After the Golden State Warriors managed a second straight come-from-behind victory over the Portland Trail Blazers, Steve Kerr appropriately described Draymond Green’s now legendary performance to give his team a 3-0 series lead in the Western Conference finals.
“I don’t even know what to say about Draymond,” Kerr said. “He was like a wrecking ball out there. He was just destroying everything in his path. The pace that he was generating was incredible, and it just seemed like he never got tired.”
Green was indeed a pure wrecking ball of energy against the Blazers. His incredible pace and exceptional stamina — perhaps bolstered by the 23 pounds he lost in preparation for the playoffs — took the Blazers by complete surprise.
For those Blazers fans who were hoping for a happy ending to this game — for the Portland faithful who were expecting this story to culminate in a traditional epic in which the protagonist survives and becomes a heroic figure — it instead ended in an alternate universe where Indiana Jones was flattened and crushed by the rolling boulder.
That rolling boulder — an apt metaphor for Green in this game — was nigh unstoppable. His triple-double of 20 points, 13 rebounds, and 12 assists placed another chalk mark in the win column for the Warriors, who now have an incredible record of 28-1 in games where Green notches a triple-double.
With the Warriors facing another double-digit deficit going into the second half, the defending champs needed another infusion of energy — and true to his nature as the heartbeat of the dynasty, Green focused all of his fiery passion into production on the court.
Green’s ability to push the pace was apparent from the start. His nature as a playmaking forward, combined with an almost perpetual need to light a fire under his team’s collective backside, benefited the Warriors on several occasions.
“I just felt like it was our best chance,” Green said to ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt regarding his aggression and pushing the pace. “It doesn’t even necessarily mean push the ball to get a shot every time, but if I can do my job to put (Portland) on their heels it’ll allow our guys who really score that basketball — Klay (Thompson) and Steph (Curry) — to take over the game.
“During that first half (Portland) had everything going, and when they score it like that they usually tend to relax going back to defense, so just trying to take it upon myself to get the pace where we wanted it because I know when we’re playing at that pace, we’re tough to guard and very tough to beat.”
In addition to Green’s triple-double, he also garnered 4 steals and played tremendous defense on the Blazers. Just like in Game 2, where the Blazers’ first half offensive rating of 127.5 was severely downgraded to a rating of 98.5 in the second half thanks to the Warriors’ suffocating defensive effort, the story was very much similar in Game 3.
The Blazers’ offensive rating of 126.9, a 47.8 percent clip from the field, and 40.0 percent shooting from beyond the arc in the first half turned into an abysmal offensive rating of 70.8, a 30.8 percent clip from the field, and 25.0 percent shooting on 3s during the second half. And as usual, Green was front and center, the general leading the defense against the Blazers’ attempted siege on their stronghold.
Additionally, Green had a huge hand in spearheading the Warriors’ offensive assault, with his 12 assists generating a total of 27 points. As usual, the biggest beneficiary of Green’s playmaking prowess was Stephen Curry, whose 36-point night was partly due to his longtime teammate’s incredible court vision and sublime passing.
“When we have Steph, Klay, (Kevin Durant), DeMarcus (Cousins), I don’t need to play like (a scorer),” Green said. “As crazy as it sounds, somebody has to give up something when you have that many guys who are capable of doing what they’re doing. I take it upon myself to be the guy to give that up.
“I can take the mindset of ‘So what who’s out here? I’m going to score the ball.’ I think that’s very stupid, in my opinion. Because if I’m wide open and Klay’s half open I think it’s still a better shot if I give the ball to Klay. That’s just my mindset where we got all our guys on the floor, but when they’re not I have to have a different mindset and step up for the team as everyone has stepped up their game a notch.”
But beyond the increased scoring responsibilities, beyond the playmaking and rebounding and defensive stops, the characteristic that stood out brighter than the rest was his ability to be a leader on the floor, to encourage instead of berate, and to act as an example with both his words and his actions.
Take this instance, for example, in the 3rd quarter, where Green’s outlet pass to Jordan Bell all but assured the Warriors of an easy 2 points.
The missed dunk by Bell was inexcusable, and if Green chose to yell at him for committing a grave mistake, he would’ve been justified at doing so. But Green chose to take a more calm and encouraging approach.
“He had been playing great, and he missed a dunk,” Green said. “Just like I told him tonight: Klay’s missed shots tonight, I’ve missed them, and Steph as well. ... James Laughlin, our video coordinator, he came up to me right before this series started, he said, ‘Hey, you’ve helped me a lot in growing since I’ve been here. In this series, we’re going to need our bench a lot and it’s important that you stick with them and continue to give them confidence.’ For a second I caught myself like, 'Man, we could’ve cut that to 6, and then we fouled them.'
“It just came upon me to stick with him, give him some confidence and show him love. He had a dunk the next play and he had a block. I think that was an important moment. We always talk about Strength in Numbers, that’s coming from a video coordinator. You usually don’t get that from a video coordinator, but it paid dividends for us tonight.”
On a night when Curry scored another 36 points to further shore up his evidence cabinet of incredible playoff performances — on a night when the Warriors managed to prove once again that even without Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins to bolster their All-Star lineup, they are a team whose excellence soars beyond that of what the Blazers are capable of — Green’s leadership on and off the floor took center stage, and his efforts to lead the Warriors to another comeback victory might very well be what puts the Blazers down for the count and permanently knocked out of these playoffs.
Draymond Green is a backbone of this team, one of the original foundations upon which this dynasty was built. On Saturday night, that foundation became a wrecking ball that destroyed the Blazers and their dreams of winning a championship.
Eleven wins down, 5 more to go.
Stay Golden, Dub Nation.
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