Draymond Green Deserves Share of Blame for Warriors' Playoff Struggles

Matt SteinmetzFeatured ColumnistApril 26, 2014

OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 24: Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors handles the ball against the Los Angeles Clippers in Game Three of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs on April 24, 2014 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
Noah Graham/Getty Images

Golden State Warriors second-year forward Draymond Green has turned into a fan favorite this year, and it’s easy to see why. Green brings a toughness and defensive intensity to the Warriors, and those traits have helped Golden State over the course of the season.

Green is the quintessential dirty-work guy, and he’s had a flair for getting key steals and making big shots. He’s also hit the occasional important three-pointer this season, and when you add it all up there are some (and others) who believe his role on the team should be bigger.

Well, Green’s role was certainly bigger on Thursday night in the Warriors’ 98-96 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 3 at Oracle Arena. Green played 33 minutes, fourth-most on the team. And that trend sounds like it might continue.

Warriors coach Mark Jackson said after practice on Friday that he's considering a lineup change for Sunday's Game 4, mentioning his team needed to provide "some resistance." Sounds like Green could be getting the start.

But is there a price for playing Green too much? We'll see as the series moves forward, but that might have been the case on Thursday.

While Green was a key component in a second-half rally that saw the Warriors come back from 18 points down, the reality is that he had something to do with putting them in that position in the first place.

Green finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds, but his first half was one to forget. After checking in late in the first quarter, Green proceeded to commit four turnovers in fewer than seven minutes, exacerbating a series-long and season-long issue for the Warriors.

Golden State has committed 64 turnovers in this series (21.3 per game). During the regular season, only seven teams averaged more than the Warriors' 15.2 turnovers per game. Green has nine of them in fewer than 80 minutes in this series, an indication that he sometimes tries to do too much.

That was the case in the first half as the Warriors fell behind by nine late in the second quarter. Green was at his best late in the third quarter as the Warriors stormed back. Green forced turnovers, grabbed big rebounds, defended Blake Griffin tough for a few possessions and, yes, knocked down a three-pointer.

But with the game in the balance, Green failed to make some key plays that perhaps could have changed the outcome. Green, like most of his teammates, failed to come through down the stretch. Is that too harsh a criticism for Green? Maybe. But for those who believe Green is more than a role player, like he was Thursday night, then it's more fair than foul.

Killer play No. 1 came right after Stephen Curry had finally broken through and made his first three-pointer of the game. Curry hadn’t been able to get anything going scoring-wise, but when he buried a rain-maker with 5:39 remaining in the fourth, the Warriors found themselves down just 85-81.

But Green lost Griffin on the ensuing possession, allowing Griffin to get free underneath for a wide-open dunk. Green wasn’t close enough on the play to foul Griffin, which could have been helpful. Griffin went just 2-of-9 from the line on Thursday.

Less than a minute later, one of Green’s limitations was put on full display. With the Clippers clinging to a one-point lead and the shot clock winding down, Griffin found himself in the corner, draped by Green. With seemingly nowhere to go, Griffin rose up over Green and deposited a tough jumper to put Los Angeles up 89-86 with 3:57 remaining.

Green’s defense on that play was impeccable, which is what makes it that much harder to criticize. As tough as Green is and as committed he is to the defensive end, we’re still dealing with an undersized 4 who is often simply overmatched. And that was one of those times.

But Green’s most damaging moment came in the game’s final 30 seconds.

With the Clippers clinging to a three-point lead, Griffin once again found himself guarded by Green with the shot clock running down. This time, with Griffin trying to create something out of nothing atop the foul line area, Green foolishly forced contact with Griffin, sending him to the line with 26 seconds remaining.

Griffin made one of two free throws, making it a two-possession game. Ballgame, essentially.

The purpose of all this isn’t to call out Green, but rather simply to point out that he’s been every bit as inconsistent as all of his teammates.

Green has been praised for his edge, his grit and his enthusiasm when defending Griffin. But he’s shot poorly this series, hasn’t handled the ball particularly well and committed that big-time blunder late in Game 3 that has largely been ignored.

Green’s lone make from beyond the arc on Thursday (he was only 1-of-5 from three-point range and is now 2-of-11 for the series) came at the back end of a sequence he started with a blocked shot on Jamal Crawford. It was the kind of end-to-end play that earns Green plenty of respect and kudos, and it capped a 10-0 run that brought the Warriors within 68-60.

While Green wasn't quite a defensive stopper on Griffin, who scored 32 points on 15-of-25 shooting, his coach was more than happy with the performance.

"He did an outstanding job," Jackson said after the game of Green's time on Griffin. "That was part of the plan coming into this series. He made some shots with Draymond also. But he's playing at a high level. We're going to give him different looks and have different bodies on him."

In other words, Green will continue to be more than a part-time player in this series.

The Warriors are now down 2-1 to the Clippers and fingers are pointing at Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala and David Lee. But there’s more than enough blame to go around, and Green deserves his fair share, too.