Tag Archives: Golden State Warriors

NBA Playoff Predictions

Round 1

Cleveland over Detroit (5 games)

Toronto over Indiana (7)

Charlotte over Miami (6)

Boston over Atlanta (6)

Golden State over Houston (4)

San Antonio over Memphis (4)

Oklahoma City over Dallas (4)

Los Angeles over Portland (5)

Round 2

Cleveland over Boston (7)

Charlotte over Toronto (6)

Golden State over Los Angeles (4)

San Antonio over Oklahoma City (7)

Conference Finals

Cleveland over Charlotte (5)

Golden State over San Antonio (7)

NBA Finals

Golden State over Cleveland (5)

Notes From Spurs-Warriors

Last night in San Antonio, the Spurs turned in a stifling defensive performance, holding the explosive Warriors to a mere seventy-nine points, over thirty-five below their season average.

LaMarcus Aldridge had a spectacular game, scoring twenty-six points while grabbing thirteen rebounds, and there was nothing Golden State could do to stop him. That’s what happens when Andrew Bogut is out. Draymond Green is a great player, but he never got a break from defending San Antonio’s big men. Furthermore, while Green’s low center of gravity allows him to capably guard much bigger players, it does nothing to stop them from shooting fadeaways over him, as Aldridge did repeatedly last night.

Still, that clearly wasn’t the problem last night, as the Spurs were able to score only eighty-seven points. The Warriors’ problem was that they were unable to score. More importantly, Stephen Curry was shut down and held to fourteen points on eighteen shots, an abysmal 34.7% true shooting percentage. For context, Curry’s TS% on the season is a league leading 67.5%, while players not noted for their sharpshooting, such as Rajon Rondo (49.8%), Kobe Bryant (46.3%), and Emmanuel Mudiay (42.7%, the worst mark in the league), have shot better over the course of the season than Curry did last night.

Now, the Warriors had lost six times before last night, but how repeatable are those losses? The Blazers beat the Warriors by shooting 17-30 from three and the Lakers beat them when they shot 4-30 from three. The Mavericks beat the Warriors when they were without Curry and Harrison Barnes and the Nuggets beat them by two when they were without Green. The Bucks beat the Warriors when they were coming off a double-overtime game the night before and the Pistons beat them by eighteen in the only game that there wasn’t a clear reason for why they lost.

None of these games, other than the one against Detroit, provide any valuable insight into how to beat Golden State. At first glance, last night’s game looks very similar to the Lakers game: the Warriors shot 25% from three, with Curry and Klay Thompson combining to go 2-19 from deep. Is that really something the Spurs can count on in the playoffs?

Here’s where the eye test comes in handy. Last night, Curry and Thompson weren’t missing wide-open shots; the Spurs didn’t give them any space. San Antonio hounded the Splash Brothers both on and off the ball, not giving them any room to operate. Helped by Kawhi Leonard and their league-best defense, the Spurs only allowed twenty-nine combined points from Thompson and Curry.

As always, the important question is whether or not this game provides a blueprint for how to beat the Warriors. To me, it’s somewhere in the middle.

On one hand, playing close and physical with Curry and Thompson is a recipe for success. However, not every team has the reigning DPOY on it.

I think it’s fair to say that last night’s game provided a way to beat the Warriors, but one that only the Spurs can follow. It’ll be interesting to see whether or not San Antonio will be able to maintain its defensive success in its next meeting with Golden State, on April 7th in Oracle Arena.

OKC’s Big Problem

Last month, the Thunder traveled to Oracle Arena to face the Warriors. After coming back from a huge deficit to tie the game in the fourth quarter, the Thunder ended up losing 116-108.

Oklahoma City’s starting lineup, consisting of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, Dion Waiters, and Steven Adams, had a point differential of +4 over the 20.6 minutes it played together.

