No team has been better than the Golden State Warriors in the past three years. Seriously, how does one defeat the Warriors?
Beating the Warriors is no easy task, especially when they boast four All-Stars, two former MVPs and a Defensive Player of the Year. To make this team even look more invincible, the Warriors broke the regular season win/loss record before adding one of the best scorers the league has ever seen.
Blueprint to End the Golden State Warriors Dominance
The Warrior’s unique three-year dominance has never been seen before; not even the Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls or Tim Duncan San Antonio Spurs can match what the Warriors have done in a three year period.
Some of the magical things they can do on the court include being arguably the best offense in NBA history, an incredibly versatile defensive team, and enough IQ to exploit weaknesses and play down any team’s strengths.
Here are the ways that Cleveland, Oklahoma City, San Antonio, and Houston could potentially beat Golden State in a seven-game series.
As the only team that has given the Warriors their only playoff series loss since coming to power, Cleveland got the best of them in the historic 2016 NBA Finals. Led by the best player in the world, LeBron James, all hopes of defeating Golden State starts and stops with him. As of more recently, Cleveland’s offense has hit their lows when they relied too much on hero ball and not enough emphasis on fluid movement.
The offense could use more baseline plays, off-ball screens, post play and less James-led pick and rolls. That was once an idea now they decided it is best to surround James with wings who can shoot and defend multiple positions.
Cleveland can match Golden State’s outside firepower, and it is up to LeBron James to unlock that firepower which is too reliant. The recent signings of Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose give Cleveland the benefits of competent veteran playmakers and should make a difference down the stretch.
Their defense was an issue as they lacked the discipline and the right guys; putting Love at center only worsens something that once was a huge weakness. After all, the Cavs found the rules and recipe to shut down Stephen Curry, as seen during the 2016 NBA Finals. Tristian Thompson was the man they relied on to contain Curry, as he was switching on every screen and chasing Curry around.
This will be not happening if Thomson is on the bench, but Cleveland can roll with Jae Crowder in small-ball lineups against Warriors’ death lineup if they choose to unleash it.
Once Isaiah Thomas comes back and replaces Rose, Cleveland can go back to their old Tristan Thompson and Love frontcourt pairing. This pairing gives Cleveland a good balance of both offense and defense. Tristan is most effective when on the court as he is vital to switch on screens and is mobile enough to flame out Warriors’ centers in pick-and-roll situations.
If the Cavs ditch the idea of exchanging three-pointers with Golden State, a number of new and interesting lineups could be utilized. A frontcourt trio of James, Crowder, and Thompson can deliver some serious defense, rebounding, and grit. Even though the Warriors have numerous players who dominate on both ends of the floor whereas Cleveland doesn’t. Cleveland may switch and alter starting lineups in order to hone strengths but weaknesses befall in every possible starting lineup.
Last but not least is the absence of Kyrie Irving. Due to Irving’s heroics, all the last three Cleveland victories against Golden State came in large part because of him. Most notably Game 7 of the 2016 finals and the Christmas Day rematch after the 2016 finals came because of his game winners. It’s not a surprise that his best showing in the recent finals gave Cleveland their only win in the series. Not to worry, Isaiah Thomas will be Mr. 4th quarter again when he comes back from his hip injury
Houston is possibly the only team with capable offensive firepower to go toe-to-toe with Golden State. The Rockets are led by arguably the best backcourt in NBA today, combined with sharpshooters who built one of the best three-point shooting teams and a coach that revolutionized the modern NBA offense.
Sounds very sweet, but again – we are talking about taking the Warriors who happen to have a defense capable of locking down perimeter offensive sets.
The combination of Chris Paul and James Harden mostly benefits the team and not each other, as both players have minuscule off-ball movement. Both Harden and Paul need to run an abundance of pick-and-rolls to be effective and lead a team’s offense; but nonetheless, the combustible pairing should lead a dangerous charge. If Golden State likes to run fast, Houston will have the ultimate goal to run faster.
Golden State has an amazing defense but the addition of Paul really helps for Houston’s attack against that defense. Not many people in the history of the game have court vision like Paul; adding him to one of the best offenses should tone down the pressure on Harden and keep the Warriors’ defense guessing.
Houston, like other teams, will have to run small ball to keep up with Golden State. P.J. Tucker will be one of the major factors and him logging minutes at center should be effective for small ball lineups. The Rocket’s offense will always be rolling with either Harden, Paul or Eric Gordon on the court as they all can be relied upon to create their own shot or create for others.
The defensive level needed to compete is still a huge discrepancy, but the depth and flexibility of their rotation is a huge plus. A line up of Paul, Harden, Ariza, Anderson, and Tucker should be the best lineup the Rocket’s can trot out against GSW.
