BY: Florian Gheorghe
All his career as a basketball player, Steve Kerr was surrounded by people who knew how to win and what it takes to get a ring. “I’ve learned that all the great players, all the great teams have to rely on defense (when the offense isn’t there),” Kerr explained reminding all of us about the Jordans, the Pippens, the Duncans and the Robinsons.
Now, as a coach of the Golden State Warriors, he constantly reminds his players that defense most often than not wins championships. “What you saw tonight, that was Warriors basketball,” he added after sealing the deal in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals and qualifying for the NBA Finals.
Indeed it was and he has the 2014 – 2015 regular season’s numbers to prove it. During the six-month span, the Warriors were simply spectacular not only on offense, but also on defense. They were first in both the Defensive Rating category with 98.2 points allowed per 100 possessions and opponents’ field-goal percentage (42.8%). In these playoffs, Golden State is currently fourth and fifth in those categories. This is how they got it done all season long.
Game 5 of the Conference Finals was no different. Although they struggled offensively, the Warriors stopped the Houston Rockets’ takeoff and advanced to the final round of the post-season. And they’ve done it on the defensively end, allowing Houston to shoot the low percentage – 35.1% from the field, 20.8% from the perimeter – and forcing them to make turnover after turnover. Most importantly, they stopped the MVP runner-up James Harden.
After letting Harden dominate in Game 4 – 45 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks, Golden State adjusted and took a different approach in defending the Beard.
“When he starts dancing, get at him,” Kerr told his players.
Harden made only 2 shots in 44 minutes of action, scored only 2 points in the second half and turned the ball over at a record rate. He set a new record for most TO in a playoff game with 13 and pulled some disheartening disappearing acts for his teammates in the course of the game.
“Turning the ball over 13 times is unacceptable. I have to value the ball a lot better going forward,” the guard admitted at the post-game press conference.
Golden State fed off his turnovers at a time when points were hard to come by, ran on the break and slowly but steadily build a double-digit lead. So midway through the fourth quarter, the Warriors were up by 15 and Oracle Arena was on the verge of erupting. Their team was finally going back to the NBA Finals after 40 long years.
For MVP Stephen Curry though, the wait wasn’t that long… only six years – he was drafted in 2009.
“Six years is a long time to wait. Obviously, the Bay Area has been waiting 40-plus year. I think it’s time.”