The Golden State Warriors put the clamps on the Denver Nuggets on Friday night, holding one of the most explosive offenses in the league to just 105 points en route to a 17-point victory. It was a welcome sight for a Warriors team currently sporting their worst defensive rating, 109.3, since the 2010-2011 season, as they gear up to take a run at their third straight NBA title in just a few months.
Much of the Warriors defensive woes have been laid at the feet of one DeMarcus Cousins, who opposing teams have taken to targeting in the pick and roll to take advantage of the big man’s slow feet and sometimes lackadaisical effort on that end of the floor. Throw in the fact that Cousins is still playing himself back into game shape after tearing his Achilles last season, and there’s enough evidence to compile that points to Cousins hurting the Warriors defensively.
But the stats don’t back that notion up. The Warriors have a 108.3 defensive rating in the 456 minutes Cousins has been on the floor. When Cousins sits? That rating actually gets slightly worse, to 108.8. The Warriors have just been below average as a collective on defense for most of the season, something that Draymond Green emphasized after the Warriors downed the Nuggets.
“Everyone wanted to talk sh*t about DeMarcus’ defense. I told y’all last game, we haven’t played with energy,” Green said. “Everybody was all, ‘Oh, it’s a problem when DeMarcus is out there.’ Yet everyone picked their energy up, and now all of sudden no one’s talking about ‘DeMarcus is a problem defensively’ and ‘It’s a good matchup for him.’ That’s bullsh*t to me.”
Green went on to say that all the noise surrounding Cousins’ defense “pissed him off,” especially since he and Green know the Warriors have been poor defensively as a team all season long.
“Because the team was struggling, everyone wanted to pick the one guy out,” Green said. “And obviously (Cousins) is the guy that hasn’t been here, so it’s easy to say “the Warriors have always been good defensively, DeMarcus is there so let’s pick on him.’ The fact of the matter is we’ve been middle of the pack defensively the whole year.”
The real test of Cousins’ individual defense will come in the playoffs, when teams will assuredly target him in the pick and roll to an even more extreme degree. But as Cousins rounds back into shape, and the Warriors improve defensively as a unit, that noise has been quelled for at least one night.