The lineup containing Enes Kanter, Steven Adams, Cameron Payne, Kyle Singler, and Dion Waiters wasn’t able to convert a field goal across the 2.6 minutes it played together. Even when Durant was switched in for Waiters, the lineup was only able to make a single shot over the 2.2 minutes it played together. Across the 4.7 (due to rounding) minutes that the Kanter/Adams combo played, it managed to score only four points on eight shots, and had a point differential of -5.

Why is this combo so awful?

Adams is a center in the mold of Tyson Chandler. He has little offensive skill and often scores off of lobs. Kanter is a post-up behemoth, ranking in the top sixth of the NBA in post-up attempts (among qualified players) with 139 despite playing only 20.6 minutes per game off the bench.

Having a pair of centers who operate best close to the basket isn’t conducive to good spacing and without proper spacing, it’s nearly impossible to create an adequate offense. To show you what I mean, let’s take a look at a couple of plays from their time together during the game.

Here, we see Dion Waiters drive down the middle of the floor, looking for a layup. He’s unable to get a shot off, so he passes it to Cameron Payne. The rookie point guard then drives down the right side of the court. In a properly functioning offense, Payne would have space to drive to the basket for a shot at the rim. However, in this muddled mess, Payne has to stop short and let loose an awful floater that hits the side of the backboard.

Here, Waiters drives down the middle of the court. He’s met with a wall of bodies, and wildly chucks the ball out to Payne. The rookie immediately drives towards the rim, but yet again, he has to release an ugly floater in traffic.

Kanter is an offensive rebounding monster (he’s tied for 17th in offensive rebounds per game among players who have played in at least twenty games with an average of 2.8, overcoming his disadvantage in minutes) and he manages to corral the ball after Payne’s miss. However, he’s swamped by four or five Warriors at once. At one point, seven of the ten players on the floor are all in that tangled jumble of arms and legs. Kanter tries a couple of times to get a shot off, but the ball is ripped away, and the Warriors immediately launch a fast-break.

You might be wondering why this combination is a problem worth worrying about. After all, it’s impactful for only a few minutes every game.

In the regular season, the Adams/Kanter combo +0.3 per 3.5 minutes per game over 19 games.. However, what happens when the Thunder make the playoffs and need to beat both the Spurs and the Warriors, two historically great teams, to make the Finals? How’s that gonna work out?

In the playoffs, defenses are amped up and specific players are game-planned for. If Adams and Kanter are still playing together for a few minutes a game, then that’s time that the Thunder’s opponent will have a big advantage. In the regular season, against average teams, it’s often not a problem. However, against the Spurs and Warriors the deficit might be insurmountable.

I wrote most of this article before February 27th, when the Warriors overcame the Thunder in overtime to win the most exciting game of the season. I paid close attention to when Kanter and Adams played together, but they didn’t share the court for a single second. Similarly, last week, when the two teams faced off again, Kanter and Adams were never on the court at the same time. Perhaps Billy Donovan hacked into my account and read my draft of this article, or, more probably, finally decided to use common sense.

Not only did Donovan scrap the Kanter-Adams pairing against the Warriors, but he’s also done well to excise them from the rotation. Since the All-Star break, Kanter and Adams have played a mere 6.4 minutes together over two games. Amusingly enough, over those minutes, the Thunder were -5 and made only two shots on eleven attempts.

Now that Kanter and Adams are no longer playing together, Oklahoma City is poised to pose a serious threat to San Antonio and Golden State in the playoffs.

Is Thompson the Best Catch-and-Shooter in the NBA?

Just over a week ago, on NBA Countdown, Jalen Rose was discussing the upcoming game between the Warriors and Bulls. While doing so, he asserted that Klay Thompson is the best catch-and-shooter in the NBA. Is he right?

Before we can answer that question, first we need to determine exactly what a catch-and-shooter is.

