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Recap #60: Golden State Warriors 106 @ Washington Wizards 102 - From a Defensive Perspective

Are these girls looking for Curry?
SB Nation: Bullets Forever

So before this game I was feeling, um... uninspired. I really wasn't feeling up to watching these same old Dubs the same old way I have so many times before, and since I knew that I couldn't change anything about the team, I figured I'd have to change the way I watch. A drinking game you ask? Actually no, but I wish I would have thought of that before the game (DANG). It would have made for a much more interesting recap. No, I decided to watch the game pretty much the opposite of how it comes naturally to me. I would focus on the Warriors defense and try not to get too excited about anything that happened on offense. Say it with me "DE-FENSE!! DE-FENSE!!"

So it's kind of a funny thing, but even though we should all be able to agree that defense is half of the game, we really don't spend much time talking about it around here. I mean, sure, it's not like we ignore it completely, but for every paragraph breaking down something on the defensive side of the ball you could probably fill volumes with talk of offensive efficiency and rebound rates. I guess it's kind of hard when we might not always understand the finer points of the teams defensive schemes, and what is expected from the players in certain situations, and we don't have many reliable metrics to measure a players contribution on that side of the ball to back up our observations.

Lately I've been increasingly bothered by the lack of effort from some of our guys to do the simple things on defense. The one thing that's been driving me nuts is that some of these guys don't put in the effort to contest shots consistently. I've seen Lee close out on a big at the elbow extended, and then when he gets there he'll let his weight sit back on his heels and extend one hand at his man's chest or waist as he shoots over him. What the heck? Stay on your toes and rise up to bother that shot a bit. It's not like he should be trying to block jumpers, but pressuring a shot makes a difference... right? It's such a simple and fundamental part of defense, so why will our guards fight around a screen and then let their arms hang at their sides while they watch the offensive player pull up.

So, I figured this would be a good place to start. Tonight I would take notes, and log who is contesting shots well, and who's not, and which shots go in. Then we can look at it and see if it tells us anything. I'll tell you something up front, it was eye opening for me.

Okay, I guess I should explain how I decided to do this real quick. Every time the Wiz would attempt a shot, I'd look at how the shot was contested and fit it into one of three categories:

  • Cleanly Contested - I tried not to be too strict here. I mean, this is the Warriors we are talking about, so I shouldn't set my expectations too high. Basically, if a defender was in decent position at the time of the shot, and was able to effectively contest the shot I'd put it in this category. This is somewhat subjective, but I tried to ask myself if I'd be happy if I was the coach.
  • Fouled while Contesting - This one should be self explanatory. If someone was contesting a shot and got called for the foul I put it here.
  • Not Well Contested - This was reserved for those who were not contesting shots at all, doing it too late to actually bother the shot, or reaching when they should have been defending the shot.

Here's how the totals broke down. Over the course of the game the Warriors cleanly contested 56 shots. Of those shots that they properly contested the Wizards made only 16. That's only 28.5% shooting when the Warriors made sure that the Wizards shooters were closely defended. That should basically tell us the obvious, that playing better defense matters.

The Warriors fouled 15 times while closely contesting shots. Without more context I don't have much more to say about this total, but I know that it's very frustrating to see the team play good defense right up until the last moment and then send the Wizards to the line. Sometimes the fouls were from over aggressiveness, or from being out of position at some point in the defensive possession, and other times they were innocent enough. Either way, these hurt because they are all shooting fouls and end with free throws for the other team. If I do this often enough I'd like to see who can consistently score in the first category while limiting these fouls.

Sadly there were 27 Wizards shots that I deemed were not well contested. Of those they made 18 or them for 66.7% shooting. Now these weren't all due to laziness, because this category also includes some fast break buckets off turnovers, and a couple offensive rebounds where nobody was in position to challenge the shot, but it was actually surprising how many of them were from late closeouts, slow switching, and guys just not putting their hands up when they were in position to.

So before I dump my notes on you to peruse let me give you a couple highlights...

  • Who contested the most shots? Udoh had 20! He actually blocked three of them. He fouled while contesting three times, and contested poorly only once all game. He was covering for everyone out there. I haven't counted them all up yet, but it looks like he was way ahead of whoever was in second place.
  • Who failed to properly contest most often? Dorell Wright with seven. To be fair, he was very active and contested well eight times.
  • Our defense relies heavily on support from the big men. This is just one game, and I'm not sure what the variation is from team to team, or from game to game, but I couldn't help but feel like our bigs were constantly having to cover up for our perimeter defenders. I know that penetration happens in the NBA when you have such quick athletic guards, but is it really normal for your perimeter defenders to be taken out of the play this often? I'm guessing no.

Here are my rough notes. Feel free to dig in and see if there is anything interesting in there.

1st Quarter

CC) Curry contests Wall - Miss
CC) Monta contests Young - Make (Young created space with his shoulder)
NC) Blatche blows by Lee, Curry - Makes layup
NC) Lee no contest Howard - Miss -> Offensive rebound and Make Blatche (Udoh)
NC) Udoh no contest Blatche - Make
CF) Curry contests Wall - Foul
NC) Ellis bad contest Young - Make
NC) Ellis bad contest Young - Make (3)
CF) Wright contests Howard - Foul
CC) Wright contests Howard - Miss
CC) Lee contests Blatche - Miss
CF) Monta contests Young - Foul
CC) Udoh contests Evans - Miss (airball)
CF) Udoh contests McGee - Foul (could have been offensive foul, hooking on dropstep)
CC) Wright help D contest Wall - Block
NC) Curry no contest Wall - Make
NC) Lee bad contest Blatche - Make + Foul
CF) Udoh contests Blatche - Foul
CC) Biedrins contests Blatche - Make
NC) Monta late contest Young - Make
CF) Biedrins help D contests Wall - Foul (bad call)
CC) Wright contests Evans - Miss
NC) Law late contest Lewis - Miss
NC) Law no contest Shakur - Miss
CC) Vlad help D contest Evans - Miss (block?)

