Revisiting Game 3: Warriors’ New Aggressive, Physical, Hacking Defense

Warriors coach Mark Jackson has grilling his team about defending without fouling. Golden State didn’t do a good job of that on Saturday and it led to the Clippers living at the free throw line.

However, Jackson couldn’t be too mad. In many ways, the foul was a result of an aggressive, physical style of play. The Warriors were reaching, slapping, grabbing, bumping. It led to the Clippers being in the penalty early. But it also led the Clippers to know they were going to have to earn a win.

MARK JACKSON: “We’re going to stay aggressive defensively.”

Golden State doesn’t have a roster full of great defenders. Certainly, rookie center Festus Ezeli is showing himself to be a real defensive presence. And a healthy Andrew Bogut automatically makes the Warriors better defender.

But with guys like Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, David Lee and Harrison Barnes, it’s going to take a system, a team defense, for them to be effective. Without the top-tier athleticism, strength, the Warriors have to make up for it in other ways. Obviously, communication, hustle and timely rotation is necessary. But there is also a tone to be set.

The Warriors are bumping players that come through the lane. They are (trying to) holding their grown when being posted. They are swiping at the ball when people drive. They are committing the smart, hard fouls and making teams earn it at the line.

It’s like there is a general message they’re trying to put out there.

CURRY: “I think kind of the strength of our team is doing whatever it takes to win.”

They will scratch and claw. They will talk trash and throw elbows. When you get to the paint, they’ll try to chop off your hand and hope you cough up the ball and the ref doesn’t call it.

Against the Clippers, the Warriors got caught with their hand in the cookie jar quite a bit. But Jackson likes that mindset.

JARRETT JACK: “We’re a grimy team now. That’s the style we’re going for.. You’re going to have to work against us.”

MVP: Though Curry’s charge won the game, it was Landry’s beasting that put the Warriors in position to win.

He scored eight of his 23 points in the fourth quarter. He now has 28 fourth-quarter points in three games, tied with James Harden for third most. Only the Clippers’ Jamal Crawford (32) and Kobe Bryant (30) have more.

MARK JACKSON: “He’s a big-time player. A big-time post presence. He can score. He’s battling on the boards. A big-time finisher. We ran our offense through him down the stretch. He puts so much pressure on the defense.”

MDP: Draymond Green. It’s partially my fault. I put the expectations on him. But he had a chance to make an impression Saturday and didn’t do it. In 5:24, he missed two shots, one of them blocked, didn’t grab a rebound, committed two fouls and one turnover.

He’s still got a small window to do something. From the people I’ve talked to, the likelihood is the Warriors will hold off on any moves, see how the current players to respond.

Richard Jefferson looked pretty good out there, attacking the basket, being active on defense. He had a solid 22 minutes. Harrison Barnes overcame foul trouble to make some key plays down the stretch (more on that later). Festus Ezeli was a force. We already know about Jack and Landry.

Green better get it going or he’ll end up a forgotten man next to Jeremy Tyler and Charles Jenkins.

KEY MOMENT I: Chris Paul walked into a 3-pointer from the top of the key, cutting the Warriors’ lead to 103-102. Golden State needed a bucket badly.

Who do they turn to? Doesn’t matter who the play was designed for, because Barnes knew what he was going to do as soon as he touched it. He took a pass from Lee and slashed to the basket. Previously settling for jumpers, Barnes got all the way to the rim and converted a finger roll to give the Warriors some breathing room, 105-102 with 2:55 left.

YEAH, WHAT HE SAID: “You think I care which one of them guards me? Come on, now. Stephen Curry? All-Defense huh? Pssshhhh … Come on, now.” Clippers PG Chris Paul

Xs AND Os: Mark Jackson clearly feels comfortable with the ball in Jarrett Jack’s hands, because he’s starting to go with the three-guard lineup a lot.

The question, really, is who plays with Jack, Curry and Klay? Usually it’s David Lee and Carl Landry. But that’s an undersized front court.

Despite being undersized, Jackson went with Lee and Landry down the stretch anyway. The Clippers don’t have any real centers outside of DeAndre Jordan, who Landry eventually fouled out. But it was refreshing to see Jackson stick to a strength and not be chased away by the other team.

With Landry handling the offense, Lee was allowed to focus on rebounding. That made for an effective tandem. Lee grabbed six rebounds in the fourth quarter, three of them capping timely defensive stands.

SERIOUSLY?: A minute, 45 seconds into the third quarter, David Lee picked up his fourth foul. Then, 21 seconds later, Klay Thompson picked up his fourth foul. A minute, 11 seconds later, Harrison Barnes, who had three fouls in the first five minutes oft the game, picked up his fourth foul.

That stretch of 2 minutes, 17 seconds was a microcosm for the night. The Warriors picked up foul after foul. Golden State committed 34 fouls, which led to 52 free throw attempts for the Clippers, 31 in the first half.

Chris Paul finished with 27 points despite missing 6 of his 9 shots. That’s because he took 20 free throws, making 19.

The Clippers committed 31 fouls, leading to 39 free throws by the Warriors. That’s 91 free throws.

But that’s not it. The whistle-happy referees also tagged 8 players with technical fouls, nine if you count the Warriors’ coaching staff.

KEY MOMENT II: With the Warriors switching everything in the final seconds, the Clippers ran the two-man game with Blake Griffin screening for Chris Paul. Lee successfully closed off the lane, prompting Chris Paul to pull it back out.

That left Lee on Paul and Curry on Griffin.

JACKSON: “We were just trying to keep them in front of us. The only concern we really had was Paul stepping back and shooting the three. It was picture perfect defense.”

But Lee played close enough on Chris Paul to discourage him from the pull-up 3-pointer, and far enough so he can still force Paul left, where the help was waiting.

That help was Curry, who took the charge with 7.5 seconds left.CURRY: “I felt I was there. I even looked down to make sure my feet weren’t in the restricted area. I would’ve been upset if I didn’t get the call.”

BEFORE YOU GO: Jarrett Jack, who was a step slow in preseason, is getting his legs back. He said he’s down to 203 pounds and he needs to lose three more pounds to get to his desired playing weight. The minutes he’s been playing, his aggressiveness on defense, he should lose that no problem.

Marcus Thompson

  • JRidah

    52 wins and the 5 seed!

  • deano

    Marcus: Excellent postscript. To your list of key action from GSW, I’d add one act from LAC: Matt Barnes’ moronic foul on JJack, who was dribbling the ball far from the key. Jack hit both free throws, and there was enough time left on the clock to ensure that GSW would have another possession. Barnes should stuck with football.

  • earl monroe

    The aggressiveness is a good sign, even if fouls do get called, it changes the perception of this team as soft, I would continue to play this wan and even go further and sign a player like Kenyon Martin.

  • jsl

    The Warriors are really bringing it so far this year — but you are, too, MT.

    Another terrific post! Keep it up.