Golden State has struggled defensively with DeMarcus Cousins on the court.
You could see it in the numbers. The Warriors preferred starting lineup with Cousins (Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green) have a 113.4 defensive net rating (via NBA.com after Friday’s game), which would be tied with the Suns for 29th in the league on the season. Put Kevon Looney in at center and the defense gets 7.6 per 100 better. Put Andre Iguodala in, move Green to center and go small, and the defense gets 17.6 per 100 better.
Or, you could just see it with your eyes — the Sixers and Celtics both worked hard to drag Cousins into every pick and roll they could. It was the place they chose to attack in a defense that had been flat for weeks (for reasons beyond Cousins and more to do with caring).
Friday night against Denver, Cousins’ and the Warriors’ defense was not a problem. Golden State’s starting lineup had a defensive net rating of 81.8, holding the Nuggets to 8-of-28 shooting. After the game, Green stuck up for Cousins’ defense.
“Everybody wants to talk s*** about DeMarcus’ defense. I told y’all last game, we haven’t played with energy — or at practice. Everybody wanna ‘It’s a problem when DeMarcus is out there.’ Yet everyone picked the energy up, all of a sudden no one is talking about DeMarcus’ problems defensively. Now it’s a good matchup for him. That’s bulls*** to me.”
Green isn’t wrong.
While teams will target Cousins in the playoffs — the way they have targeted Stephen Curry in the past, not because he’s a terrible defender (he’s okay) but he’s the weakest link — but if the Warriors are playing well as a team it’s not going to matter. Denver was off its game Friday night, but the Warriors can slow down any elite offense when they are focused. Friday night they were focused.
Keep playing like that and Cousins will have a ring to shut up his critics.