LOS ANGELES — Ask almost any member of the Golden State Warriors, and they will tell you it’s fitting they’re entering the All-Star break at .500 with a 29-29 record.
Their 29th loss of the season came Tuesday night against the LA Clippers, 134-124. Once again, their main issue was defense. The Clippers outscored the Warriors 44-28 in the third quarter, and Golden State never recovered.
The Warriors’ defense, which ranks 19th in the NBA after ranking second in 2021-22, has been what they consider their biggest problem area all season long.
“It has to come from within,” forward Draymond Green said. “Defense is all about will, a want to defend. Defense isn’t fun. You’ve just got to do it if you want to win, and we haven’t.”
More so than individual defense, Green said the Warriors lack the “collective effort to defend.”
Why they haven’t found that will 58 games into the season, Green doesn’t know.
“It’s the will to defend — stop and guard your man, and sink, and drop the box and rotate,” Green said. “Defense is just one or two steps extra … that’s all will, and we don’t have that as a team.”
Golden State’s pick-and-roll defense continues to be an issue. According to Second Spectrum tracking, the Warriors are allowing 1.02 points per chance vs. on-ball screens, the worst efficiency in the league this season. Last season, they gave up just 0.91 points per chance against on-ball screens, the best efficiency allowed.
On Tuesday, the Clippers averaged 1.28 points per chance when using an on-ball screen against the Warriors, the third-highest efficiency allowed in a game by Golden State this season. The Clippers also used ball movement to attack the Warriors, matching a season high with 33 assists.
“Every guy has to decide to take on that challenge himself. That challenge isn’t just guarding the ball. The challenge is I’m supposed to be there to help, and that guy has to be able to trust that I’m going to get there,” Green said. “If he doesn’t trust that I’m going to get there, then what do you do? You foul. We all know that’s been a problem for us.”
Green has long been the defensive anchor in Golden State, as well as the leader in holding his teammates accountable. But all season long — since his altercation with teammate Jordan Poole during an October practice — there has been a sense that his voice, at least in part, has been quieter.
“Defense is all about will, a want to defend. Defense isn’t fun. You’ve just got to do it if you want to win, and we haven’t.”
Warriors forward Draymond Green
On a January episode of his podcast, Green said he has had to walk a fine line of “not being Draymond Green” when it came to implementing his usual, more abrasive motivation style. Because his leadership had been lacking, he said, it has led to a lot of the Warriors’ struggles.
He shared a similar sentiment Tuesday.
“I mean, I’m always going to try on that side, but I can be better. I’m as much of a culprit as anyone else,” Green said. “I’m not going to point the finger at anyone or point blame. If you’re a leader at something and you are failing at it, it’s your fault.”
Green believes the group in Golden State is capable of finding that collective will on defense, but it’s not going to magically appear. Unlike past seasons, when there was confidence that everything would click once the roster got healthy, Green said the Warriors will have to dig deep to put a run together.
“It’s now or never,” Green said. “We are .500 at the break. Middle-of-the-pack team with those middle-of-the-pack stats. You’ve got to come out of the break and win and do it at a high level, or you go home at the beginning of April. I wouldn’t be happy with that. But that will be the result if we don’t get there.”