The Oracle crowd–and the Warriors franchise–is much antsier than they want to be. And the playoffs are less than a month away now.
This is when Draymond Green–who is always extremely important to everything the Warriors do–is something beyond essential, he’s the Warriors’ energizer, life vest, leader and quantum MVP.
And he was all of that tonight, exactly when he had to be… or else the Warriors were going to lose a home game to Philadelphia, which was 9-23 away from home at the start of play.
It had to be Draymond, and there he was.
Green’s stat-line was incredible: 20 points (11 of 14 from the free-throw line), 8 rebounds, 8 assists, 4 steals and 6 blocks in 38 minutes, for a +16 in the plus-minus.
And that captured only a percentage of what he did tonight–from cajoling his teammates to guarding the 76ers’ point guards full-court a time or two to swiping at the ball every time it came near him on defense.
What was his message to his teammates in the middle of this one, that saw them down by 16 points at one point and by 12 going into the fourth quarter?
“Just continue to remind guys that we’ve been in a little bit of a rut,” Green said. “The only way to change that is to grind yourself out, grind your way out of it. Like I said, it’s not going to be pretty. The shots aren’t just going to fall. That’s the way the game works. You don’t just go into a rut and then come out and hit 20 threes. It just don’t work like that.
“You’ve got to grind your way out of it. And I think tonight we did that–the end of that third quarter and the fourth quarter, we realized hey, it’s not going our way but just put your head down and go, defend and the offense will come.”
So… maybe at some point soon Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson will make shots from the start and the Warriors’ defense will dominate an entire game… maybe it will take until Durant gets back healthy, whenever that is… maybe the Warriors will look like the Warriors again before or during the playoffs.
But that hasn’t been the case for a while now and you could see the Warriors accepting that–begrudgingly–in the middle of this narrow home victory over Philadelphia.
“It’s a reminder of… how important our defense is,” Curry said. “A lot of focus has been on us not making shots the last couple games.
“But if that happens in any game going forward, whether the regular season, playoffs, whatever, if you don’t make shots you still can’t let that affect the other end of the floor because it’s not guaranteed you’re going to make every open three, you’re going to have just this beautiful game on the offensive end.
“So in the fourth quarter we showed that, down 12, the only way we were going to get back in it was to play defense.”
Curry’s shooting slump continued through three quarters tonight–he missed 6 of his first 8 three-point tries–and he looked visibly slumped, too.
Then, after Steve Kerr got him some rare third-quarter rest (in the middle of Curry’s struggles), Curry was able to play the entire fourth quarter and made 3 of 5 from three-point distance and scored 12 of the Warriors’ 28 final-period points.
“It’s funny how energy and made shots often go together,” Kerr said generally of his team’s shooting efforts. “And when you’re not bringing it defensively the open shots seem to not go in and then all of a sudden you start playing with more intensity and more defensive pressure you tend to make a few shots.
“All we’re trying to do is build some momentum back. And this was a good start. I kind of like the way the game played out because we had to fight as hard as we did to win. So hopefully this gives us a little momentum and we’ll try to carry it on.”
Kerr did some tweaking to his rotations–which, in the absence of Kevin Durant, have looked a little wobbly of late.
The main result: Curry and Draymond played more together than they have in a few months, and the second unit was mixed up to get Ian Clark and Matt Barnes more time.
Because of the scramble, it so happened that Curry and Green both played the entire fourth quarter–don’t expect that to happen very often, but it was notable to see how things ignited with the Curry-Green-Andre Iguodala-Klay-Barnes group.
Expect Kerr to get that unit on the floor together a lot more in the next few games.
These are not easy days for the Warriors. And for a while tonight looked like it might be one of the low points of the Kerr era–when they were down 16 in the third quarter, I wondered if it was the worst a Kerr Warriors team has ever looked at home.
But they gutted and grinded it out, pulled along by their gutsiest player, and I think Draymond Green knows he might have to keep doing it for just a little while longer.
Source : mercurynews