It took a back seat to the joy of victory, but some in the Warriors locker room expressed dissatisfaction with the defense in their season-opening victory.
The Warriors managed enough defense at the right times to get the 132-128 win over the Houston Rockets. But Wednesday's game showed how far they are from the defensive-minded team they want to be.
"Our rotations weren't as good as they were in the preseason," forward David Lee said, "and we didn't do as good a job staying in front of the ball at all five positions. We're going to have to improve our overall defense top to bottom on the roster. Everybody has to get better, and we plan on doing that."
Certainly, the guards will have tough assignments tonight as the Los Angeles Clippers come to town with a strong and skilled backcourt of Baron Davis and Eric Gordon. But after Wednesday's game, the spotlight will be on the Warriors' interior defense, namely Lee and center Andris Biedrins.
Houston big men Luis Scola and Chuck Hayes had their way with the Warriors defense. Scola had 36 points and 16 rebounds, while Hayes tied a career high with 16 points and had eight rebounds and six assists.
The Clippers' big men tandem might be a bit more daunting. Chris Kaman, at his best, is an All-Star caliber center. And power forward Blake Griffin is a favorite to claim NBA Rookie of the Year honors.
"With those guys, we have to be really physical," Biedrins said. "We'll have our hands full."
A few things have to happen to prevent the Warriors from getting torched. Primarily, Lee and Biedrins must do a better job of not allowing the bigs to get where they want on the floor. Warriors coach Keith Smart said after reviewing film of Wednesday's game that they didn't do a good job of defending early in the shot clock. The Warriors want to make opposing big men work just to get the ball and to push them farther away from the spots they like to dwell.
Lee and Biedrins got the job done in the third quarter, which is largely why the Warriors were able to build some cushion.
"In the second half, third quarter in particular, we fought the guys better," Smart said. "Their catches were right above the block. We didn't do a good job of that in the first half.
"You know, it was the first game. We didn't have our game experience, and it showed early on. But we managed to put it together in the second half and managed to be a little more aggressive."
The Clippers' front-line duo is more physically daunting than Scola, who is more crafty than physical, and Hayes, a power forward who plays center. Kaman is 7-foot, 256 pounds with a skill set. Griffin (6-10, 252), who missed all of last season after knee surgery, is a freakish athlete known already for his explosiveness and aggressiveness.
But the onus is not just on the big men. Part of the Warriors' team defense plans includes support from the perimeter players. Their job is to keep the big man off balance by doing things such as double-teaming on occasion, faking the double-team, swiping at the ball when they dribble and rotating to cut off passing lanes.
Help from the guards, or the threat of help, is designed to create pressure for the posting big men.
"We just have to have a little more intensity around the guys in the paint," point guard Stephen Curry said. "We were just letting them pound it eight, nine dribbles with back to the basket. Any guy in the NBA is going to get to the basket or put some pressure on the defense if you just let him just sit there and pound it and survey the court."
L.A. Clippers at Warriors, 7:30 p.m., CSNBA
Wizards routed in top pick Wall's debut. Page 7