The NBA defines a catch-and-shoot attempt as “any jump shot outside of ten feet where a player possessed the ball for two seconds or less and took no dribbles”. That’s a reasonable definition. To ensure that only real catch-and-shooters showed up in the rankings, I tweaked the requirements; this list is limited to players who play at least twenty-four minutes a game while attempting at least three threes per game. This leaves us with fifty-eight players in the NBA who qualify as true catch-and-shooters.

How does Thompson rank under those parameters?

The answer? Very well, but not the best.

He’s eleventh in effective field goal percentage (eFG%) with 61.4%. He’s behind superstars such as Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, and Kawhi Leonard, well-known three-point specialists including J.J. Redick, Khris Middleton, and J.R. Smith, and guys who you wouldn’t expect to be there like Jerryd Bayless and Patrick Beverley.

Thompson is tenth in catch-and-shoot three point percentage, again behind Curry, Leonard, and others. Again, he’s in the top fifth of the league, but he’s not quite the best.

However, Thompson is able to maintain his efficiency over far more three-point attempts than others. He leads the league with 6.3 catch-and-shoot attempts per game, 0.9 more than his closest competitor, Wesley Matthews. Matthews is closer to ninth place Curry than he is to first, showing how efficient Thompson is.

Similarly, Thompson leads the league in catch-and-shoot three-pointers made per game, with 2.8. This time, second place Curry is closer to eleventh place than he is to first.

Although we can’t say that Thompson is the most efficient catch-and-shooter in the NBA, his ability to maintain a relatively high level of efficiency over so many attempts speaks to his immense proficiency at catch-and-shooting.

In the end, while it’s not cut-and-dried, it’s a reasonable assertion to make that Klay Thompson is the best catch-and-shooter in the NBA.

How Did the Warriors Beat the Spurs?

I don’t think anyone was expecting the utter devastation the Warriors wrought upon the Spurs. I don’t think anyone was expecting Stephen Curry to explode for thirty-seven points in only twenty-eight minutes. I don’t think anyone was expecting San Antonio’s point differential to go down a full point. I don’t think anyone was expecting any of this.

The important question is: How did this happen?

The answer, simply, is that rather than running their usual motion offense, the Spurs decided to try their hands at running a bakery. The problem is that the only pastries they knew how to cook were turnovers (mostly apple ones). All (bad) jokes aside, the Spurs continually hemorrhaged possessions last night, giving the ball to the Warriors in a variety of ways.

Naturally, the multitudinous turnovers were a problem for San Antonio, but the fact that it’s bad to turn the ball over isn’t enough to explain the blowout. After all, it’s not like Golden State took particularly good care of the ball; it had twenty-one turnovers to San Antonio’s twenty-six (which is eighth-most out of 1348 team games played so far this season!).

In fact, just turning the ball over alone doesn’t matter all that much. Take a look at a graph:

Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 6.22.05 PM

In this scatter plot, the x-axis is turnovers per game while the y-axis is winning percentage. As you can tell from the relatively even scatter of the graph, there’s only a very weak negative correlation (the r is -.36) between turnovers and winning percentage.

If turnovers don’t inherently affect winning, then why did they hurt the Spurs so significantly against the Warriors?

When a team turns the ball over, that often leads directly to a fast break, a facet of the game in which the Warriors excel. In fact, Golden State leads the league in fast break points with 20.7 per game, an impressive 2.76 standard deviations above the mean. To illustrate that number, take a look at a scatter plot of NBA teams and how many fast break points they have per game:

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 7.56.57 PM

Look how far the Warriors (the star in the upper right corner) are away from everyone else. In fact, they gap between them and sixth place is larger than the gap between sixth place and thirtieth!

Golden State is so aberrant in this regard, that, as shown by the following box plot, it qualifies as an outlier:

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 8.03.08 PM

As we can tell, Golden State’s offense relies a lot on fast breaks, and we’ve already covered how turnovers often lead to fast breaks. Now let’s take a look at San Antonio’s defense.

