OAKLAND, Calif. — We’ve all heard the axiom that offense wins games and defense wins championships. Although this is true, the Larry O’Brien trophy can not be taken home in November.
So until the Warriors can play consistent defense at a high level, they will have to continue to win games via their offensive firepower.
And that’s just what they did Sunday evening, posting a season high 133 points against a relatively inexperienced Phoenix Suns team.
However head coach Steve Kerr was not impressed.
“We’re trying to win a championship,” Kerr explained in his post game press conference. “You don’t do that by outscoring people. You have to get stops defensively and our guys know that.”
The Warriors’ players do in fact know this as it has been reiterated multiple times throughout the young season. But certain nights in the NBA present variables that can lead to a lack of effort.
Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green all listed the game’s early 5:00 PM start time as a contributing factor to their lack of energy in the first half. The Warriors skipped their usual mid-day shoot around which in turn led to a different pregame regime.
“When you have a flow and you’re used to a routine, it does throw a wrench into the operation,” said Durant on the team’s decision to skip their usual pregame shoot around. “But we found out a way to fight through that and we found a way to pull a win out.”
The Warriors sprinkled big defensive stops within an overwhelming offensive attack.
However these stops were far an few between for Golden State due to what Draymond Green called a lack of effort, communication and focus.
Even with all of that said, the Golden State Warriors are still the Golden State Warriors. They are a team that is capable of flipping the switch on defense, which usually leads to a back breaking possession on offense. This sequence right before the end of the third quarter is a perfect example:
It was one of those sequences that usually leaves the opposing team distraught. A raucous Oracle crowd was as loud as I’ve heard all season. But the Phoenix Suns would not go away as the Golden State Warriors defense faded in and out of the game.
It took the Warriors’ 71 second half points—which are a season high for any half—and the return of the Draymond Green - Steph Curry pick and roll to overcome the Suns.
When it came down to it, the Warriors offense could not be stopped in the fourth quarter. The Suns doubled Steph Curry on the pick and roll which lead to Draymond Green attacking the paint with a full head of steam. As the defense collapsed, Green found a wide open Klay Thompson in the corner, just like old times.
Nobody doubts this team’s ability to score the basketball. However we have yet to see them play a stretch of games with a defensive focus for 48 minutes. ESPN’s Ethan Strauss said it best after the Warriors’ win on Sunday:
When you’ve got this much firepower, defense is less a priority than a situational device. That could be a part of how this team conserves its energy over 82 games.
As I’ve stated before, defense is a mixture of effort and energy. In some games the explosive mixture of effort and energy that produces soul crushing defense will simply not be there.
But for it to be there when it matters most, like in May and June, the Warriors will have to learn from games like Sunday night. So make sure to have your popcorn ready.
- Shaun Livingston took the place of Andre Iguodala in the Warriors’ Small Ball Death Lineup down the stretch in the fourth quarter. When asked about the decision to leave Livingston in the lineup, Steve Kerr simply stated the Livingston was meshing will with the group and decided to let it ride.
- Klay Thompson scored a season high 30 points. He was asked after the game if he doubted his ability to break out of his early season slump, which he responded, “I’ve done too many great things in this league to doubt my abilities.” #AKlay37
- Kevin Durant was one point shy of joining Steph Curry and Klay Thompson with 30 points each. It would of been the first time that the Warriors had three players with at least 30 points a piece in the same game since Tim Hardaway, Chris Mullin and Mitch Richmond completed the feat in 1991.
- Although it's early, Steph Curry is on pace to make over 400 three-pointers yet again this season. Even with Durant on the squad, Steph is gonna Steph.
- The Warriors’ starters combined for 103 points, 23 assists, 24 rebounds, 5 steals and 4 blocked shots. Not too shabby.