The Golden State Warriors sell tickets with offense, but they win games with defense.
That's been the story all season long, but it was abundantly clear on Thursday, when the Warriors defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 111-92 in a wire-to-wire victory that saw L.A. shoot just 41 percent from the field.
Despite playing without Chris Paul, the Clippers entered Thursday night having won 10 of their last 13 and owned the league's third-best offense, one that's been scoring better than 108 points per 100 possessions, according to NBA.com's stats database.
It didn't seem to matter.
The Warriors put forth a dominant defensive performance, one that saw them hold the opposition to fewer than 100 points for the 24th time this season. In those games, the Dubs are now 21-3. And had it not been for a garbage time three from Byron Mullens, Thursday would have been the 15th time the Warriors had held an opponent to fewer than 90 points this season.
And just when it looked like the Clippers were primed to close the gap after cutting the Dubs' lead to eight at the half, the Warriors came out and put forth arguably their best defensive effort in a quarter this season, as the Clips scored a meager 11 points.
It may be Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and David Lee who get the press, but it's the likes of Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut (14 points, 17 rebounds and three blocks) who have transformed the Warriors into one of the league's top-three defenses.
According to NBA.com, the Warriors are one of four teams with a defensive rating below 100 (Indiana, Chicago and Oklahoma City are the others), and they rank among the league's elite, limiting opponents to a shade over 43 percent shooting from the field.
In addition, the Warriors' defensive rating is down more than three points from a season ago, per NBA.com, which can be attributed to Iguodala's presence and Bogut's health (he played in only 32 games last year).
This season, the Warriors with Iguodala in the lineup have held 21 of 35 opponents under 100 points, a feat which they accomplished only twice during the stretch earlier this year in which he missed 12 games with a strained left hamstring. As such, it should come as no surprise that Iguodala owns the best net rating (14.5) of any Warriors player that's logged more than 500 minutes this season.
The other key component, Bogut, has been an integral piece of the Warriors' defensive dominance. He's limited opponents to 44 percent shooting at the rim, per the NBA's SportVU player tracking data, which is tops among all Golden State big men.
And you better believe Bogut's well aware of the impact he's making, even if he's not looking at the numbers.
"I don't need to check those out to know that," Bogut said regarding his impressive figures (per Warriors World's Jordan Ramirez). As a team, the Clippers were outscored by 44 points in the paint on Thursday.
With those two defensive stoppers making such a profound impact, the Warriors will need to hope that their starting five remains healthy if they are to sustain the success as one of the league's best five-man units.
Not only does the five-man grouping of Iguodala-Bogut-Curry-Thompson-Lee own the fourth-best winning percentage of any unit (23-9, minimum 20 appearances) in franchise history, but it ranks first among all five-man units in terms of net rating and second when it comes to defensive rating, according to NBA.com.
Now don't get me wrong. It's a blast to marvel at what Curry and Thompson are capable of on the offensive end, but the Warriors own merely an average offensive rating (No. 15 overall, per Basketball Reference), which puts them in the same company as the New York Knicks, Memphis Grizzlies and Sacramento Kings.
As weird is at may seem, Mark Jackson's team is going to stay alive in the hyper-competitive Western Conference—but not because of a flashy offense. Rather, the team's success will be because of its shutdown defense, one that may soon finally get the respect it deserves.
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