Amid Criticism Golden State’s Draymond Green Defends Teammate Cousins

It’s not that the Golden State Warriors are in bad shape–but when you’ve won three NBA titles in the past four seasons you’re held to a pretty high standard. The Warriors might not have the best record in the NBA heading into the stretch run–they’re only third best behind Eastern Conference powerhouses Milwaukee and Toronto–but they’re on top of the Western Conference and have run away with their own division. Golden State is eight games up on the second place LA Clippers in the divisional race.

The primary concern is that the Warriors’ defense has been substandard. From a statistical standpoint that’s tough to argue with as Golden State weighs in at 18th place in the NBA’s team defense rankings tied with the Brooklyn Nets allowing 112.4 PPG. That is somewhat mitigated–and to some degree rationalized–by Golden State’s top ranked offense which puts up 118.2 PPG. To be fair, the Warriors have never had a ‘shutdown defense’ during the regular season and in their championship years ranked #15, #11, and #18 in team defense.

It’s still a concern, however, and the team isn’t really happy with their recent defensive play. It became a burning issue once again following a blowout loss to the dysfunctional Boston Celtics. While accepting the legitimacy of the criticism forward Draymond Green emphasized that the play of DeMarcus Cousins isn’t the issue:

“I think so many people are kind of looking at the starting lineup and saying, ‘Oh, DeMarcus is in there and the defense is worse. But our defense has been horses— no matter who’s in there. It’s easy to look at the numbers and think the numbers tell a story, but the fact of the matter is we haven’t been competing.”

Cousins had this explanation following the Celtics loss:

“It’s an adjustment trying to figure things out. In how we want to play with the coverages. I’m trying to meet the needs in the coverages that they want.”

Green continued, suggesting that the problem in the Celtics’ loss was far more fundamental than tactical defense:

“We sucked. “We got embarrassed. But it’s just about competing. I don’t think we came out with the right intensity level, playing with that competitive spirit that we needed to play with in order to win games at a high level. We just got to compete. We compete, can’t nobody beat us. And even sometimes when we don’t compete people still can’t beat us, but we need to compete.”

Green did take personal responsibility for the team’s recent lapses on defense:

“It falls on me to get guys to lock in on that side of the ball. I haven’t done a good job with that because we’re clearly not locked in on that side. That directly falls on me. Sometimes in life you got to make people do what they necessarily may not want to do. Defense is usually one of those things … so I have to focus on that and do a better job at that.”

The stretch run is important but the real test will come during the playoffs and there’s still plenty of optimism among the NBA betting public that the Warriors remain the team to beat. They’re a -225 choice to win their fourth NBA title in five seasons. The second favorite team is the Milwaukee Bucks at +600.

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