How do we explain the Golden State Warriors' improvement on defense?

After beating the Miami Heat in dramatic fashion last night, the Golden State Warriors are in the midst of their best road trip in decades. With newfound success, the national media is forced to take notice. And even more stunning, the focus is on their defense.

For the diehards who have suffered through decades of losing, it has been evident for some time that something special is unfolding for the Golden State Warriors this season even if this early-season success brings inspires optimists as much as it triggers the pessimists accustomed to decades of disappointment.

For the casual fan, all you need to do to prove you're for real is beat the Miami Heat during a five game road win streak to prove you're for real.

Of course, that means we'll need to brace ourselves for the onslaught of bandwagon fans whose shallow excitement of the team won't quite reflect the reality we're used to. Yet the flipside is that the national media is starting to pay attention to the Warriors unlike they have previously.

That even includes our colleagues around SB Nation, who can't help but take notice of the Warriors' defensive improvements.

Tom Ziller of SBNation.com marvels at the fact that a team giving heavy minutes to Stephen Curry and David Lee is somehow doing work defensively, focusing on Lee's defensive impact in particular.

Assuming one point per shot for the opponents off of offensive rebounds, and assuming Lee's teammates wouldn't be picking up those extra rebounds (most of the returning players have static rebound rates), Lee's own defensive rebounding improvement is worth at least 1.5 points per game for the Warriors defense.

That's a big deal. That by itself -- ignoring any other defensive improvements on the team -- is the difference between the Warriors having a 1-point positive scoring margin and having a slight negative scoring margin.

Ziller has some more defensive numbers at you to explain their stunning defensive turnaround while Mike Prada of SBN offers you a frame-by-frame breakdown of what the Warriors did well defensively last night - including Draymond Green's impressive defense on LeBron James - to illustrate a significant point that Ziller made: their defensive improvement boils down to coaching and execution.

You have players giving multiple efforts to cut off all of the Heat's options. You have players helping each other and trusting that their help is only needed for a split second before the initial man gives the proper effort to recover. You have incredible attention to detail with Landry's spacing at the top of the key, Green's initial denial of the post-entry pass, Jack's raised arm to cut off a backdoor cut and Thompson's position right in James' passing lane on a potential kick-out to Allen. There aren't any special schemes here. Just good, old-fashioned team defense.

Ronaldinho of SBN Bay Area complements Ziller's examination of Lee's defensive improvement by taking note of Curry's impact on the defensive end this season as part of a larger examination of the argument that Curry is now an elite point guard.

While he still gets beaten off the dribble by quicker PGs, Curry has become excellent at playing the pick-and-roll, using his high hoops IQ to anticipate where attacking players are likely to be. He’s reaching less on defense. Instead, he’s proven adept this year at using his quick hands to abuse bigger players when he’s forced to switch on pick and rolls. Several times this season opponents have had what appeared to be a mismatch, with a big against Curry in the low post, and Curry’s quick hands have turned the tide in the Warriors favor.


"There's something happening here. And what it is ain't exactly clear..."

And since this is the Warriors' best December start since 1975, it's also worth taking a look back at Rick Barry's career in SBN's feature about his free throw shooting by Kevin Fixler.

Obviously, there are plenty of articles beyond SB Nation today that are probably worth sharing. So feel free to drop them in the comments below along with any other celebratory statements about the Warriors' rise to relevance.

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