Damian Lillard’s words inspired best Warriors defensive game of season

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“It’s not the same. They are a great offensive team and I think they will still be a good defensive team, but it’s different than when  (Andrew) Bogut is not back there. It’s just not the same.’’

That was Damian Lillard before the Trail Blazers took on the Warriors Tuesday night in Portland — and he was right. Through their first three games this season, the Golden State defense had been terrible — the Warriors were drilled by the Spurs, but then allowed the Pelicans and Suns to score more than 100 points a game as well (and do so efficiently).

Tuesday night in Portland the Warriors defense looked more like the top five defense of the past couple seasons — Portland shot just 43 percent, turned the ball over 18 times, and scored at just a 97 points per 100 possessions pace. What changed things around for the Warriors? They read Lillard’s comments and got fired up, according to Draymond Green, speaking to CSNBayArea.com after Golden State’s best win of the season.

“It was a complete team effort,” Draymond explained. “Everybody was swarming around, getting deflections, cutting off the lane to the rim. We did a lot of things well and I think it was all based on everybody just really flying around and helping each other.

“That was great for us to really come out and put that kind of game together on the defensive end, especially when our defense has been called out — that there’s no anchor and it’s not the same and all that — I think some opinions will change sooner than later. But until then, we’ll just keep doing that. And when they change, we’ll keep doing that still. It was fun to do that.”

The reality is Portland still had success when Zaza Pachulia and the starters were on the floor — Portland went at him and he is no Andrew Bogut. The Blazers scored at a 119 points per 100 possessions pace against the Warriors starters, with Pachulia as the anchor. Portland hung with that lineup.

However, when the Warriors went small with Green at center they looked like the defensive team we remember — Kevin Durant provided rim protection, while Green and Andre Iguodala seemed to be everywhere. Ian Clark and David West played very well with the small lineups (in fact, the Curry/Iguodala/Green/Clark/West lineup held the Trail Blazers to an offensive rating of 31.3 points per 100 possession in its six minutes together).

The Warriors need another game like that Thursday night against Russell Westbrook and the Thunder. Oklahoma City’s offense has been all Westbrook and not great overall (23rd in NBA) but the Thunder do play tough, physical defense. Golden State needs to match that. Do it and we’ll talk about them being on track.

And if they are, Lillard deserves a hat tip.