Since Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin captivated the Bay Area in the “Run TMC” days of the early 1990s, the Warriors have been known for scoring a lot of points and giving up even more.
In Mark Jackson’s second season as coach, the Warriors finally have started to change their focus. Golden State (21-10) is off to its best start in more than 20 years entering tonight’s home game against the Los Angeles Clippers, a surprising turnaround that has been propelled largely by defense.
“It’s 2013,” forward Carl Landry said with a smile after Tuesday’s practice on New Year’s Day. “It’s a different time.”
The Warriors rank third in the league in rebounding differential (plus-4.19) and fourth in average opponents’ field-goal percentage (42.9 percent) per game. They were 28th and 20th, respectively, in those categories while finishing 23-43 last season.
“You can’t just wake up and be an elite defensive team. But the more you preach it, the more you hear that message, it shows in how we practice in training camp, how we watch film and study the game,” said point guard Stephen Curry, who has become a surprising pest on defense.
Jackson believes players started to embrace his approach once they realized the previous ways didn’t translate into wins.
Golden State is 19-2 when outrebounding an opponent, and 6-1 when holding teams below 40 percent shooting this season. Only two teams — Oklahoma City and Sacramento — have shot more than 50 percent against the Warriors, who lost both of those games.
Golden State finished December with a 12-4 record, including a 6-1 road trip highlighted by a win at the defending champion Miami Heat, and won at least 20 games before New Year’s Day for the first time since 1980.