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Warriors outlast Hawks behind Draymond Green’s defense

Golden State defeats Atlanta as Draymond Green strengthens his case for Defensive Player of the Year.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t say he didn’t warn you.

Just a week ago in Milwaukee, Draymond Green sent out a message to all the other teams in the league. The message was simple — “Don’t go at me for game.”

Apparently, the Atlanta Hawks missed the memo as they went at him, not once, but twice, in an attempt to win last night’s game. The result? Green collected two more blocks and the Hawks got two more turnovers and a loss.

The Hawks entered Oracle Arena as one of the top-rated defenses in the league. At times, they lived up to that title, forcing the Warriors to commit 11 turnovers by half-time.

But the problem was that the Hawks committed 11 turnovers themselves in the first half. And while Golden State made Atlanta pay for it with 18 points off of those turnovers, Atlanta scored only six points off the Warriors’ first-half mistakes. For you Millennials out there, that makes the Hawks all “Netflix” and no “chill.”

Still, Atlanta held the lead for a large part of the game and later refused to allow Golden State to pull too far away. Despite Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson each scoring at least 20 points, the game was always within reach for the Hawks.

Various Warriors’ players had their moments, but it was Green and Andre Iguodala who carried the day. Iguodala had a stupendous game, finishing with 12 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and a team-leading plus/minus of +18. He was effective on both ends of the floor, as evidenced by sequences like this one:

It was a classic Iguodala performance, right down to his pair of missed free-throws.

But the real excitement came with under a minute left in the game. Down four points with 56 seconds left in the game, Atlanta’s Dennis Schröder found himself alone on the left wing against Green. Schröder attempted to drive left but Green stayed in front of the speedy guard and blocked the ball off of Schröder’s face and out-of-bounds. This led to perhaps the best line of color commentary so far this season: “The German drives, and Draymond says, ‘Nein!’”

But wait, there’s more!

About 30 seconds later, still down four, former Warrior Kent Bazemore drove past Curry and was met in the key by none other than Green. Green not only blocked Bazemore’s shot, but followed it up by swiping the ball off of Bazemore’s leg, forcing yet another turnover.

You can see both of these plays — and a little celebration jig by Green — here:

These plays are prime examples of why Green is a perennial candidate for Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY), and a favorite to win this year.

The clip shows that Green is a power forward making huge defensive plays with his footwork, timing and quick hands against two speedy guards. And in the same game, Green consistently kept the Hawks’ 6’11”, 265-pound center, Dwight Howard, out of the paint. That kind of defensive versatility is unheard of, even in a league full of athletic freaks.

After the game, Coach Steve Kerr said it best: “Draymond’s amazing. He can literally guard anybody in the league.”

Just a few years ago, it seemed as though Curry was destined to own every major three-point accomplishment there is — including the three-point contest — and he’s pretty much done that. In the same vein, Green is destined for DPOY. He’s too good to be passed over for the award for much longer and if he keeps playing like this, there are precious few that could take it from him.

Green may warn other teams not to go at him for game, but you can tell he loves it when they do because it gives him an opportunity to make them pay.

Let’s be honest — what’s not to love about this:

Hoops fans can only hope that the rest of the league continues to attack Green at the end of games. It makes for exciting television and supports the case for Green being the deserving recipient of DPOY honors.

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