Warriors improved defense the cause behind recent winning streak

Warriors (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Warriors (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

The Golden State Warriors have transformed their defensive approach and that transformation has led to a Western Conference-best four-game winning streak.

The Golden State Warriors are in the midst of a four-game winning streak on the back of some pretty impressive defensive performances. And after the dreadful start to the season, that’s a statement that few thought would be said this season.

In all honesty, I don’t know what’s more surprising. The fact that the Warriors have won four in a row or the fact that they’re doing so because of their defense.

Both are pretty stunning feats.

The Warriors, by all measures, were the worst team in the NBA through the first 29 games of their season. They sat alone at the bottom of the standings with a woeful 5-24 record with one of the worst defenses in the modern era and a subpar offense.

Playing with G-League players and rotational depth pieces in their starting lineup, the team had fully embraced its new losing identity.

This was a rebuilding year — a year to focus on the growth and development of the team’s young players in anticipation of a much brighter 2020-21 season.

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But seemingly out of nowhere, the Warriors have found a way and a will to string together a few wins. And while three of their four victories have come against the three-worst teams in the conference — with the exception of the Warriors, of course — a win is a win.

And the team’s 116-104 victory over the Houston Rockets on Christmas Day was not only a feel-good win over one of their biggest rivals, but that game emphasized the improvements the Warriors have made on the defensive end of the floor.

The high-powered Rockets offense that ranked third in the NBA was held to just 104 points. And a Rockets team shooting over 35 percent from three-point range with the most threes made in the NBA this season shot just 31.4 percent from beyond the arc.

The Warriors managed to take the ball out of superstar guard James Harden‘s hands with countless double-teams with the help of excellent team defense. There was no Klay Thompson to lock Harden down. Andre Iguodala is long gone.

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Instead, the Warriors limited the Rockets scoring with traps, double-teams, and an all-around superb defensive showing from the entire roster.

And on Friday, the Warriors did just that again.

Golden State defeated the lowly Phoenix Suns despite scoring just 105 points — the third-fewest points scored in a Warriors victory this season. That was because they managed to hold Phoenix to just 96 points as the Suns struggled to get anything going offensively.

Draymond Green is playing at the Defensive Player of the Year level that we all know he can play at. Players like Glenn Robinson III and Alec Burks have chipped in. And even inexperienced guards like Damion Lee and Ky Bowman are doing their part.

It’s all led to a complete defensive makeover that has fueled this little mid-season winning streak the Warriors are on.

Will this sudden change lead the Warriors back into playoff contention? No, likely not. Let’s be honest for a moment, the Warriors haven’t exactly been beating the NBA’s finest during this stretch and their offensive woes still continue.

And even with their improved defense, it’s likely they’ll revert back to their previous difficulties at least a little against superior offenses. Let’s chalk that Houston game up to a Christmas miracle.

But in a season of growth, it’s encouraging to see this young team make mid-season improvements under head coach Steve Kerr.

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Don’t expect to see this level of play sustain in the long run, but it will sure be fun to ride this recent hot streak for as long as the Warriors can take it.