Last night's game against the Toronto Raptors was not the Golden State Warriors finest defensive performance. There have been better stifle jobs, especially with Andrew Bogut in the lineup and against the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Clippers. But it showed off the varied skillset of every Warriors defender and was an impressive effort regardless. The Raptors scored 105 points but that was more a product of pace than bad defense. Perhaps the scariest aspect of this defense is the tangible differences between the style of Andre Iguodala, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green; the team's best three wing defenders. (Shaun Livingston and Harrison Barnes have also been excellent, along with Justin Holiday, but unfortunately take a backseat and show the testament to this team's depth).
The Scouting Report
Klay Thompson is as smart of a defender as it gets. He follows through on nearly scouting report while having to guard players usually several inches shorter than him. On Friday night, he chased around Lou Williams and Kyle Lowry. While he fell for a couple floppy pump fakes, inevitable with those guys, he locked down Lowry just enough in the second half to slow down the Toronto offense. Williams went unconscious after an especially difficult 1-7 first half.
The Raptors have some nice movement with Jonas Valanciunas is in the game, an able passer and high-post threat. Thompson read it easily.
Lowry got him twice and it was a problem throughout but Thompson did a great job staying down here and even got a few blocks in the second half for his revenge. He's also very good at pushing guards into their weak hand and into the baseline on pick-and-roll coverage. Fighting through screens is a big part of this and Thompson excels in that aspect. We don't see much Klay on point guards action anymore but when we do, we get to see how well he knows opposing players and is in tune with the scouting report.
The name is easy. Steve Kerr aptly nicknamed Green the heartbeat of the team, and really, the most important player on defense outside of Bogut. He can switch onto guards, push out power forwards and centers, and basically wreck havoc on everyone because of his strength and quickness.
You just can't move Green. Valanciunas had a ton of easy buckets to start the game but not here and not against Green who boxed him out twice.
While Thompson is more suffocating, Green brings the flash. As usual, he's aware off the ball, probably the second-best off-the-ball defender on the team and a 7'1" wingspan doesn't hurt.
Terrence Ross tried to throw one down on Green a couple plays before this. Then Green shows off his versatility and insanely strong hands by ripping on away from Ross. You all know I'm enamored with Blake Griffin's unwillingness to try his rip-through move on Green. Not only does he have a strong base but also possesses one of the strongest pair of hands in the league.
On the TV broadcast, Rosalyn Gold-Onwude had a quick anecdote on Iguodala's defensive intelligence. Kerr had asked Stephen Curry if he wanted to guard Kyle Lowry, after Lowry had forced Thompson into several quick fouls. Curry, with just one foul, was ready but Iguodala chimed in by saying he would be up the challenge. Lowry picked up his second only a play after and had to sit out but the willingness to give himself up saves Curry's legs, and most importantly, the offensive flow.
Iguodala doesn't stick on shooting guards anymore and really just harasses forwards all game. It allows him to cheat and recover all over the court. He also works as an excellent cooler against red-hot players. He couldn't do much against Lou Williams but did try his usual off-ball deny technique. Not many players do it but Iguodala is sneaky about it, throwing off an entire offensive set with a quick deny on entry passes. When Kevin Durant kicked Harrison Barnes into the sun a couple weeks ago, Iguodala brought Durant back down to Earth for a couple minutes.
The Golden State Warriors are still an elite defense with Andrew Bogut out the last couple weeks. It's not a makeshift lineup, or gimmicky havoc-y set that's hurting teams. It's an excellent scheme built on switches and length and the superb talent of Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguodala. They all do different things on defense, but work together for the exact same result.