There was no doubt in the wake of the Donald Sterling catastrophe that the narrative after today's game could only go in one of two directions: A Clippers win would mean Doc Rivers and his players used it as fuel to ignite a win against their northern rivals or a Clippers loss would mean they wilted under the pressure of immense distraction.
Fortunately, for us loyal Dubs fans, it went the second way. Only games 5, 6, and potentially 7 will tell us if this was a temporary distraction or a more meaningful display of Warriors superiority, but for this one game, at least, many of us got what we had been asking to see for so, so long.
We finally saw the Warriors go small with Draymond and Lee for extensive minutes. We finally got to see the lineup that had dominated in a small sample size. And it was good.
Truth be told, Mark Jackson deserves credit for making the switch. It was by no means foretold that the Lee-Green front court would hold up under the scrutiny of a larger sample size and facing DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin from the opening tipoff. When we look at the stats of lineups in relatively small sample sizes, there is always a counterfactual at play, which is that those lineups are specifically inserted at the optimal time. For example, one can easily imagine that every time the opponent takes out their center, Jackson could insert Green at the 4 and shift Lee to center without too much concern for being overmatched physically. And in those opportunities, Green and Lee take advantage. One could further easily imagine that in today's game, facing a much, much bigger lineup, the Clippers could have mounted a full on "Lob City" attack on the the smaller Lee-Green combo, and everybody (including yours truly) would be having a field day second-guessing Mark Jackson's move.
Good thing it didn't go that way, eh? Instead, what happened was that honest-to-goodness Nellie-era small ball was immediately and ferociously unleashed on the Clippers from the get go. As always, it begins and ends with the Super Star who nailed 5 three-point shots in the opening quarter, and the "floor spacer" Draymond Green opened up the middle for a barrage of David Lee pick and roll action. I can't remember a first quarter this season, or any quarter of Warriors basketball this season, where there were so few post-up or iso plays ran. It was not until Jermaine O'Neal entered the game a few minutes before the end of the first quarter I believe, that the inevitable post-up play arrived. But thankfully all night they were few and far between.
I'm not sure I can remember a game where there were so many uber-positive contributions as this one. It seemed every Warrior, from Klay Thompson to Andre Iguodala to Harrison Barnes (oh my!) did no less than they needed to do to ensure victory. Yes, Klay Thompson amassed a bunch of fouls (excuse the Fitz in me that thinks most of them were atrocious calls). But he was ridiculously good in the minutes he was actually on the court.
That was a Klay UPPPP.— EvanZ (@thecity2) April 27, 2014
Iguodala (6 of 8 from the field, 8-10 from the line) and Barnes (6-7 from the field) took and made the open looks that the Clippers had to allow (unlike Draymond, they can't be everywhere all the time, right?). Did you see the play where Barnes got hacked by Hedo on his way to a baseline dunk? The emotion that Barnes displayed afterwards was refreshing to see. I hope we see more of it in the future. He needs to play with that kind of, dare I say it, playoff intensity to make himself a key piece of the Warriors puzzle. I still don't see anything approaching a "star" in Barnes, but there's no good reason he can't be a very good 3&D role player for this team going forward, if he (and the team) commit to it.
Let's talk about David Lee for a moment. David Lee was born to be a small ball center. He really was, and we saw why today. He's so quick around the rim. DeAndre Jordan is a great athlete, but he's no match for the quickness of David Lee when pulled even a few feet further away from the rim. That can't happen when Bogut or Jermaine O'Neal are on the court with him, but it can happen when he's paired with Draymond Green. Our old buddy Feltbot has been alone in the woods waxing philosophic about this for aeons now, but he looks like a genius right about now. I ain't gonna lie.
I mean, what can I say that I haven't already said A THOUSAND TIMES BEFORE? (And y'all know that's possibly an understatement.) The kid is just a winner. If the God of Basketball made MJ and LeBron and KD the first day, and he made Stephen Curry on the second day, he made Draymond Green like really late that same evening while sipping on a fine single malt, thinking to himself, "I need to make a basketball player that can be appreciated in his own time, under his own terms."
I said earlier that this game could have gone another way. Draymond Green did not let that happen. Blake Griffin went 8 for 14 and had a pedestrian (by his standards) 21 points. That was all Draymond. He just suffocated Blake all game long. Did not let him get comfortable in the post. Made almost every shot just a bit tougher than Blake would have liked. And when Draymond was not busy forcing his will on Blake, he was seemingly everywhere else, stripping balls and making the timely pass to the open shooter. Draymond could have easily had 2 or 3 more assists in this game if those players knocked down a few more open shots. (Still, he had 5, which is nothing to sneeze at!)
He played 41 minutes today, and I still thought to myself during the game, he needs to be out on the floor a bit more. That's how important his presence was today. If Mark Jackson keeps his job after this season, there is no doubt in my mind that Draymond Green is the number one reason why. We're lucky to have him on this team. Truly lucky.
And that is all. Now let's go to Los Angeles and beat the hell out of the Clippers on Tuesday.