Warriors recent defensive struggles blip or trend?

Spears: Warriors have 'zero' chance to win championship

Warriors recent defensive struggles blip or trend?
February 7, 2013, 7:15 pm
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The Warriors are allowing 100.7 points per game, tied for the sixth worst in the NBA. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

That’s what Warriors’ fans are trying to figure out right now.

Are the past two Warriors’ games – ones in which they’ve given up a combined 259 points – a temporary issue or rather are they a sign of something more troubling?

Unfortunately, we don’t have an answer at this point.

Surprisingly, defense has been a strength of the team this year. Coach Mark Jackson has succeeded in turning this group of mostly average to below-average individual defenders into a solid unit that knows how to play team defense.

And when the Warriors aren’t doing it that way … well, they’re playing zone, which has worked quite well for them, too.

So, what happened in the past two games – a 140-109 loss to the Houston Rockets and a 119-98 loss to Oklahoma City?

Well, there were several things that happened. In Houston, the Warriors ran into a Rockets’ team that buried 3-pointer after 3-pointer.

Some nights that’s going to happen. But the Warriors sabotaged themselves with poor perimeter defense, particularly from their guards, allowing penetration and subsequent kick-outs.

It was much of the same on Wednesday night against the Thunder. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Martin hurt the Warriors as perimeter players and then the Thunder’s big men controlled the interior – both offensively and defensively.

One of the strategies the Warriors have used this year to be successful is to coax opponents into taking perimeter shots because of their defense – which resembles a shell.

The Warriors don’t exactly hound on the perimeter, instead sloughing off and allowing more room outside the key area. So, against Houston it’s easy to see how that would be a problem.

As for the Thunder’s Westbrook, well, he’s tough to keep out of the lane no matter what defense you’re playing. Still, the Warriors did a much better job against Westbrook in a win a couple of weeks ago in Oakland than they did on Wednesday.

The high-scoring numbers were partly a function of playing two high-scoring teams, to be fair. The Rockets and Thunder can both get up and down and the Warriors don’t mind one bit playing uptempo basketball.

But anyone who watched both games knows the Warriors’ defense wasn’t where it’s been most of this season. And they’ve defended well, for the most part, even without Bogut in their lineup.

It’s possible that the team in general – and particularly Curry, Thompson and David Lee – is a touch fatigued. After all, Curry, Thompson and Lee have all played big minutes, and much of the rest of the team is young and hasn’t played this kind of full NBA season.

Perhaps we’re seeing a little bit of the Warriors hitting the wall here.

If that’s the case, not to worry. The All-Star break will be here in less than a week and the Warriors will get a six-day breather. But if the problems run deeper than that then the Warriors are going to have to figure out what they are and address them.

Blip or trend? Impossible to tell right now. But we might know more after Friday’s game against Memphis.

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