The Spurs allow 11.2 fast break points per game, ranking sixth in that category.  As seems to be customary between these teams, two strengths are in direct conflict.

In this case, the Warriors’ strength won out. They scored nineteen fast break points, about two points under their average, but roughly eight points more than the Spurs’ average.

Now, one important aspect of a fast-break is the “fast” part. The Warriors rank first in the NBA in pace, while the Spurs are the eighth slowest team in the league. Since Golden State was able to take control of the pace of the game, San Antonio was out of its element. It didn’t help matters that the Spurs’ average age is 30.5, the oldest in the league by over a year. In fact, that’s likely a significant part of why they play so slowly.

Anyways, to sum it up, the main reason the Warriors were able to dismantle the Spurs on Monday night was because they were able to take control of the pace of the game through forcing turnovers. Those turnovers allowed them to score plenty of fast break points, erasing one of San Antonio’s biggest strengths.

Here’s a bonus question: Did this game provide a blueprint for how to beat the Spurs?

I’ll put it simply: Do many teams have a guy who can do things in transition like this?

Yeah, I didn’t think so.

And aside from the otherworldly talents of Curry, the Warriors, as we’ve discussed, have a lot more going for them that other teams simply don’t have.

But even the Warriors haven’t figured out the formula to beating the Spurs.  San Antonio had nearly double its usual turnovers and Tim Duncan was sitting out. There were plenty of other factors that contributed to the blowout that are unlikely to recur all at once.

Although this clearly is not a death knell for the Spurs, it could be a chink in their formerly unbroken armor, and perhaps particularly skilled teams will now be able to exploit it.

 

Notes From Bulls-Warriors

Last night, in addition to the Knicks-Jazz game, I watched the Warriors and Bulls square off in Chicago. Here are a few observations from the game.

Derrick Rose looked spectacular. His performance hearkened back to his MVP season in 2011, not only in what he did, but in how he did it. His first four baskets came on a twisting layup, a wild bank shot, a floater, and another banker.

Rose finished with twenty-nine points, many coming on those same sorts of ridiculous shots that barely anyone else in the NBA would even bother attempting.

The Warriors have become a spectacle. Throngs of fans show up early to games when the Warriors come to town, hoping to see magic happen. Stephen Curry is at the center of it all, but even so, it was surprising when the Bulls fans filling the United Center let out a mildly disappointed “Oh” when he missed his first three-point attempt.

The Bulls did one particularly strange thing early in the game. Many teams like to trap Curry on pick-and-rolls, knowing that to let him free is an invitation for a swished three-pointer. That trapping leads to four-on-threes for Golden State, but those are preferable to giving up an open shot to Curry.

While it makes sense to trap Curry, the Bulls strangely decided to trap Klay Thompson off a pick-and-roll, leading to a four-on-three led by Curry. Why in the world would they choose to do that? One has to assume that it was a gaffe of some sort, perhaps a miscommunication between the two defenders.

Shaun Livingston had a very nice game. He shot six-for-eight, scoring twelve points with five assists over sixteen minutes. Livingston, despite being a point guard, is 6’7″, and he used that size to his advantage last night, posting up smaller guards with ease.

Adding to his value, unlike most 6’7″ players, Livingston can defend point guards. Even better, he fits in well with Golden State’s whirring machine of defensive perfection as he’s able to switch seamlessly with all the other similarly sized players the warriors have (click here for a breakdown of Golden State’s switching capabilities on defense).

Midway through the second quarter, Rose dove at Curry’s knees on a closeout, leading to three free throws. I don’t know about you, but I never realized that Steph Curry was actually Rob Gronkowski.

The Warriors ended up destroying the Bulls 125-94. This win is a big boost for Golden State; after smashing the Cavs apart in Cleveland on Monday by thirty-four points, beating another top contender in the East by thirty-one is a something to be proud of. Even better, it comes on the heels of a poor three-game stretch consisting of a pair of road losses to the Nuggets and Pistons sandwiching a home win against the Lakers.

