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The Warriors still have the defensive switch

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The Warriors showed last playoffs they can be an elite defensive team when they put their minds to it. They should be able to do it again this postseason.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Oklahoma City Thunder Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

The Warriors are most known for their shooting and offensive talent, but their defense has been just as important to their dynastic success. They were an elite defensive team before they were contenders and have been able to continue to stifle offenses to this day.

The lynchpins are still Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala. They’re two of the most iconic defenders of the decade: Green is the defensive mastermind who can guard any position, while Iguodala is the wing stopper with impeccable defensive technique. Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant are both good defenders, though their focus can often wane. Meanwhile, Stephen Curry plays hard enough on the defensive end to overcome his short stature and slight build.

The Warriors’ supporting cast is also dependable on that end. Shaun Livingston and Kevon Looney are solid defenders with good technique and sneaky length. Even DeMarcus Cousins, whose defense has been maligned in the past and present, has been sneakily good according to the advanced stats: his defensive PIPM of +2.2 puts him thirteenth among centers in the league.

Last year, the Warriors finally fell out of the top five in defensive rating for the regular season, finishing with the eleventh best defense. However, in the playoffs, the Warriors had the best defensive rating of any team. They proved they had a switch to turn.

The chief difference? Draymond Green’s activity level skyrocketed. Everybody on the team was more focused, but Green reached another level. When he puts his mind to it, I think he’s the most valuable defender in the league: shutting down the entire Spurs roster in round, containing Anthony Davis in the next, and shadowing James Harden’s every move in the Western Conference Finals.

This year, the Warriors are the fifteenth best defense in the league. But on nights like against the Rockets on Wednesday and against the Thunder on Saturday, the Warriors show they can still be an elite defense if they want to. They were able to contain James Harden and totally shut down Russell Westbrook without Kevin Durant, one of their best defenders when locked in.

Coach Steve Kerr and assistant coach Ron Adams, who’s in charge of the defensive schemes, agree that the last two games were some of the best defense of the season. As the playoffs near, hopefully the Warriors try to establish their playoff mindsets by dialing up the intensity. When it’s engaged, the Warriors’ swarm of long, athletic, and cooperative defenders spells as much trouble for its opponents as its shooting and passing does on the other end.