Contested Clean - 9 (2 makes)
Contested Foul - 6
Not Contested -  9 (7 makes)

2nd Quarter

CC) Biedrins contests Crawford (help D) - Make
NC) Vlad late contest Lewis - Miss
NC) Wright no contest Howard - Make
CC) Biedrins contests Seraphin - Miss
CC) Law contests Crawford - Miss
CC) Biedrins contests Crawford (help D) - Miss
CC) Biedrins contests McGee - Make
CC) Vlad contests Blatche - Make
CC) Vlad contests Wall (rotation) - Miss
CC) Udoh contests Young (help D) - Miss
CC) Udoh contests Blatche - Miss
CF) Williams contest Howard - Foul
CC) Udoh contests Young (help D) - Miss
CC) Law contests Howard - Miss
CC) Udoh contests Wall (transition) - Miss
CC) Udoh contests Blatche - Block
CC) Lee contests Wall (help D) - Make
CF) Law contests Howard - Make + Foul
CC) Monta contests Young - Miss
CF) Vlad contests Booker - Foul (Curry)
NC) Monta late contest Young - Miss
CF) Lee/Udoh contest Yi - Foul (Lee)
CF) Vlad contests Booker - Make + Foul (Wright?)

Contested Clean - 15 (4 makes)
Contested Foul - 5
Not Contested - 3 (1 make)

3rd Quarter

CC) Lee contests Howard (switch) - Miss
NC) Offensive rebound Blatche - Make
NC) Wright late contest Howard (stuck under moving screen, good effort) - Make
CC) Lee contests McGee - Miss
NC) Wright bites on Howard pump fake - Make
CC) Udoh late, but long contest on Young after Monta blow by - Miss
CC) Udoh contests Blatch drive - Make
CC) Wright contests Howard drive - Miss
CC) Udoh contests Blatch (help D)- Block
CC) Udoh contests McGee (recovered) - Block (same possession as above)
NC) Wright no contest on Evans (stripping low) - Make
CC) Udoh contests Evans (help D) - Miss (block?)
CC) Curry contests Wall (recovering from crossover) - Make
CC) Wright contests Seraphin (help D) - Block
NC) Lee no contest on Seraphin - Miss
CC) Wright contests Evans - Miss
CF) Biedrins contests Blatche (help D after Lee blow by)- Foul
CC) Lee contests Young (help D after PnR) - Miss
CC) Curry contests Wall - Make
NC) Young breaking off turnover - Make
NC) Young on fast break off miss - Make
NC) Curry late contest on Wall - Make
CF) Monta contests Young - Foul
CC) Vlad contests Yi (help D) - Miss (Block?)
CC) Curry contests Young (helping Reggie) - Miss
CC) Wright/Vlad contest Yi - Turnover (tried to pass out of shot)

Contested Clean - 16 (3 makes)
Contested Foul - 2
Not Contested - 8 (7 makes)

4th Quarter

CC) Udoh contests Blatche - Miss
CC) Curry contests Evans - Make
CF) Udoh contests Blatche - Foul
CC) Udoh contests Shakur (fast break) - Miss
NC) Curry late contest Young (late close out)- Miss
NC) Wright no contest Shakur (late switch) - Miss
CC) Curry contests Young - Make
CC) Wright contests Evans (help D) - Miss
CC) Wright contests Booker - Make
CC) Williams contests Young - Miss
CF) Monta fouls Young on drive - Foul
NC) Williams no contest on Evans - Miss
NC) Lee reaching on Wall drive - Make + Foul
NC) Wright late contest on Young (fast break 3) - Make
NC) Curry no contest on Young (screened) - Make (3)
CC) Wright contests Young (PnR help) - Miss
CC) Udoh contests Booker - Make
CC) Udoh contests Crawford - Miss
CC) Udoh contests Crawford (from 3 on PnR switch) - Miss
CC) Udoh contests Young (help D) - Miss
CC) Udoh contests Blatche - Make
CC) Udoh contests Crawford (help D after Wright blow by) - Make
CC) Curry contests Wall - Miss
CC) Wright contests Young - Make
NC) Wright no contest, Law late contest on Young three - Miss

Contested Clean - 16 (7 makes)
Contested Foul - 2
Not Contested - 7 (3 makes)

Game Totals:

Cleanly Contested - 56 (16 makes)
Fouled while Contesting - 15
Not Contested - 27 (18 makes)

Looking at it chronologically like this again, it reminds me that you could really feel the defensive intensity pick up for those stretches in the second and third quarters when they built the lead, and again late in the game when it seemed like Udoh was defending the whole team by himself trying to save what little was left of the lead. Speaking of which...


Ekpe Udoh

Time to put my money where my mouth is and ignore Steph Curry's incredibly sexy line of 29pts on 18 shots with 5 assists and 9 rebounds, in favor of Udoh's 6pts 2reb 3blks 2tov... You know why? Because defense matters, and it's about time we started paying attention to who is really helping on that end of the floor. Great job by the rookie in his first start.