This victory sends the Warriors home for a three-game stay at the Oracle Arena against three playoff teams, including Monday night’s matchup against the Spurs, which promises to be one of the best games in the NBA this season.

Which Games Should You Watch on Christmas?

On Christmas Day, us fans of the NBA have a serious conundrum. There’s basketball for thirteen hours straight, which is great, but we also have familial obligations and the like. For those of you who can only escape your family for a game or two, here’s a guide to determining which games you should watch and which ones you shouldn’t.

Miami Heat vs. New Orleans Pelicans

Watch if you like: Freakishly long arms, all-lefty lineups, aging stars,  unibrows, imagining what Young Kristaps will be like in three years, having a quick snooze before the good games start.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Chicago Bulls

Watch if you like: Teams still finding their identities, power struggles, Enes Kanter’s bushy eyebrows, discontented players, Steven Adam’s fake-looking mustache, ex-college coaches in their first season in the NBA, Bobby Portis sitting on the bench, Dion Waiters hoisting up awful shots that miss by a mile.

Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

Watch if you like: Games with history behind them, unstoppable pick-and-rolls, superduperstars, injured players returning, going small, raucous home crowds, great basketball, ridiculous displays of shooting from Steph Curry, ridiculous displays of athleticism from LeBron James, Iman Shumpert’s hair, JR Smith hoisting up awful shots that somehow go in.

Houston Rockets vs. San Antonio Spurs

Watch if you like: Spectacular wing defense, Hack-a-Howard, intra-state rivalries, Spursgasms, foreign players, beards, dazzling sequences of passing, free throws, lefty shooting guards with Eurosteps.

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Los Angeles Clippers

Watch if you like: Kobe Bryant missing shots, thunderous dunks, Chris Paul to DeAndre Jordan alley-oops, young studs against in-their-prime superstars, brutal blowouts, watching the last quarter and a half played by scrubs.

Notes From Warriors-Bucks

Last Saturday night, the Warriors’ 24-game winning streak to open the season was ended, on the road, against the Bucks.

It was a spectacular game. I was cheering for history, and I never gave up hope until the Warriors were down eleven with ninety seconds to go. How could I? Golden State’s smothering defense can force turnovers and Steph Curry can rain threes, erasing even a double-digit lead in a minute or two.

The atmosphere at the game was electric. That phrase is overused, but in this case, it’s completely true. It’s only December, but the fans were cheering like it was a Game 7. The Bucks even handed out shirts reading “24-1” on the front.

Greg Monroe was impossible to defend. The Warriors couldn’t go to the so-called Death Lineup (or as Curry calls it, the “Uh-Oh Lineup) thanks to Monroe’s punishing post-up game. He pushed through defenders all-game, throwing in lefty layups and floaters on his way to 28 points on a mere sixteen shots.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was unstoppable as well. Despite taking only 11% of his team’s shots, the Greek Freak was a force all game, compiling eleven points, twelve rebounds, and ten assists for a triple-double.

Even Michael Carter-Williams managed to put his shooting woes behind him, shooting seven out of ten from the field and scoring seventeen points. He played tenacious defense, racking up five steals, resulting in fast-break chances for easy points.

Most impressively for the Bucks was the poor shooting night they inflicted on Curry. The early favorite for MVP shot only ten of twenty-one from the field, including an awful two of eight from three-point range.

This inefficiency was not limited to Curry. The team as a whole only shot 40.9% from the field and 23.1% from three. The Warriors even managed to miss eight free throws.

Some people have decided that Milwaukee has managed to figure out the formula to beating Golden State. Let’s work through that formula together to see one, if it has any basis in fact, and two, if it will work in the playoffs.

First, this game was in Milwaukee. Assuming Golden State earns home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, an opponent will have to win in Oracle Arena to eliminate the Warriors.

