Blueprint for Beating the Golden State Warriors in the 2013 NBA Playoffs
Still, nothing is guaranteed.
That doesn't mean that, as writers and fans, we will refrain from speculation. We love to analyze our teams, and sports is always about the potentially bright future that lies ahead.
Or, in this case, the potentially dark future.
The Warriors have been very good—great at times—in 2012-13. That doesn't mean they are without their weaknesses, though.
Here are four things that any Warriors first-round opponent should do if they want to hold seed and move on.
Play as Many Bigs as Much as Possible
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The Warriors are not a small team. They have three legitimately sized centers in Andrew Bogut (7'0", 245 lbs), Festus Ezeli (6'11", 255 lbs) and Andris Biedrins (6'11", 240 lbs).
None of the three, however, are able to guard top-notch big men.
Bogut doesn't have the agility in his game right now to shut down athletic power forwards and centers. Ezeli is too young and inexperienced to stop skilled, clever bigs, and Biedrins is too weak to do anything about bulky bruisers down low.
While Mark Jackson may find a defensive matchup that works against one of your bigs, you'll give the Warriors defensive fits if you play two. Jackson cannot afford to play two centers at once as it will completely deaden his offense.
Therefore, you're guaranteed at least one great matchup if you roll out two bigs.
Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes, Klay Thompson, Richard Jefferson, Carl Landry and David Lee all provide decent athleticism and defensive effort, but none can hang with a low-post scorer.
Of course, you can't play two bigs all game. That's okay if you have a dominant 7'0", but minimize the time you spend going small.
If you do go small, Jackson will see it as an opportunity to play his incredibly dangerous offensive frontcourt of David Lee, Carl Landry and Klay Thompson. Playing multiple big men will deny Golden State from playing their best offensive unit.
Pressure the Ball
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You must force turnovers to beat the Warriors. It's really that simple.
Golden State ranks 10th in the NBA in field-goal percentage, first in three-point percentage and third in free-throw percentage. They have the fifth-best field-goal percentage defense, sixth-best three-point percentage defense and eighth-best rebound differential.
In other words, the Warriors will outshoot you from the field and earn more shots than you by working the glass. You seemingly can't beat a team like this, except for the fact that the Warriors are only 39-31.
Turnovers make this possible.
The Warriors commit the sixth-most turnovers in the NBA while forcing the seventh fewest. That's good for the third-worst differential in the league.
No matter how deadly Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are from deep, how good the Warriors are at forcing low-percentage shots in the half court or how strong they are on the glass, they're beatable when you make them turn it over.
Stephen Curry and Jarrett Jack are both high-quality point guards, but both are also overzealous playmakers. If you bring a double team, they'll usually try to dribble out of it rather than anticipate it and give up the ball.
If you press them hard, they'll often try to use dribble moves to make you pay rather than backing up and slowing the offense. If you do these things while clogging the passing lanes, they will throw the ball right to you several times a game.
Not only is pressuring the Warriors a great way to stop their dangerous offense, but forcing turnovers is the best way to score on their stingy defense.
Drive and Initiate Contact
The Warriors have a solid all-around defense. They have guards who can fight through screens, force turnovers and contest jumpers. They have forwards who can come out to the perimeter if need be and they have centers who can block shots.
They also have a severe weakness: foul trouble.
Whether it be a lack of experience, a lack of lateral quickness or a lack of timing—and it is all three in some cases—nearly every player on the Warriors commits an unhealthy number of fouls.
They allow 24.1 free throws per game, the fourth-most in the NBA. David Lee commits 3.2 fouls per game. Stephen Curry commits 2.5. Even Andrew Bogut and Klay Thompson, the Warriors' best interior and perimeter defenders, respectively, commit 2.8 fouls per game each.
If you attack the lane, initiate contact and put a shot up against this team, you're more than likely going to the free-throw line.
Considering how good their field-goal percentage defense is, getting to the line is especially important.
As an added bonus, the more free throws you shoot, the more personal fouls pile up for the aforementioned Golden State core players. In a playoff series, when minutes are stretched out for starters, getting guys like Lee, Curry, Thompson and Bogut in foul trouble could pay huge dividends.
Do Your Work Early
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Ideally, every NBA player on every NBA team would play like there's two minutes left in the fourth quarter all game long.
It doesn't work this way. No human brain can fabricate the pressure of late-game situations, not even that of a professional athlete.
Given that, the collective brain of the Golden State Warriors has an especially hard time doing this. They are outscored by their opponents in the first and third quarters and play even in the second.
As a Warriors opponent, you'd better take advantage of this. Build as much of a lead as possible in the first three quarters and play as many moments as you can like it's the fourth.
Because, if you're playing Golden State, it essentially is.
The Warriors are an astounding 29-3 when leading after three quarters.
While their eight fourth-quarter comeback wins also ranks third in the NBA and is a testament to how good a fourth-quarter team they are, they are still only 10-27 when tied or trailing headed into the final frame.
Not only does that number tell you how beatable the Warriors are if you beat them early; it also tells you how possible it is to beat them early. They have led going into the fourth quarter 32 times this season, as opposed to the 37 times they have not.
Playing against the Warriors will be a dangerous matchup no matter how you play them. Even if you lead after three in every single game, they are likely to do what they do and dominate the fourth, stealing a couple games and making it a series.
Still, if you only match their early game intensity—or lack thereof—and don't step on their throats early, you'll likely become the victims of an upset.