It looked a tad bizarre, perhaps even a little troll-ish, but what it did do was allow the Warriors to play their vaunted ‘small ball’ lineup from the off.
Of course, the secret to the ‘small ball’ lineup isn’t that it’s small. It’s that it’s made up of lengthy, interchangeable parts. When this lineup is clicking they defend as if they’re on a string, switching seemlessly, disrupting passing lanes, shrinking the floor.
Throughout the game that length simply overwhelmed the Pelicans.
Pelicans currently have three players on the floor 6'4" and under. Shortest Warrior on the floor is 6'6".— The Bird WWWWWWWWWrites (@thebirdwrites) April 29, 2018
It's a problem. Rebounding. Tipped passes. Challenging shots. Everything.
Draymond Green - Game 1 Warrior Wonder
The key to it all is Draymond Green. He is both the central nervous system, and the pumping ventricles, of the ‘small ball’ lineup.
As fantastic as Green was in the first round, he was even better in this game.
He was the eye of the storm swarming over the Pelicans - battling Anthony Davis on one end, ripping down rebounds, firing up his teammates, directing traffic, creating plays, and finishing them himself.
Green finished with his fourth playoff triple-double, passing Tom Gola for the franchise record, with 16 points, a whopping 15 rebounds, 11 assists, three steals and two blocks.
The triple-double has become somewhat diminished of late. There are some in the league who have focused on blatently stat-padding their way to what was once a great measure of a player’s all around impact on a game.
But here’s a reminder that some triple-doubles are just more impactful than others.
The Warriors are now 26-0 in games in which Draymond Green records a triple-double, including 4-0 in the postseason.— Warriors PR (@WarriorsPR) April 29, 2018
Anyway, feast your eyes on this pretty package of plays.
As ever though it doesn’t really tell the full story of what Green’s ferociousness really looks like.
These highlight reels always feel a little sanitized, taking some of the nasty out rather than showing the full brutish force with which Draymond Green attacks the game.
Let’s see if we can capture some of that a bit better.
Here he battles the gigantic Davis in transition and tips away the pass, before giving his opponent a friendly cuddle.
Gentry is HOT at the no call on the steal. Gets T’d up pic.twitter.com/t5KjM0z36a— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) April 29, 2018
Here Green uses his strength again to get into Davis and forces him to cough it up as he tries to drive.
Anthony Davis tries to drive, Draymond rips it away pic.twitter.com/fjxCudlN1K— Drew Shiller (@DrewShiller) April 29, 2018
This big highlight alleyoop dunk punctuated the whopping second quarter run that left the Pelicans reeling. But look how it starts out - with Draymond Green tipping the ball away from Davis to kick off the fast break.
The Warriors are trying to end this thing now, go up 21 points! pic.twitter.com/35UZwQefW0— Warriors Talk (@JaeAzizi) April 29, 2018
It wasn’t just Davis he terrorized either. In this mini-highlight package you can see him ducking down and knocking it away from Nikola Mirotic, as TNT Analyst Chris Webber scoffs down some humble pie.
Chris Webber: “Draymond Green does it all. He’s not just a scorer.” Huh? pic.twitter.com/QNtCieOnvZ— Drew Shiller (@DrewShiller) April 29, 2018
He also might be the only 30% three-point shooter who’ll yell at you for leaving him open.
Draymond drills a 3 then proceeds to yell towards the Pelicans bench. pic.twitter.com/PgLkk3xhjX— Warriors Talk (@JaeAzizi) April 29, 2018
You get the picture. Draymond Green is a national treasure, like many great artists too often unappreciated in his time.
Next time someone says the Warriors should trade him for Anthony Davis, show them the tape of this game. That’ll shut ‘em up.
The other all-stars
I wrote before the series that the Pelicans would struggle with the length and size of the Warriors, in particular highlighting the challenges they face matching up with Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson.
On the other end, the Pelicans will surely struggle with the length of the Warriors. For example, who the hell on the Pelicans is going to take Durant? My guess is that it would have to be Davis, because Soloman Hill sure as hell Pelican’t.
Meanwhile Klay Thompson is a lot bigger than any of the Pelicans guards. Holiday’s a great defender but Klay has the size and length to get shots off over him, Rondo, E’Twan Moore, or Clark. The Pelicans lack of wings in this series could see them going the way of the Dodo.
How did that work out in Game 1?
Yeah, not so good for the Pelicans. Thompson led the Warriors with 27 points, six rebounds, two assists, and two blocks, continuing his fine postseason form. Durant poured in 26 points, 13 rebounds, two assists, and two blocks himself.
The Pelicans really need a plan for those two that doesn’t involve Mirotic guarding Durant one-on-one.
Looney, Looney, Looney
Ah, Kevon Looney. As everyone predicted last summer, Kevon Looney is now one of the Warriors’ most indispensable playoff bigs behind Green.
Looney’s length and smarts fit this team so well, and he does so many little things right.
Looney block ➡️ Quinn lay-up.— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) April 29, 2018
Looney steal ➡️ Livingston dunk. pic.twitter.com/MBuQJJ0uhB
He even held his own against Davis when matched up on him.
Another great job by Kevon Looney on Anthony Davis pic.twitter.com/MSZsuTwD5Y— Drew Shiller (@DrewShiller) April 29, 2018
If Steph Curry is the ‘plus-minus King’, then Kevon Looney must be the plus-minus Prince. He finished with a team-high +34 in his 24 minutes to go with six rebounds, three points, three assists, a steal, and a block.
There were other strong contributions from the veterans including Shaun Livingston (10 points, three assists, two rebounds) and David West (eight points, two rebounds, four assists, two steals, one block). Quinn Cook (11 points, three assists, three rebounds) also won the much anticipated battle of the back-up guards against Ian Clark.
This was only one game, and there’s a lot of basketball to be played yet, but the Pelicans look like they might be in trouble. The Warriors have done a great job leveraging their advantages and keeping this ship more than afloat these past few weeks.
But with Curry on the way back, these birds might just be about to get splashed to smithereens.
Who was the Warrior Wonder in Game 1 against the Pelicans
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