The Golden State Warriors looked pretty ordinary in Monday night's loss to the Miami Heat — a defeat that revealed two glaring holes in the NBA's foremost "superteam."
On the other hand, the Warriors' disappointing showing in Miami was just their seventh loss in 45 games, so it's safe to say things are still going pretty well in Golden State. In fact, since losing by one to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Christmas, the Warriors have lost just twice by a combined total of 12 points.
With the Cavs struggling and LeBron James openly questioning his team's desire to win a championship, the Warriors are unquestionably back in control of the NBA. That, in turn, raises a question: When the Warriors are playing at their very best, how do you beat them?
The answer isn't simple, but it can be done. Here are the nine keys to topping Golden State — in one game or, perhaps, over an entire NBA Finals series.
Beat up Stephen Curry
The NBA's worst-kept secret is how Curry responds to physicality. The slight Warriors point guard simply can't handle guys getting up in his jersey and walking the tightrope between hardnosed play and committing fouls. The more effort Curry has to expend fighting through bodies and trying to get open, the less energy he has to burn you on offense.
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Force Kevin Durant to regress to his OKC self
Durant is one of the best post players in the game — a skill he was all too happy to show off with the Thunder. After a rough start over the first couple weeks, KD stopped bringing the Warriors' offense to a grinding halt by holding the ball and trying to go one-on-one with his defender, but that old tendency still lives in the back of Durant's mind.
If you can try to funnel Durant into the high post on offense, rather than letting him set up shop behind the 3-point line, you stand a chance of slowing Golden State's offense (or, rather, letting KD slow the Warriors on your behalf).
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Attack in transition -- every single time
No matter which player grabs a defensive rebound, all five guys need to look to push the ball in transition off every missed shot. That's doubly true if you come up with a block or a steal — and if you can catch one of the Warriors complaining about a perceived missed foul call, even better.
In all seriousness, though, any missed opportunity in transition is death against Golden State. You simply can't give up free points.
Frustrate Draymond Green
At his best, Green is the heart and soul of the Warriors. At his worst, he is a virus that infects everyone within the organization. If you can get in his head, Green will battle officials, yell at his teammates for their mistakes and just generally become a wrecking ball with no regard for the consequences.
Resisting the temptation to go small is one of the biggest keys against the Warriors. Instead, you have to force Kerr to figure out how to adjust to your size, as the Cavs did in the Finals with Tristan Thompson.
Time and again, Kerr has gone with the likes of Anderson Varejao and (this season) Zaza Pachulia in response to teams staying big. If you can keep Golden State's best lineups off the floor, you'll stand a chance.
Get Klay Thompson into foul trouble
Thompson is nearly as valuable to the Warriors as a defender as he is as a scorer, but he can err on the side of aggression sometimes. Attacking Thompson in the first quarter to try to get him to rack up two quick fouls is a solid opening approach, yet you can't abandon your general offensive gameplan just to force the issue with Klay.
Dominate the rebounding battle
This one isn't up for discussion. The Warriors will go small, and they will try to run you off the floor. If you can't clean up on the glass — on both ends of the court — you're simply doomed against Golden State.
Weather the inevitable 3-point storm
At some point, the Warriors will unleash offensive hellfire on your poor, poor soul. All you can do is hold on to the rope, as coaches love to say, and keep fighting through the onslaught.
Because if you keep coming, eventually, variance will catch up to the Warriors, and they'll go cold. And if you've frustrated Draymond, and maintained your transition attacks, that 20-point lead the Warriors built up in a matter of minutes will disappear just as quickly.
Turn the game into a one-on-one affair
This might be the biggest key — and it's why the Cavs have had such success against the Warriors.
Golden State thrives in chaos on both ends of the floor. Its defense is predicated on disrupting passing lanes and forcing you to make mistakes, while the offense is a never-ending flurry of motion, screens and ball movement.
But if you concentrate on attacking the Warriors defense in isolation, like LeBron James and Kyrie Irving do, you can negate their ability to send help to the rim — and if you dare Curry and Durant to beat you one-on-one, essentially challenging their manhood, you can take the air out of Golden State's offense.
Isolation in the biggest moments might drive statheads crazy, but there's a reason it's so effective. When the game is on the line, trust your best players to carry you to victory.