"Draymond (Green) is obviously capable of guarding pretty much anybody."
Steve Kerr is usually eloquent in his postgame answers. He'll take a short question about some random pick-and-roll coverage in the second quarter and run off several tangents before you can even click record on your phone.
On Draymond Green in the Golden State Warriors' 105-93 win against the Houston Rockets, Kerr kept going back to the same thing, repeating what we already knew, that a small lineup for the Golden State Warriors doesn't usually play very small because of that one big, bad man from Saginaw, Michigan. We were first introduced to his unique level of defending when Green bodied up Dirk Nowitzki before switching onto Monta Ellis on the perimeter in the same possession.
Green's not as graceful as Peak Andre Iguodala in the sense that he's going to shut down the play in almost perfect technical fashion. You can get by Green but there's no way he's going to allow you to escape unscathed before that happens.
Tonight, Green closed out on a James Harden three and deflected it midair - almost unheard of given Harden's filthy step-back move. Then a couple possessions later, and after a Rockets timeout, he punched the ball away from Donatas Motiejunas. Before that, he switched onto Motiejunas after he had punished Marreese Speights all second half. He proceeded to push Motiejunas from the paint to the free-throw line, forced a miss, and screamed at the bench, Andrew Bogut, and his yelling only crescendoed when Klay Thompson hit a three seconds later. Draymond Green was only 4-8 from the floor and his line was a pedestrian 11 and eight rebounds but make no mistake, he was very much the key to the explosive finish the Warriors gave to the Rockets.
The game rolled along in the most Houston Rockets against Golden State Warriors manner for about three and a half quarters, with Patrick Beverley suffocating Stephen Curry, James Harden shooting fireballs from every spot on the floor, random Rockets (Donatas Motiejunas, who is actually a really solid role player) finding ways to score, rebound, and do things that stem runs.
"Going small makes sense as long as you can control the big. You go small, you always weigh the tradeoff. Generally, you do it to get some offense, but you gotta be able to defend."
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of going small was that the defense almost outweighed the offense. Kerr might not have said it but he made the move more out of necessity of defense than offense. They couldn't score, but they also couldn't keep Motiejunas from scoring and Tarik Black off the boards. The Shaun Livingston-Harrison Barnes-Klay Thompson-Stephen Curry-Draymond Green features four above-average defenders to go with Curry who has shown this season he can hold his own. The length, again, just like in the Chicago Bulls game, allowed the Warriors to switch from guard to guard, wing to wing, and center to wing. They forced Harden into tougher shots the deeper in the fourth quarter they went, culminating in a Klay Thompson weakside block as Harden found some daylight for a layup.
The Warriors fought through the Houston malaise that always seems to bother them, using a lineup that's as fascinating and awesome as their 19-2 record. Kerr made an excellent decision to jumpstart his offense, but as it always goes for these Warriors, it was the lockdown defense that got everything going.
1) The offense is still adjusting, as expected, with the absence of Andrew Bogut. Curry was forced to run more straight up pick-and-rolls (ones without movement or motion coming off screens) than they had the entire season. It might work as a blessing in disguise, especially if it allows Kerr to unlock fun lineups. But what's evident tonight has been true all along: Bogut is the Warriors' second-best and second-most important player. It also doesn't help when Festus Ezeli can't catch a ball.
2) Klay Thompson was awesome again. I know I'm enamored with Green's performance but Thompson was superb on defense against Harden. He's much more intent on fighting through screens, something that has improved in Curry's game as well. But what was most impressive was his line drive cut to the basket against Trevor Ariza, and bumping him off before finishing a fading little jump shot. He's not just quicker to the basket and more confident but much stronger than before.
3) Harden only shot four free throws, way below his average of 8.6 per game, but was superb all game long. On offense AND defense. If Curry is the MVP leader in the clubhouse (what is that place even?), then Harden is right there along with Anthony Davis. After getting blocked against Green, Harden attacked him the possession after and Euro-stepped his way from left to right, while bringing the ball over his head and finishing falling to his right. Gorgeous.
4) Spacing problems with the Livingston-Iguodala are very real. Iguodala pushed the ball in transition with Livingston in the corner. The defender crashed into the paint because Livingston. Usually, it's Thompson or Barnes spacing. Livingston then randomly ran into the paint where Iguodala drove into and it totally killed the entire action. The defense is awesome when they're in together but the offense needs some staggering from Kerr's substitution patterns.
The Golden State Warriors travel to Dallas to take on the Mavericks on Saturday night at 11 AM.