Golden State Warriors’ defensive struggles continue in loss to LA Clippers


LOS ANGELES — Warriors coach Steve Kerr’s voice was far more hoarse than usual following Golden State’s 119-104 loss to the LA Clippers on Monday night.

“I was doing a lot of yelling,” Kerr said. For a brief second, a half-grin spread across his face. But it quickly disappeared as he continued to talk about his teams’ performance at Arena, specifically the defense.

“The main thing is that our defense has been bad,” Kerr said. “It’s been bad for six or seven games now. It’s hard to win in this league when you’re looking like we are, defensively, with so many holes in our games.”

“I know we are No. 1 in defense,” he continued, using air quotes. “But we’re not right now. Those numbers are inflated by what we did earlier in the season. Over the last seven games, we are probably bottom five, if not dead last in defensive rating.”

Over the last seven games, the Warriors have allowed 113.3 points per game, their worst over a seven-game span this season. In February, the Warriors rank 22nd in defensive efficiency. Before, they were first, allowing just 102.9. points per 100 possessions.

Against the Clippers, their defense in the paint was a big issue. And Kerr knew it was going to be a problem heading into the night.

In his pregame news conference, Kerr said that Golden State’s defensive shell had been leaking everywhere, allowing too many backdoors and rebounds. It’s exactly what occurred against Los Angeles.

“They went right around us,” Kerr said. “Point of attack defense was the main issue tonight, but it’s been something different every night. And that’s what I was saying before: when you can’t count on the connection defensively and the competitiveness and the fire, every night is going to be a little different depending on what talent you’re going against.”

The Warriors’ issues each night may differ depending on their opponent — Kerr listed box-outs, back cuts and transition defense as three of the main problems — but a theme throughout the past few weeks has been points in the paint.

In the month of February, opponents are averaging 51.7 points in the paint against the Warriors which ranks 23rd in the NBA. Before this month, the Warriors ranked fourth in this category.

This is directly correlated to the fact that the Warriors have the third-worst drive defense, allowing 1.15 points per direct play, per Second Spectrum tracking.

Against the Clippers, they allowed 1.53 points per direct play on drives, their second-worst in any game under Kerr. Their only worse game in this statistic happened in 2019, also against the Clippers.

It led to the Clippers scoring 54 points in the paint.

“They hit a lot of shots early and it’s because they felt very comfortable and we didn’t make them feel us at all to start the game,” Stephen Curry said. “No matter how hot we got for certain parts of the game, they took it to us. It’s not a good feeling to never get any momentum or even three stops in a row. The floodgates were open all night for them.”

Of course, a lot of the Warriors’ defensive slump can be traced to the absence of Draymond Green, who has been out since Jan. 9 with left L5-S1 disc injury in his back.

But with no clear timetable for Green’s returns — though he hopes to be back a few weeks after the All-Star break — the Warriors are prioritizing ways to get their defense back on track without depending on Green.

The question is whether that is a realistic goal for themselves.

“[Draymond] is one of the best defenders in the league, so not having him out there is always going to be something we are missing,” said Kevon Looney, the Warriors’ only true big at the moment. “Not tonight, but in other games, we have shown in stretches that we can be a really good defensive team without him. Tonight, from the jump, we let them be comfortable.”

Any improvement Golden State will see on the defensive end, the team says, starts with each player holding themselves accountable for their role in their five-man defensive plan.

From there, it’s about a sustained effort.

With only one game left before the All-Star break, the Warriors won’t have much time to get back on track before a week off. Maybe that’s what they need? But either way, when they come back, they know they’ll need a new mentality.

“It’s up to us,” Kerr said. “We’re going to have to find the effort, the communication, connection, to get back to doing the things we were doing before.”

Source : ESPN