If defense wins championships, then the Golden State Warriors are in prime position to win their first NBA title in nearly 40 years.
The Warriors are ranked No. 1 overall this season in team defensive rating -- a statistic that measures the number of points a team allowed per 100 possessions. Since 2007, the NBA champion has ranked in the top 10. And, since 2010, all but one of the 10 NBA finalists was ranked in the top 10 (Miami in 2014).
Golden State point guard Stephen Curry, who will be the Western Conference starting point guard in this year's All-Star Game at Madison Square Garden, said the Warriors' stingy defense often gets overlooked since they have the league's highest scoring offense at 111.3 points per game.
"It may go unnoticed because we've had such a bad rap as an organization, as a team, in history as not being a defensive-minded team at all and trying to outscore people," he said. "We understand that's the way that you win in this league, consistently, if you show up on the defensive end."
There are some, however, who do take notice.
Three-time NBA champion Bruce Bowen, a five-time NBA All-Defensive First Team guard, said one of the league's best defenders is Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson.
"He's becoming more of a complete ballplayer, where he takes on the challenge of guarding the team's top scorer and he's still able to produce," Bowen said.
He added that the Warriors are one of three teams he thinks can dethrone the reigning NBA champion San Antonio Spurs.
"It starts with Stephen Curry," Bowen said. "Having to guard him and make sure that you limit his shot selection. You can't just guard him like you do other stars."
Curry has grown from being one of the league's best shooters into a leading candidate for this season's MVP award. And for him, it was all about rhythm.
"You got to be healthy to get a rhythm in this league and have a consistent presence night in and night out," he said. "Battling through ankle injuries kind of slowed that process down for me, but I've been blessed to be healthy on the court the majority of the last three years. I've been able to get continuous minutes and go through continuous experiences at point guard and I've gotten better."
During his first three seasons, Curry's injuries limited him to playing in 180 of a possible 246 regular-season games. Since then, he's played in 204 out of a possible 213 regular-season games.
Curry said he always remembers the advice of his father, 16-year NBA player Dell Curry.
"Don't take the game for granted," Curry said his father told him. "The higher levels that you get, the harder it is to maintain and sustain yourself, and you have to work even harder once you make it there."