Coming off a 40-point shellacking at the hands of Blake Griffin and the Los Angeles Clippers, the Golden State Warriors are reeling and in search of answers. While nobody expected the Clippers to lay down after falling in Game 1, the intensity showcased in Game 2 was unprecedented and downright unnerving.
With the series shifting to the Bay Area, however, the Warriors still find themselves in a favorable position after having stolen home-court advantage from the grasps of their in-state rivals. If they want to keep that advantage, though, their ultimate X-factor must leave his mark on the series.
After a phenomenal showing in the first game of the series, Draymond Green appeared out of sorts in the sequel. Foul trouble plagued him throughout and his usual sound play was marred by four turnovers. While he finished the game 4-of-7 from the field, the three missed shots were all from long range.
He failed to make the Clippers pay when they ganged up on Stephen Curry.
Green has proven himself to be one of the finest Swiss Army Knives in the NBA, an instinctive player with the ability to adapt to any assignment thrown his way. With Andrew Bogut out with a broken rib, Green’s also the edgiest player the Warriors have on their team.
That edge was missing on Monday. Curry was tormented all night, picked apart by the big, bad bullies from down South, and his teammates let it happen. In the old NBA, when a team messed with your leader, they were messing with your whole team. Guys like Charles Oakley and Bill Laimbeer yearned for the chance for retaliation.
Bogut has always been that guy for the Warriors, the big, mean Australian willing to put his shoulder into anyone and stick his nose in any scrum. With him out, Green is the man to fill that void. If Curry gets knocked down again, there must be an answer. With Griffin already a big fan of the floor, it seems only prudent to give him an actual reason to hit it.
The Warriors, Green specifically, must have their leader’s back. The build up for the series centered around the chippy play that would engulf the matchup, but in Game 2, the Warriors forgot to fight back. Push came to shove, but it was only one team shoving.
The intensity that has endeared the fans to Green was missing. He has become the heart and soul of the team, which is what made the timidity showcased Monday night so disappointing. He’s a throwback player from the days of old, but boy did he look like a new-school baller.
If the Warriors are to win this series and advance in the playoffs, Green must rekindle the fire, be an enforcer that actually enforces and deliver a clear message to the Clippers: You hit my point guard again, bad things are going to happen.
Mark Jackson, like Green, was as tough as they came when he played, and it was clear after the game that he was disappointed in—what else—the intensity that his team brought to the court, courtesy of ESPN.com:
We were awful. They disrupted us with their intensity. That was a desperate basketball team we played against.
No sugarcoating, no excuses, no nonsense. Jackson saw exactly the same thing we saw and you can bet he dug into his team after that dismal performance.
The Warriors are down, but they are by no means out. A win, whether it be by four points or 40, is still just that: one win. If the Warriors are to string together a few more, though, Green must pave the way. The challenge of guarding Griffin on the block is worthy of its very own Mission: Impossible sequel, but those are the types of assignments Green accepts with gusto.
It’s abundantly clear that David Lee can’t guard him because of Griffin’s unbelievable strength, and Jermaine O’Neal lost years ago the speed required to check him. Green is the guy who must step up and make the 20 points a night that Griffin will log the hardest 20 points he's ever amassed.
Hey, if it was going to be easy, Green wouldn’t be doing it.
Offensively, Green can’t be the guy that commits four turnovers. He’s a safety valve, the guy willing to set hard screens and stick his nose in the middle for an occasional put back. More than anything, though, he must make teams pay for doubling Curry. More often than not, it’s going to be him that’s left open.
Curry can’t win the series on his own, especially not from his back. The fight that he showed in Game 2, however, must be what wakes up his teammates from their slumber. Expect the Warriors to bounce back in Game 3, and expect Green to return to form.
Make no mistake about it, if Green remains passive, the Warriors will not win this series.