On Monday night in Los Angeles, the Golden State Warriors were up against the Clippers as the only game in the market that really mattered.
In order to stay in the hunt for the No 1 seed in the Western Conference, they had to win this game and do it without much effort and/or weariness from their players. So that’s exactly what they did.
All season long, the champs have shown that they’re incredibly boring on offense, and much of their defensive efforts come from when they don’t actually have to defend anybody. The defense comes when they have to guard Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. With no resistance, they’re able to shoot whenever they want. At the NBA Trade Deadline, they took steps to alter the dynamic of their defense and find help, acquiring JaVale McGee, replacing Shaun Livingston, and adding David West. They are forcing people to choose whether to defend them or chase around KD and Steph.
With this tweak, the Warriors were able to find their first answer to the most remarkable aspect of the nightly Clippers’ attack: their ability to shoot, from beyond three points, a lot. There are teams that can make shots from deep off the dribble, but no team can shoot the most outside shots in the league. When the Cavaliers made the Finals and Steph Curry looked like he was mimicking Magic Johnson in his prime, the league did not pay attention and praised their shot-making, but it wasn’t that big of a deal. Curry is a great closer, as his MVP season last year proved, but it’s the rest of the team that needs to win, and that’s where they needed help.
Los Angeles’ star power, over the years, is probably one of the strongest reasons the Clippers are always contenders. The presence of players such as Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and now Chris Paul, Jr. has given them the shot-making ability the Warriors lack. Once they acquire a player that is capable of defending the best of them, like Thompson, they can now mold him into that role, creating a greater synergy between offense and defense. As a leader in the offseason, including the best player in the world, KD, Warrior coach Steve Kerr wanted to leave no stone unturned to recruit the best players possible to help out the team, and the addition of McGee and West did exactly that. McGee adds a different look to the defense, giving them a more athletic and athletic interior defender. West is a smart defender, with not only great instincts to guard small forwards but in addition he is also a huge presence in the middle, which gives Golden State’s big men a breather to play in the post. West is the perfect person to be back in the corner for the Warriors. He is an expert shooter, who will add so much value to the Warriors’ offensive weaponry.
The other piece they acquired was KD. While he won’t take away their best one-on-one player (Steph, Klay, etc), he’ll take away some of the load on their most potent offensive threat. When having to play defense, the Warriors are often forced to matchup KD against his greatest competition, and players like a Pera or a Dirk – they are the dogs of the game, and KD takes on the responsibility. But now he can match up against Griffin, with a guy like Tristan Thompson – who isn’t as talented at grabbing every rebound, but can switch off on him – only to present a different challenge.
With the additions of McGee and West, and the addition of Durant, the Warriors are uniquely constructed for offense. With the passing of the season by Draymond Green, the poor defense of the Bulls, the injury of the Nuggets, and some other trades, it’s finally a week before the end of the regular season. It’s only March 3, but without the distraction of All-Star weekend, the Warriors have more control over their own destiny than ever.