Warriors vs. Spurs: Golden State must stay focused on defense

USA TODAY Sports

The Warriors are one loss away from being eliminated by the Spurs, and if they want to force Game 7, they must avoid costly off-ball breakdowns on the defensive end.

The San Antonio Spurs are one game away from advancing to the Western Conference finals to face the Memphis Grizzlies. In Game 5, San Antonio's offense out-executed the Golden State Warriors' defense. The Spurs shot 51 percent overall from the field and 47 percent from beyond the arc. The Warriors defense must raise their awareness and execution in order to extend the series to seven games.

Tony Parker grilled the Warriors' defense with pick-and-roll play, proving to be a mismatch for the Warriors' individual defenders. The Warriors need to help Andrew Bogut when he pushes up to challenge Parker out of the pick and roll.

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If not, Parker will take Bogut off the dribble and finish at the rim unchallenged.

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In the following possession, the Spurs set a high ball screen for Parker again. This time, Bogut is pushes high enough to challenge Parker and has a help defender behind him. But Bogut shifts back into the paint anticipating Parker to drive to the rim, and Parker pulls up for the jumper. The space created from the screen, along with Bogut backing up, leaves Parker with an open look.

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The Warriors' wings also need to do a better job of recognizing where the screen is coming from and fighting to get back to their man.

The tough thing is that the Warriors were initially in a good position. Bogut is in an area where he can defend Parker's pull-up jumper, and the help defender is under the rim to stop dribble penetration. But to make this work, Bogut needs to stay pushed up to challenge Parker, like so.

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Sometimes, the breakdowns occurred with the secondary defenders. Here, Carl Landry does a good job of pushing up to prevent Parker from shooting and will also slide with Parker to prevent dribble penetration.

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The problem: Stephen Curry is ball watching. When the initial play is shut off, Danny Green is alone on the perimeter and Parker will kick to him. Curry has shaded too far off Green, so he was not in position to help on the play. Green will drain an open three because of Curry's mistake. The Warriors cannot commit three defenders to account for one ball-handler.

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Overall, the Warriors' off-ball defenders have to do a better job of staying on their men. Curry was 4-of-14 from the field and made only one of his seven shots from beyond the arc while playing poor defense. In the 34 minutes that he played, the Warriors had a scoring differential of -21, the worst mark on the team. It was a rare off game for the breakout star.

Here, Curry is in the paint without a man to defend. Every other Warriors player is matched up with their men. Kawhi Leonard curls to the perimeter while Curry is out of position.

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Curry is caught by Tim Duncan's screen when he finally moves.

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By the time Curry recovers, it's too late, and Leonard hits the open shot.

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I present to you, Steph "The Running Man" Curry:

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Each of the two breakdowns ended in the same fashion, and they are both Curry's fault. The Spurs and Warriors are acclimated to one another after five playoff games, and the Spurs showed the execution of a team that knew how to attack on offense.

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The Spurs' offense was crisp in Game 5 and gave them the series lead. The Warriors must step up their defensive execution to force Game 7. Containing Parker in the pick-and-roll is one area they must adjust, but their overall defensive awareness, especially from Curry, must be heightened.

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