Next, this game was a back-to-back for the Warriors, which contributed to their lackadaisical play early on. In the playoffs, there are no back-to-backs.

On top of that, Golden State’s game the night before was a double-overtime game in Boston. The Warriors’ best two players, Curry and Draymond Green, played an exhausting 47 and 50 minutes, respectively. After the draining game against the Celtics, the Warriors flew to Milwaukee, arriving at their hotel at around 3:00 AM.

Finally, Harrison Barnes, the starter at small forward and the fifth member of the Lineup of Death (alongside Curry, Green, Klay Thompson, and Andre Iguodala), sat out his eighth straight game due to a sprained left ankle.

To recap, the formula to beating the Warriors is to play them at home, after they played a double-overtime game the night before and got to their hotel at three in the morning, have one of their starters out with an injury, and force the best shooter in NBA history and his team into an uncharacteristic poor shooting night.

Sounds pretty easy to replicate. The Warriors are doomed.

Will the Sixers Win Before the Warriors Lose?

According to ESPN’s Basketball Power Index, the Warriors are favored in 65 out of their remaining 67 games. The only two games the Warriors are the underdogs in are its road games at San Antonio. That’s it.

The first of those two games is in the middle of March, the Warriors’ 68th game of the season. Now, Golden State will almost certainly lose before then, but the question is: When?

The Warriors don’t face a tough game until December 5th, the team’s 21st game of the season, when they’ll play the Raptors on the road. Even then, they’ll still be heavy favorites against a Toronto team that just lost Jonas Valanciunas to a hand injury.

It’s worthwhile to note that the Raptors gave the Warriors a serious scare when the teams last played, on November 17th. In that game, at Oracle Arena, the visitors barely lost by a score of 115-110.

Assuming Golden State gets past Toronto, the toughest game the team will face until Christmas is a road matchup with the Pacers. On Christmas Day, the Warriors will host the Cavs, which could be a challenging matchup. However, due to the league’s best home-court advantage, Golden State is still likely to cruise to a victory.

We need to fast-forward almost a month, to January 18th, for the next serious threat to Golden State’s perfect record. They’ll play Cleveland on the road to begin an imposing weeklong stretch that includes road games in Chicago and Indiana and a home game against San Antonio.

If I had to bet, I would guess that the Warriors lose their first game of the season during that stretch, between January 18th and 25th. I have to agree with ESPN: the Warriors don’t look like they’ll be losing any time soon.

However, although the Warriors have been dominant through the first month of the season, they still have a close competitor in making history and it’s not who you might think.

The 76ers are almost as bad as the Warriors are good, with an 0-15 mark to start off the season. They’re four losses away from passing the atrocious 2009-10 Nets for the worst start in NBA history. This could be the most riveting storyline of the next month or two: will the Sixers win before the Warriors lose?

Now that’s a far more compelling question. The next good chance Philadelphia has for a win is in a week, when they’ll play the Lakers at home on December 1st. However, if they can’t end the streak then, they’ll only have one quality shot at a victory in the next month, when they play Brooklyn in the Barclays Center on December 10th.

After that, the next solid opportunity the Sixers will have for a win is a couple of road games against the Kings and Lakers on December 30th and January 1st, respectively. If Philadelphia still doesn’t have a victory after that, well, they’ll have to wait more than a month for another winnable game, when they host the Nets on February 6th.

I think the losing streak will end against the Lakers next week. It’ll actually be quite dramatic. Assuming the Sixers lose their next three games, they’ll sit at 0-18 heading into the game. To avoid the ignominious accomplishment of owning the worst start in NBA history, that Lakers game will be a must win.

To answer the original question, it seems as though the scheduling gods want Philadelphia to win before Golden State loses. However, if the Sixers keep on losing and the Warriors keep on winning, each team setting a new record each and every game, an amazing game will be set for January 30th.

