It was supposed to be Klay Thompson versus Kevin Love. That was the entire clusterf*** of the Golden State Warriors offseason. I was, of course, on the bandwagon that caped up for a Thompson/Harrison Barnes/1st round pick assembly of assets for the gem that was Kevin Love. Even though it wasn't a turning point or an epiphany game of any sort, Friday night epitomized what the Steve Kerr and Jerry West saw in the team as a collective train of destruction.
Harrison Barnes made some excellent cuts to the basket and bodied up, disrupting passing lanes on defense. Klay Thompson continued his evolution as a scorer more on the path of Stephen Curry than Kyle Korver. The hesitation dribble from the three-point line to the baseline, then pump-faking and pivoting out into a pass to Andrew Bogut, then re-setting for a three, and finishing with a side step after another pump fake solidified my favorite Klay Thompson moment of the season. Truly special growth. But the unforeseen aspect of everything that was rehashed, resized, and regurgitated during the summer? Draymond Green's ascension from a superstar role player into a superstar defensive demon. Perhaps Green starts at the small forward but let's not forget that Steve Kerr was content with starting David Lee at the 4 all the way until he injured his hamstring.
Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes had their moments on Friday night, and all season long, but Green shined despite only putting in five buckets and missing six threes - all mostly wide open. He grabbed rebounds between two Cavs. He pushed the ball and threw alley-oops from the half-court line. He blocked Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson while talking smack and staring them down after. Frenetic hedges, switches and surprise double teams became turnovers and buckets on the other end.
Kerr, the coach who has fallen in love with Green after having not said much about him all during the Kevin Love sweepstakes, had this to say, "That's the beauty of Draymond is that he doesn't need to make his shots to make a huge impact on the game. Everything else he does is really what kind of sets the tone for us on the defensive end."
It's the nastiness that sets him apart from other defenders. I'm not sure how many other NBA players have this much to say during and after games, but it's a revealing look into what makes the heartbeat of the Warriors tick.
Draymond on if he liked going against Love: "Of course. He's supposed to be here, don't he?"— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) January 10, 2015
Green on D: "A person who can go out and get 40 is going to get a lot more respect than somebody who go out and hold somebody to 2 points"— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) January 10, 2015
Draymond on if he let Love know when he blocked him: "I let everyone know when I have those. Ain't no different with him."— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) January 10, 2015
What the hell else am I supposed to write after that? What used to be Klay Thompson versus Kevin Love has now aptly turned into a Draymond Green might have bigger impacts on games than Kevin Freakin Love. Yeesh.
1. I was at the game so, unfortunately or fortunately, I wasn't able to watch the supremely awkward telecast that the apparent Mark Jackson-Jeff Van Gundy combo gave you guys. I will rewatch it sometime, though, if I want to smell desperation.
2. The Warriors probably didn't need Bogut to win this game down the stretch but his presence was evident when he absolutely stuffed Timofey Mozgov on a dunk attempt at the rim. The Warriors play a stifling quick-hedge and switch defense when Bogut is off the court. It doesn't change much when he is on the floor, which makes this defense somehow more frightening than its offense.
3. This used to be the Stephen Curry spot. My observations and recap would be littered with Curry antics but they've been sparse only in theory because the other Warriors have shined so brightly. Curry made some blindingly quick strikes into the paint at the end of the game, even flexing after a bucket at the rim against Kevin Love.
But the most impressive part? 41 minutes, 9-23 and 23 points. Those were Kyrie Irving's numbers. Even though Curry didn't guard him the entire time on the floor, he was as effective as ever on the defensive end. I'm not sure how much the switching and screen-fighting's effect has on Curry's legs in the fourth quarter but he's been either good to excellent in every Warriors game this season (sans San Antonio Spurs because duh).
4. Mark Jackson received a huge standing ovation during a first quarter stoppage, led by Draymond Green and Stephen Curry. Some people said Joe Lacob stood, some said he didn't. Regardless, I think he was very deserving of the applause and self-pat on the back while we can also acknowledge that he wasn't the right coach to lead this team to where they are now. It's not hard to accept the two but like most debates, people love the black and white, right and wrong, when the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle.
5. Nate Duncan is one of, if not the best, in-game tweeters on the Xs and Os.
Same end of 3rd Q play as Monday for GSW. Fake 1/2 PNR, followed by downscreen for the 2. Bucket both times.— Nate Duncan (@NateDuncanNBA) January 10, 2015
6. I'm not really sure where the Cavs go from there. It was a solid game from the standpoint that their defense wasn't an absolutely sieve. But the Warriors read their offense from start to finish, shutting down the screens and drives to the hoops off of picks. The Cavs are obviously trying to win now, no matter what LeBron James preaches about patience. David Blatt kept saying how much of a "super addition" J.R. Smith was. Whatever offense the Cavs are running, it's not what Blatt ran in his time as a legendary coach overseas. He also spend so much time clapping, screaming, and stomping on the sidelines, he reminds me of a high school coach's demeanor. They'll be fine in the grand scheme because of the horrendous Eastern Conference, though. Welcome to the NBA.
The Golden State Warriors travel to Utah to take on the Jazz next Tuesday at 6 PST.