Other than that ideal lineup, something else would be easily exploitable. Adding in Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute at the big man positions would take away their shooting from Ryan Anderson, which they need. Gordon with Harden and Paul at the same risks bench depth and is too a ‘shrimpy’ lineup. Ryan Anderson will be exposed hard by the Warriors, as Draymond Green would make him work on defense and offense
However, those weak links on defense like Anderson and Gordon, are key to shoot and score with GSW. As long as Houston can employ their two athletic, switching defenders and hide their weak links on defense.
The only team on this list with a capable enough offense of competing against GSW. Their GM Daryl Morey said, defeating Golden State would come from their abundance firepower.
San Antonio Spurs
When the Warriors began their reign of terror back in 2015, many fans and analysts saw the San Antonio Spurs as the biggest threat and predicted them to beat the Warriors. The debate continued on during the historic 73-win season in 2016 and it was a toss-up in 2017.
During Game 1 of the 2017 Western Conference Finals, San Antonio had a 25-point lead in Oracle Arena. The two bigs in Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge busted them in the post, the defense forced misses with contesting the shooters and raced them in transition. A dramatic switch around occurred when Zaza Pachulia may have slipped his foot under Kawhi Leonard when he went for a jump shot.
Had Zaza Pachulia not gotten mixed up with Kawhi Leonard when Leonard went up for a jump shot, the series could have gone on and very well resulted in a victory for San Antonio.
The game flipping around like that after Leonard’s injury indicates he is the X-factor for the San Antonio Spurs. Leonard’s performance against Golden State on both ends will decide San Antonio’s chances; including the best weapon of choice which is the coaching adjustments and effective strategies done by the best NBA coach
Small lineups are a remedy preferred by other teams, but Head Coach Gregg Popovich remains with the conventional and traditional way of things. San Antonio likes two big guys instead of smaller players when consisting of a lineup since Popovich opted to stay big in a league deciding to go small and fast. A combination of smart ball and player movement, unlocking easy-to-make shots everywhere on the court and a high IQ all embedded in the players’ minds make this roster.
A super team isn’t needed for Pop, unlike Houston and Oklahoma City, who decided to add star players along with other star players. Despite the roster being suspect to serious injuries and effects of old-age showing in players like Parker and Gasol, the Spurs benefit from their hardened team chemistry.
The Spurs still have one of the best wing defensive duos, Aldridge’s size should give them troubles along with their floor spacing. Maybe Popovich comes to his senses and brings out a small lineup with Kawhi, Green, and Gay. Small ball is most likely the best possible lineup, against the Warriors. Popovich’s ideal small ball lineup may be the best anti-GSW small lineup; considering Pop always finds groundbreaking edges and his roster does it greatly.
Oklahoma City Thunder
How funny would it be to see Durant’s former team to beat him, including his former teammate, whom he has had a falling out with?
At least bringing two all-stars makes OKC more competitive when facing Golden State. Oklahoma City ended up with the same viewpoint as Cleveland, as both teams have a history of smothering Golden State with length and size but ditched that for smaller lineups. Both teams wanted maximum offensive firepower which is the explanation for the change in starting lineups.
Oklahoma City is one of the top defensive teams as they boast arguably the best defensive duo in Roberson and Paul George. Defensive versatility is key versus Golden State, which is something OKC can boast more than any team on this list.
The Warriors will try their hardest to exploit Carmelo Anthony on defense, but OKC’s ground defense and length should cover this up. Russell Westbrook finally can be complemented nicely by outside shooters like newly additions in Patrick Patterson, George, and Anthony.
Warriors’ small ball lineup may expose the weaknesses Anthony has on defense but OKC can do the same. A Westbrook-Melo pick and roll are deadly as it sounds, this will call for an immediate switch with Draymond Green picking up Westbrook. This will then lead to Anthony being guarded by a smaller and weaker Curry, which would allow him to punish Curry in the post. Cleveland has done this many times when they forced to Curry switch on Lebron James. Carmelo Anthony’s post play comes across as too much of “hero ball”, but his bully-ball game down in the post will be key if smaller wing players guard him.
Patrick Patterson is an option to be put at center if Adams can’t keep with the Warriors’ offense. Westbrook will get all the spacing in the world and the entire offense will live off his drive and kicks.
Then again, this is the Warriors
Not a bad thing to try to beat the Warriors. You may not get a participation trophy but it is never shameful to lose when you put up a fight. It would take a league effort of ever beating the Warriors. Stockpiled talent overwhelming and forcing them to overwork may as well be their demise. This will be Golden State’s hardest fight yet.