The Warriors are good, we know that. Real good, in fact. When they’re at their best they make winning look effortless, and when they’re playing uptempo sometimes they look unbeatable. They’ve been the most dominant team in the league and they’ve only lost 10 games this season. On Tuesday, the Warriors handled the Wizards in Washington 114-107.
If you’re going to beat the Warriors in a game, let alone a seven-game series, you’re going to have to do a lot of things right. And even then, it might not be enough.
Nevertheless, here are 10 pieces of advice if you want to beat the Golden State Warriors. Keep in mind, you might be able to do all these things and still get beat.
- No corner 3s for Harrison Barnes or Andre Iguodala. Barnes is shooting 70 percent from right-corner 3-pointers and it’s not like he’s awful from the other side, either. If Barnes is below foul-line-extended and behind the arc, do not leave him under any circumstance. As for Iguodala, his 3-point shot is erratic, but he’s got the best chance of making one when he sits tight in one of the corners, awaiting a Draymond Green pass of a high screen-and-roll. Best to make Green make a two-point play — or interior pass — on that kind of play.
- Never double-team a player over 6-foot-7. This is common sense, people … and coaches. What would you rather live with: Andrew Bogut, David Lee (struggling), Green or Barnes trying to score with their back to the basket or Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson taking lots of 3s? The only two players you double-team on the Warriors are Curry, when blitzing to take the ball out of his hands, or Thompson, when he’s posting up a smaller player.
- Flood, don’t sink. This concept goes against every defensive instinct in basketball, but it may be the next step in the game’s evolution. For years, defensive players have been taught to collapse into the lane to help on a penetrator. If you’re playing the Warriors, don’t do that. Or try not to do that. Rather than sink in, instead stay mostly attached to the shooters beyond the arc. In other words, live with two-pointers and finishes over bigs in the lane; but don’t give up kickout 3s.
- Stop the pitch-ahead. The Warriors are tremendous at taking the ball out of the net after makes and getting it into the frontcourt in just the snap of a finger. Often, they’ll get it upcourt so quickly that they’ll either get an easy basket or an open-court, isolation situation with one of their wing players. Even if the Warriors don’t get a quick, easy score, they’ve still advanced the ball into the frontcourt fast enough that they’ll have more time to run their passing-game offense. The Hawks did a nice job of slowing this up earlier in the year, and I wrote about it. Here it is: https://matthewsteinmetz.wordpress.com/2015/02/07/hawks-countered-warriors-pitch-ahead/
- Stop that inbounds play. You know the one, where Curry is inbounding under the Warriors basket, and he catches a defender on the weak side of the floor napping. The result is a wide-open corner 3 pointer from that guy’s man. Against Washington, they ran something similar, but not quite the same, and it yielded a Barnes layup. If you don’t know the play I’m talking about, congratulations, you can be an NBA scout, too. They, apparently don’t know the play, either.
- Don’t challenge Bogut. If you’re a guard, don’t challenge Bogut at the rim. Period. How many times this season has an opposing guard gotten into the lane and thought he had a nice finish at the rim coming – only to have Bogut alter or reject the shot. The fact that Bogut stopped a score is only half the story. The other half is that the Warriors are likely going to score at the other end, and it may even be in exciting fashion. Why? Because chances are the penetrator is out of the play after failing to score and the Warriors have numbers going the other way. Fun times.
- Stay on Curry’s right hand on right side of floor. This is easier said than done, though I haven’t seen a lot of teams really even try it. When Curry is on the right side of the floor, you must keep him on the right side of the floor as much as possible. By doing that, you limit his offensive options compared to when he gets back to his left hand. You want to push Curry right, steering him in the direction of a pull-up jumper (two-pointer) or throw back over his head. As wonderful as Curry is handling the ball, he seems more comfortable making plays going left rather than right.
- Limit the Warriors’ fastbreak. This sounds simple and yet the Warriors get run-outs time and time again. The reason is because they’re more athletic than most teams and can get up the floor faster. They also have multiple ballhandlers and passers so secondary options off fastbreaks are more than fair game. But teams have to begin making a conscientious effort, either one way or the other. Teams must either get four players back after every taken shot, or teams must crash the boards with reckless abandon with the hope of making Golden State pay with second shots. The Celtics of the 1980s often had to make this kind of decision against the “Showtime” Lakers.
- Limit Curry and Thompson’s catch-and-shoot opportunities. You’re not going to prevent Curry and Thompson from taking 3-pointers. The Warriors’ offense is too crisp and executes too well to shut that down. But what teams can try to do is push up on Curry and Thompson beyond the arc, forcing them to put the ball on the floor before all else. Can Curry and Thompson score off the dribble? You know it. But not quite as well. Also, every time Curry and Thompson dribble the ball, it means the ball is not hopping around the perimeter or going side to side.
- Consider “Hack-An-Iggy” or “Hack a Bogut.” We’re not saying make this a central part of your defensive strategy, but just keep an open mind. The Warriors can score in a hurry and they can get you spinning before you even know it. It’s always nice to know you’ve got a sure-fire option that will guarantee two things: The Warriors won’t score 3 points, and the game will slow down. This might happen soon: http://bit.ly/1LrR7En
- Bonus. Get physical. With the exception of one harmless Trevor Ariza semi-hip check on Curry, the Warriors haven’t really been tested with physicality. Curry and Thompson have been playing a lot of basketball, considering their Team USA experience. It seems only a matter of time before those two might start feeling a little more contact.