Draymond Green

Warriors' defensive resurgence comes amid playoff ‘urgency'

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SAN FRANCISCO – In spite of an offense that has been sporadic for much of the 2023-24 NBA season, the Warriors still are clinging to the Western Conference's final play-in tournament spot.

That’s because Golden State has been playing some of the best defense in the NBA for over a month now, and it certainly was the case in the team's 104-100 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night at Chase Center.

While Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson both were held under 15 points in the same game for the first time in nearly five seasons, it didn’t matter as much as it once might have.

The Warriors kept the Mavericks in check for most of the night and held Dallas’ high-scoring offense nearly 19 points below its season average during a much-needed victory.

It’s the first time since Jan. 31 – and just the sixth time overall this season – that the Mavs have been held to 100 points or fewer.

The Warriors' crackdown on defense has coincided with the team trying to hang on and make it into the NBA playoffs.

“I think it’s just a sense of urgency,” Warriors resident defensive ace Gary Payton II told NBC Sports Bay Area. “We haven’t had that consistently throughout the year. And now that it’s getting down to crunch time, we understand that the season’s on the line. Our sense of urgency and details have been ramped up.”

The defensive effort against the Mavericks came on the heels of Golden State’s five-game road trip, when the Warriors held three consecutive teams – the Miami Heat, Orlando Magic and Charlotte Hornets – under 100 points for the first time since 2016.

Doing so against those three teams wasn’t a particularly huge accomplishment. The three are among the five lowest-scoring teams in the NBA.

By comparison, the Mavericks are sixth in the NBA in scoring and are the No. 5 seed in the West.

“To me, that’s a good sign that what we did on the road was not fluke-ish,” coach Steve Kerr said.


In January, the Warriors ranked 24th in defensive efficiency while losing seven of their 12 games.

Things started to turn around in February, right around the time that Draymond Green returned from an NBA suspension.

The defense regressed a little for most of March, but with the regular season nearing its end, Golden State has found its defensive footing again at the right time.

Over their last five games, the Warriors are second only to the Heat with a 102.9 defensive rating.

Chris Paul said the defensive success has come as a result of Golden State’s players becoming more comfortable with one another and the team’s schemes.

“Probably a little bit more aware and understanding our coverages and trying to communicate early,” Paul said. “It’s funny. All season we sort of have just been knowing where to be, just sometimes guys [were] not there.

“I think we’re starting to understand that defense is what we have to be able to hang our hat on. The offense, we [have] some amazing shooters and scorers, but if we defend it opens everything else up.”

Green, the 2016-17 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, is an obvious reason why the Warriors have picked up their intensity on that side of the ball.

The rest of the players have been following suit, too.

Kerr credited Andrew Wiggins with helping contain Mavericks star Luka Dončić. Dončić put up a game-high 30 points but had to really work for it. He got a handful of open looks but otherwise didn’t get much separation.

“It was our defense that got us the win,” Kerr said. “Holding those guys to 100 points is pretty difficult. I thought Wiggs was brilliant. He just played with so much effort just trying to make Luka work. Luka was amazing as he always is, but that effort really set a tone."

Then there was Green, who came up with what Kerr said was the defensive play of the game when he blocked a layup attempt by Dallas’ Daniel Gafford with 1:32 remaining and the Dubs holding onto a six-point lead.

“He is a defensive mastermind,” Wiggins said. “He is everywhere, he has everyone’s back. You know that he is going to pick up any slack on anything that happens.”

The Warriors haven’t had much slack in their defense lately. And with the playoffs on the horizon, they have to maintain that type of focus and effort.

“We have to be locked in and we have to know what we have to do,” Payton said. “We just have to pay attention, lock in, know what we’re doing, know where the help’s coming from and send the problem to the help.”

It’s a formula that has been working out well. The only question now is whether the Warriors can keep it working.

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