On that date, the Sixers could be 0-45 and the Warriors could be 46-0 when the two teams meet for the first time this season for a game in Philadelphia. Although the odds are a million to one against it, if Philadelphia managed to get its first win by handing Golden State its first loss, well, that would just be awesome.

Can Anyone Stop the Warriors?

As Golden State nears a record-breaking 16-0 start to the season, it’s time to ask: Can anyone stop the Warriors?

In last night’s game against the Nuggets, the Warriors went to their super-small lineup. According to NBA.com, in two minutes, that lineup scored fourteen points. So, yeah, that’s pretty unstoppable.

That lineup consists of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Andre Iguodala, and Draymond Green and it’s unstoppable. All five players are capable three-point shooters, creating pristine spacing that they then take advantage of thanks to their unselfish passing. That’s what makes the Warriors so impossible to guard, and that’s how they’re able to score fourteen points in a mere two minutes.

However, many other teams could put out these sorts of lineups with five three-point shooters sharing the floor at once. What makes the Warriors unique is that they’re able to play five three-point shooters while surviving on defense.

How are they able to do this? Well, Green is the linchpin of the defense. Despite being only 6’7″, Green is capable of playing center. Without him, the rest of the scheme wouldn’t work at all.

Outside of Green, this lineup’s success stems from its incredible flexibility as all five of its members are between 6’3″ (Curry) and 6’8″ (Barnes). This similarity in size allows the team to switch at will, closing out on three point shooters, rotating around the floor to prevent drives to the basket, and being a whirring machine of defensive mayhem.

So many conversations concerning Golden State are about its offense, so to be contrarian we’ll focus on its defense. Let’s break down one crunch-time possession from Game 1 of last year’s Western Conference Finals that exhibits the system played to perfection, with Shaun Livingston in place of Andre Iguodala.

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 5.30.38 PM

With twelve seconds left on the shot clock, James Harden drives down the middle of the floor against Thompson. Notice how all possible passing lanes are walled off.

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 5.38.27 PM

Next, the ball gets poked away and Thompson and Green converge on Harden, trapping him in the corner. Barnes shifts off of Trevor Ariza in the opposite corner to guard Josh Smith next to the basket.

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 5.32.21 PM

Harden manages to pass it out of the double-team, into the middle of the floor, creating a momentary four-on-three advantage for the Rockets. However, while against a lesser team, Smith would have been left open in the middle, against the Warriors, Barnes is already there, stopping him from getting an easy shot off.

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 5.32.46 PM

Smith passes it out to Ariza in the corner, but Curry switches onto him, closing off a clear path to the rim. Livingston leaves Jason Terry (#31) alone to cover Curry’s man, Corey Brewer.

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 5.33.04 PM

Ariza drives to the rim, Curry hot on his tail, but Barnes is at the rim to meet him. The shot clock is down to four seconds, which pressures Ariza to attempt a shot. At this point, Terry is open, but if Ariza managed to somehow thread a pass through across the floor while in mid-air, Thompson would be able to close out on him.

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 5.33.46 PM

Ariza then fumbles the ball away and the Warriors close in. The ball gets knocked out of bounds and the Warriors get the turnover.

Just in the last twelve seconds of this possession, the Warriors are able to snuff out four threats (plus countless potential ones) by switching seamlessly.

It’s plays like these that great defenses excel at, all five players switching in unison, playing ferocious defense while still remaining under control. There’s nothing the Rockets could do to penetrate the swarming defense of the Warriors.

Even in the team’s starting lineup, with Andrew Bogut at center and Iguodala on the bench, the loss of some flexibility doesn’t prevent Golden State from keeping up the elite defense that was the best in the league last season by points per possession.

So far this year, Golden State has slipped all the way down to fifth in points per possession, and its offense is the best in the league, scoring 111.8 points per 100 possessions.

When a defense like this is paired with the best shooter in NBA history and a roster full of players who complement him perfectly, it’s hard to imagine the Golden State Warriors being beaten any time soon.