Draymond Green was not having a good NBA Finals by his
standards. His play had seemingly fallen off a vertigo-inducing
cliff, averaging just 4.3 points on 23.1% shooting in his first
four games. As such, his podcast, "The Draymond Green
Show,"which Green records after each and every one
of his performances, quickly became a storyline and drew ire from
fans, media and former players — all of whom labeled the show a
"The NBA Finals, and when you're playing for a championship, it
really is about your mental toughness and your mental focus, and
being able to totally 100% concentrate on your opponent," said
Isiah Thomas after Green's 2-point outing in Game 2. "Right now, he
has lost focus in terms of concentrating on beating the opponent.
He’s not talking about Jaylen Brown, he’s not talking about
[Jayson] Tatum, he’s not talking about Marcus Smart. He’s talking
about podcasts and he's talking about Cedric Maxwell and the fans.
Concentration needs to come back on the Boston Celtics players who
you're playing against on the floor."
Green quickly put all of that to rest in Monday's Game 5, a
bounce-back performance in which he posted 8 points on 3-of-6
shooting, 7 rebounds and 6 assists. His efforts were instrumental
in Golden State capturing the 3-2 series advantage against Boston,
and the Warriors now have the opportunity to close things out
tonight in Game 6.
Golden State held Boston to just an 80.0 offensive rating in the
halfcourt in Game 5. Green, of course, played a massive part in
that as the raucous quarterback of Golden State's swarming defense.
With him on the floor, Boston scored at a minuscule rate of 83
points per 100 possessions; off it, the Celtics' offensive rating
rose to an astounding 122.2 points per 100 possessions.
"His defensive force the past two games has just been
devastating," Steve Kerr said on the Bay Area radio station
95.7 The Game.
Challenging Draymond at the rim, or really anywhere on the
floor, was a fool's errand. Boston shot just 11.1% when Green was
the nearest defender in Game 5 — a full 37.9% drop from the 49% the
Celtics shot against Golden State's other defenders.
His help rotations were simply vintage, 2.9-ing with perfection
and refraining from rotating over too early (a problem earlier in
the series) as the last line of rim defense, also known as the "low
man." He did an excellent job using his low base to dislodge
probing offensive players while keeping his hands raised high and
straight to maintain legal verticality.
Golden State's coverage on Jaylen Brown in Game 5 may very well
have swayed the series in their favor. Up to that point, Brown had
been having an outstanding Finals, averaging 22.3 points on 44%
shooting through the first four games. The Warriors opted to send
Brown left at all costs and shaded him away from his preferred
right-handed driving lanes. Green was every bit a key part of that
In the first clip, he takes the assignment head-on and sends
Brown left, and Boston's star wing fumbles the ball while placed in
an uncomfortable situation. In the second clip, it's Stephen Curry
who is shading (or "weaking") Brown to his left after the switch,
and when Brown attempts to cross back to his right, Draymond is in
his path to delete the driving lane down the middle. A pull-up
15-footer with very little rhythm is a result the Warriors will
certainly live with.
But maybe more importantly, Green matched his defensive
intensity with production on the offensive end. For the first time
all series, Draymond appeared genuinely interested in actually
scoring at the basket and was noticeably more aggressive with the
ball in hand. Green galloped to the rim when Derrick White pressed
him tightly at halfcourt (which, huh?). Earlier in the game, Green
and Klay Thompson connected on a near-telepathic read that only the
seasoned Warriors could display, with Green faking the
dribble-handoff to Thompson and rocketing toward the basket for the
dunk when Boston overplayed the action.
Boston's defense on Curry has been a major storyline in the
Finals. They've mostly elected to run a shallow drop coverage
against Curry, a measure of faith in Marcus Smart and Derrick
White's screen-navigation abilities. But it's also a safeguard
against putting Green in advantageous situations as a short roller
who can pick apart defenses by making the opportune pass when given
the 4-on-3 advantage after Steph is blitzed.
Here, we get an example of what that looks like. Brown tries to
neutralize Golden State's side pick-and-roll with ICE coverage, and
when Curry dribbles down the sideline, Brown and center Robert
Williams III attempt to trap Curry and pin him there. A flashy
behind-the-back pass finds Draymond, who heaves a crosscourt dime
to Andrew Wiggins when Smart comes over to tag the roll. Though
Wiggins misses the shot, this was a great look and one of Green's
10 potential assists on the evening.
Warrior fans should be encouraged by how reenergized Draymond
looked in the open floor. Golden State had a pretty abysmal showing
by their standards in transition, scoring just 12 fastbreak points
on Boston's 18 turnovers. Green was responsible for 4 of those
points, showcasing his impressive court vision on hit-ahead passes
while also taking the ball up full court as a true blue
point-forward before spraying dimes.
"He got us going early with his pressure and his heart and
getting up and down the floor," Klay Thompson said after the 104-94
"Draymond is the heart and soul of this team."
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