Entering the second round against a New Orleans Pelicans team that was coming of an impressive and somewhat surprising first round sweep, the big question on everyone’s mind was when superstar Stephen Curry would return for the Golden State Warriors.
While Curry returned — and did so in style — it was ultimately Draymond Green who shined the brightest by opening and closing the series with big performances that led him to become the first Warriors player ever to average a triple-double over the course of a series.
Draymond Green is averaging a near-triple double in so far in the playoffs: 12.4 points, 11.2 rebounds, and 9 assists per game — all while playing elite defense. He recorded his fourth of the playoffs in Game 1 against the Pelicans, finishing with with 16 points, 15 rebounds, 11 assists, three steals and two blocks. And, as Patrick Murray described in his Warrior Wonder post after Game 1, he also did an outstanding job defending Pelicans star Anthony Davis.
But what might go underappreciated by those who don’t watch the Warriors quite as often as we do is Green’s passing ability.
People consistently dismiss how important his offensive game is to the Warriors, possibly because his primary role is not to score points, but to serve as our fall-back point guard. Through the first two rounds, he’s assisted over a third of the shots made while on the court. As a way to visualize that, here’s Positive Residual’s assist network graphic for Game 2:
The Warriors assisted 84% of their made shots, with Draymond Green responsible for a third of their assists. Six of his 12 dimes went to Kevin Durant. This is about as intricate of an assist network as you're liable to get in the NBA. pic.twitter.com/s9JYoZhOz1— Positive Residual (@presidual) May 2, 2018
To put that in perspective by way of comparison, Chris Paul assisted on 31% of the Rockets’ assists. Guys like Pelicans point guard Rajon Rondo might rack up an even higher percentage of their team’s assists, but he also has the ball in his hands constantly; Green manages his high percentage of assists in spite of barely controlling the ball, handling the ball about 17% of the time which is 10% less than Chris Paul.
That’s just one of your four All-Stars to root for, Warriors fans.
Curry’s Game 2 performance really all comes down to the first shot he took in the 2018 NBA Playoffs.
Daniel Hardee already summarized that moment as well as what makes Curry so great in his Warrior Wonder post about Game 2.
With all eyes on Curry, he immediately reminded the NBA how he revolutionized basketball forever. His very first shot was the golden result of the system of trust, speed, teamwork, repetition, accuracy, and disrespect that he injects into Warriors basketball.
1. He unselfishly shared the ball with his teammate Draymond Green at the top of the key, trusting Green to know what to do with it.
2. He then sprinted across the court with jarring quickness for a man who supposedly had a bum knee around a screen from young teammate Kevon Looney.
3. In perfectly choreographed timing, he immediately received a pass back from Green.
4. Curry’s defender had managed to stay close enough in the vicinity to render any shot attempt a tough one. Unfortunately for Jrue Holiday, Curry has probably practiced this shot 20 billion times. “Unanimous” is the greatest NBA sniper of all time: he pours tough shots into a milk filled bowl every morning for breakfast.
5. #BANG #CurryBack #WeaponizedJoy
Dude is simply amazing. He is also just the second of the Warriors’ four All-Stars.
Patrick Murray described Game 3 quite well in writing that it “...was like a stinky pile of bird poop all over our nice shiny new car, but the Warriors fought their way back into this thanks to Klay Thompson’s second quarter efforts.”
I don’t want to dwell on this game too much because performances like that tend to bring the inner-Chicken Little out of some Warriors fans and ain’t nobody got time for all that. Yet the performance is still noteworthy because it’s the one time in this series when a third All-Star shined for the Warriors.
Game 4: Kevin Durant leads the Hamptons 5 lineup to victory
Warriors coach Steve Kerr had been holding out on the rest of the league for some reason.
For the first time ever, Kerr started the Hamptons 5 lineup in Game 4 against the Pelicans after Game 3 was yet another let down game. And Kevin Durant took advantage.
One of the biggest questions entering this series was how on earth the Pelicans would guard Kevin Durant, especially once Steph Curry returned to action. The Pelicans ended sticking 6-foot-4 Jrue Holiday on the 7-foot Durant and that resulted in the Slim Reaper having what Patrick Murray called one of Durant’s best in a Warriors uniform in Game 4.
This might have been one of Durant’s most impressive games as a Warrior, and certainly the most important since the 2017 NBA Finals.
With Steph Curry still working his way back from injury (remember folks he’s pretty much not played competitive basketball for over two months) the Warriors called Durant’s number, and time and again he delivered.
Durant was assertive, decisive, and aggressive from the off. The Pelicans threw everything they could at him, from some fine individual contests by Jrue Holiday, to double teams, to their big beast Anthony Davis, but he just couldn’t be stopped.
This is what a team with four All-Stars will do to you -- they simply trade off having big games and even when you do steal a win from them (as the Pelicans did in Game 3) they can always pull something totally different out in the next game.
Part of what makes Draymond Green so amazing is that he even manages to stand out on a team full of offensive superstars that while his calling card is very much doing the little things that don’t garner the same statistical attention.
Drew Shiller of NBC Sports Bay Area has already described Draymond Green’s incredible ‘hustle stats’ from Game 4 win over Pelicans.
- 21 contested shots (to put this in context -- he was averaging just under 14 through the first eight playoff games, and Steven Adams leads with 16.7 per game)
- 8 screen assists (led the Warriors)
- 8 boxouts (led the Warriors)
- 4 deflections (led the Warriors)
- 3 loose balls recovered (second to Andre Iguodala’s four)
But Green has been so good, that in our last game against the Pelicans, every single one of the six centers on the Warriors’ roster got a “DNP-coaches decision.” Green gives Kerr the luxury of going small because his defense is stout enough to allow a straight defensive matchup of Green on Anthony Davis — it’s not difficult to argue that he’s the engine that makes the Hamptons 5 remain effective despite going small.
Somehow, the guy with the least gaudy stat lines who doesn’t make the eye-catching Sportscenter highlight plays ends up being the one who enhances this who star-studded lineup.
Durant, who had 24 points, seven assists and six rebounds himself in Game 5, definitely deserved attention for this series. Curry’s return undoubtedly captured the narrative weight. But Green does the little things that enhances what all the other stars do. And that’s probably worthy of even more praise than he even gets currently.
Who was your Warrior Wonder for the second round?
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