The Golden State Warriors wasted no time in imposing their defensive will on their game against the Sacramento Kings yesterday.
On the first defensive possession of the game they forced the Kings into a 24 second violation. less than three minutes later an 8-second violation, and later in the first quarter a 5 second violation. They ultimately finished the game forcing the Kings into 24 total turnovers en route to an 80-61 win.
Warriors guard Kent Bazemore credited the defensive emphasis of summer league coach Darren Erman for the team's defensive intensity.
"It's definitely Darren Erman man," said Bazemore, who finished the game with 15 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists. "You know, he has this stuff down to a T. He's a defensive guru - he's great defensively. So that's what we work on: for the first 30-45 minutes of practice we'll work on shell drill. We're running other teams' prime plays and getting into certain spots and making sure they can't have fluid offense."
Individually, Bazemore got plenty of attention for his role in holding 2013 lottery pick Ben McLemore to 14 points on 4-for-12 shooting along with 4 turnovers and no assists. But when asked about his strategy for defending the rookie, Bazemore went back to basic team concepts.
"One thing you don't want to do at this level is start thinking, 'Oh, I got to push him left,'" Bazemore said when asked about whether they were trying to force McLemore to his weak side. "These guys are way too good and way too smart for that. If he knows I want to push him left, he's going to go right. It's just things you've got to do. Play solid defense, if he's on the right side of the floor on the ball, push him down. Simple things like that."
And the consistently strong team defense was what stood out, almost more than Bazemore's effort, if only because we've come to expect the latter rather quickly whereas the former has eluded the franchise for decades now. Although the Warriors did get a strong defensive effort from Bazemore, their team defense was even more impressive regardless of who had the ball.
They made it difficult - or as difficult as one could reasonable expect in a summer league setting - for the Kings to get into the paint with a help side defender always cutting off driving lanes and a weakside defender making it hard to set up a teammate. They rotated as a unit, although occasionally over-committing and leaving themselves vulnerable to breakdowns, to force the Kings into difficult decisions. And without an experienced ball handler on the floor, the Kings struggled to breakdown the Warriors' defense consistently.
Of course, the Warriors weren't exactly an offensive juggernaut either - they shot just 38.5% from the field and 4-for-18 from 3-point range with Bazemore, Ian Clark (14 points), and Draymond Green (game-high 18 points) doing the bulk of the scoring. But the defensive emphasis the Warriors have shown thus far is perhaps as big a takeaway for what to expect from this coaching staff without Mike Malone as it is about any individual player: if Erman is truly the defensive guru that Bazemore touts him as and the Warriors' early summer league results show, they have a good shot to continue making defensive strides moving forward.
- I commented a number of times during Bazemore's games with the Santa Cruz Warriors that it looked like he was settling for jumpshots too often. One of the most noticeable improvements in his game offensively this summer is that he has been much more aggressive in attacking the basket this year in summer league. When asked about that after the game, Bazmore told me and SB Nation's Mike Prada after the game that a large part of that is due to film work and learning to read defenses more effectively.
- Ian Clark definitely stood out as someone beginning to find his groove. He's a decisive scorer who knows how to get his shot with one or two dribbles and he gets his feet set very quickly off the catch. For a stretch during the third quarter, they had Clark running point guard along with Bazemore and Green for a combination that moved the ball quite well.
- James Southerland made an impression although he only hit one shot. The combination of his size (6-foot-8) and high release from beyond the arc makes him a potentially dangerous 3-point shooter. He only played 11 minutes yesterday.
- Scott Machado has excellent court vision and has a knack for finding gaps in the defense to get himself in the paint, but his shooting woes continued as he was only 1-for-4 for the game and 0-for-3 from the 3-point line.
For more on summer league thus far, visit our Warriors Summer League 2013 section.