Well, how about a solitary statistic: 43-4. Yeah, that's a record that you could only get if you played NBA 2K's MyLeague and turned on trade override. Except the Warriors are doing it in real life and are on track for the 1995-96 Bulls' historic, 72-10 record. Lately they have beaten, actually, destroyed arguably their two closest rivals, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the San Antonio Spurs by a combined 64 points. They embarrassed both of them with their picture perfect offense, their committed defense, unrivaled intensity and of course, the unquestioned MVP, Stephen Curry.
On nights they have seemingly been unbeatable. However, as I have mentioned four teams have beaten them thus far in the 2015-16 season, on four different occasions the Golden State Goliath was slain. But how? Actually, on three of those occasions, injury, rest or fatigue played massive factors, with only one performance (by Detroit) really claiming the title of a real Golden State scalp.
So, without breaking both of Steph Curry's kneecaps, how do you beat this mountain of a team? Well, here's a little bit of a hint, it ain't easy! But, I think there are 5 things that are musts for any team to have a real shot at defeating the Warriors. Take note, Gregg Popovich, Billy Donovan and David Blatt...uh...I mean...Ty Lue? LeBron James? Whatever the case, follow these steps and you will have a chance at succeeding against one of the greatest teams ever to set foot on a basketball court.
Step 1: Control The Pace
As I mentioned in my Spurs-Warriors breakdown, I thought that the reason why the Spurs got in such a hole in that game was the way that they allowed the Dubs to dictate the pace of the game. The Spurs had 10 more possessions than they usually have and because of this were forced into quicker shots, more turnovers and generally, un-Spurs-like basketball.
So what can you take from this? Play at your pace, not the Warriors pace and unless you are the Sacramento Kings, that means playing slower than the Warriors' 101 possessions per game.
If you can slow it down and get better shots, not only will it help you gain a higher percentage, but it stops Golden State from getting out in transition, a key component in slowing the Warriors down. This is potentially the only way at stopping Steph Curry's killer transition three game, which kills all momentum dead in its tracks and demoralizes an opponent to the point where they just want to start crying.
If you want to argue against that this is a key point, I'm sorry, but the statistics are here to prove it as well. The teams that have beaten Golden State (Milwaukee, Dallas, Detroit, Denver) all are 15th or lower in the league in terms of pace (number of possessions used per game). The lowest one of those four teams shot from the field was Detroit at 46% in their blowout victory, while the Warriors usually only allow opponents to shoot 43% from all areas of the floor.
If you try to go fast against Golden State, you will not win, it's as simple as that. You cannot beat a team with their own style of play that they have already mastered. It's logical. You wouldn't try to outdo Gordon Ramsay in a cook-off, because he's better than you at it, so why on earth would you try to push the pace against the Warriors? Going slow, limiting Dubs' possessions and stopping them getting out in transition will keep the game in control at all times. To back this up even further the only team that has a higher pace than GS, is the Sacramento Kings, who they've beaten four times this season. In three of those encounters, the Warriors have scored 128 points, 122 and 120.
Game, set and step 1 completed.
Step 2: Force & Capitalize On Turnovers
There is one thing wrong with how loose and freely Golden State play and that's that they tend to get a little too loose and free in some games. Instead of making a simple bounce pass to an open three, Steph Curry, in some instances, will throw a 50 foot lob pass over through his legs, to himself. Trust me, I've seen it. While it is spectacular, the Warriors' upbeat style of play often causes turnovers and easy buckets for the opposition. We even saw it recently with the Warriors-Sixers game, the best and the worst teams in the league going at it. Golden State built a gigantic lead, but 23 turnovers allowed the Sixers to get back into the contest and almost, snatch it away! Remember, this is one of the worst teams of all-time. If Ish Smith and Isaiah Canaan can grab four steals each, any player can.
The Warriors often throw crazy passes all over the place and sometimes, Steph can get a little too carried away with his dribble. This is where teams can get easy points against a team that rarely gives up anything.
Golden State allow the sixth most steals of the 30 NBA franchises and give away the ball the fifth most, with 15.1 turnovers per game. Only the Rockets, Kings, Suns and Sixers give up more.
In addition, as any basketball player should know, turnovers are awful for a team's confidence. One thing that makes the Warriors such a frightening team to face is how in your face, dominant and imposing they are. If you can start to poach the ball away from them a few times more than they might like, maybe we won't see Draymond thumping his chest as much, or Steph Curry getting the Roaracle into it, another massive factor for why the Warriors are able to win so many games.
While this won't win you games on its own, it is one of the many things you need to beat the machine that lies in Oakland.
Step 3: Destroy Them On The Boards
This one's quite obvious.
As it is pointed out by most NBA fans, I'll keep this one short and sweet. When Golden State go small, especially when they go to their death lineup of Curry, Thompson, Iguodala, Barnes and Green, you have to out-rebound them. It's as simple as that. Not just overall rebounding numbers either, you have to pump them on the offensive boards and secure easy second chance points.
Just like in step 1 there is a correlation between the stats and the teams that beat GS.
When you take into account a team's offensive rebounding rate, three of the four teams, Dallas being the odd one out, are in the top 8 for that statistic. Now, Dallas is the outlier here, because they rank 29th in offensive rebounding rate. But not only was Steph Curry out of the squad for that game, but the Mavericks did end up winning that rebound count 52-37 anyway, despite their poor numbers. This included 8 offensive rebounds by the immortal Zaza Pachulia, who pummeled the Dubs' frontline of Bogut, Draymond, Ezeli and whoever else came in and tried to box him out. Andre Drummond did this as well, against a Warriors team that was fully fit, he grabbed 21 rebounds, which has become somewhat of a pedestrian number for him these days.
When Golden State get in a hole, there is no doubt that they will turn to their monster small ball unit. In this situation, since they are going to try and run you off the floor with their athleticism, you have to punish them in other areas. This starts by getting them on the boards, where their lineup, however athletic, just do not have the size to meet you up front.
BONUS STEP: Figure Out How To Stop The Steph/Draymond Pick & Roll
I've already done a piece, largely about Kevin Love, but it includes a full breakdown of this. Please go read it by clicking here!