OAKLAND, Calif. — The stage was all set for the Warriors to have a historic third quarter against the visiting Los Angeles Clippers last night at Oracle. The sold out crowd was quiet by halftime, having just witnessed the Chris Paul-less Clips outscore the Dubs 37-18 in the second quarter alone.
Golden State needed a spark, like a thunderous Kevin Durant dunk or a deep back-breaking Steph Curry trey-ball. Hell, at this point even a Draymond Green technical would get the job done.
Head coach Steve Kerr said that the Warriors needed to stir things up to get themselves going. With 8:11 remaining in the third quarter, after two Curry threes and a KD dunk, Draymond Green stirred the pot with his 11th technical of the season.
The rest of the game was history, as Green’s fiery outburst propelled the Warriors to their best offensive quarter in almost 30 years. There is no doubt that Golden State needed some sort of spark, just as everyone knew where that spark was going to come from.
One of my favorite aspects of NBA basketball is the raw emotion that players show on a nightly basis. It’s not hidden behind a facemask like in football or shunned by traditionalists like in baseball. It’s in your face, for better or worse.
This is where I come to a crossroads with Draymond Green’s emotion. It is my absolute favorite aspect of Green’s game. It’s pure and unfiltered. Quite frankly that can be difficult to find these days in professional sports, so you have to appreciate it while you can.
It is well documented how Green’s emotion often leads the Warriors. It’s an important aspect of Golden State’s championship mold. He is their enforcer and match that often lights the flame of the most talented basketball team in NBA history.
While there is no issue with relying on Green’s ability to spark the team, both he and the Warriors are walking awfully close to the edge of the cliff in how they are choosing to do so. Steve Kerr knows this and is doing his best to reel Green in without compromising his intensity. But at this point that seems easier said than done.
“I want Draymond to go right up to the edge and not cross it,” Kerr said after Thursday night’s win versus the Clippers. “That’s asking a lot. He plays right on the edge all of the time. That’s why he’s so great and that’s why he is who he is. We need that from him.”
The Warriors responded great after Green’s technical against the Clippers. But Golden State needs to figure out a way to be inspired by his emotional intensity without Green accruing technical foul points that ultimately build up to suspensions.
The Warriors’ undersized big man had 12 techs all of last season, plus an additional 5 in the playoffs, which famously resulted in a one game suspension in game 5 of the NBA Finals. Green already has 11 technicals this season and with 25 games remaining in the season, it is within reason to think that he will surely pick up a couple more.
The Warriors and their coaching staff are clearly cognizant of Green’s situation. I don’t pin the Warriors’ loss in last year’s finals solely on Draymond Green, but I do firmly believe that Golden State would of closed out the series had he played in game 5.
It seems to me that this is the same direction the Warriors are headed yet again this season. Green is on pace to finish this season with more T’s than last year, which then results in a tighter leash on Green’s emotional outbursts come playoff time.
Its good to know that Kerr and his staff are being proactive about Green’s situation. But the real problem is that after the outcome of last season, the rest of the league now knows that if the timing is right and the correct buttons are pushed, an opposing team can take out Green for an entire game.
Green, like the rest of the Warriors team, feeds off his intensity. The last thing you want to tell him is to dial it back. But if Golden State doesn’t figure out some way to control Green’s outbursts, they could very well find themselves without their heart and soul when he is needed most.