The empirical evidence is undeniable. The Warriors are 10th in defense at 98.9 points and eighth in opponents’ shooting at 43.4 percent. And Golden State has made unfathomable leaps in rebounding, going from worst to first in defensive rebound percentage (.752) and worst to fifth in rebound margin (plus-4.2). It is even up to 12th in offensive rebounding.
“We were getting stops last year, but the team would get the offensive rebound and put it back in,” said Lee, a recent guest on Sheridan Hoops Radio who sets the tone with 11.3 boards per game. “Those are the plays that break your back. We lost so many close games because of reasons like that last year. Meanwhile, this year, we’re doing a lot better job rebounding the ball and getting stops.”
The Warriors aren’t using any magic tricks, either. Bogut’s absence leaves them without a premier shot-blocker, they don’t gamble in passing lanes and they don’t change tempo with junk defenses. They are 29th in blocks, 26th in steals and 25th in forcing turnovers, which means their quantum leap has come from simple dedication on the defensive end.
“Last year we talked about playing good defense,” second-year guard Klay Thompson said. “This year we are actually doing it.”
Jackson says he never worries about the offense, which is slightly better than last season at 99.5 points even though Lee’s scoring is down a bit and Thompson is still struggling with his shot. But the Warriors have gotten boosts from Barnes, Curry and a much deeper bench.
Barnes is averaging 9.3 points and is capably filling the small forward slot hit hard by injuries to Brandon Rush and Richard Jefferson. Curry’s troublesome ankles are finally healthy, and he put together a recent streak of four 20-10 games, prompting Jackson to call him “a bad man.”