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Draymond Green

It’s Going Down!

in NBA by
NBA: Playoffs-Brooklyn Nets at Toronto Raptors

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The scene was set for a historic afternoon of Raptors basketball, with the city of Toronto showing up in huge numbers to support their team in its first post-season appearance since the Vince Carter era. The Air Canada Centre was filled to the brim and another 10,000 raucous fans waited outside the arena watching the game on a big screen. There was a palpable energy in the building from the tip and you could tell that everybody in the stands was waiting for that one moment that would allow them to blow the roof off of the building.

But that moment never came. The closest the Raptors came to giving their home crowd a reason to to go crazy was when Greivis Vasquez nailed a three to give the Raptors the lead with five minutes to go. The lead wouldn’t last for long, though, as Joe Johnson answered immediately on the other end. And that’s when Brooklyn’s wily ole vets, who had struggled just like most of the team throughout the afternoon, helped seal the game for the Nets with some tremendous crunchtime shot making that remind us that, though their glory days are past, they are still two bad dudes.

Kevin Garnett got things started with a turnaround jumper from the post, and then Paul Pierce, Boston’s closer for so many years, took control. Pierce nailed a three off one of Brooklyn’s most effective actions, a 1/2 screen-and-roll with Williams on the left side of the floor, which forced Toronto’s weakside defenders to slide into the paint for just a second, allowing for Pierce to slide up to the right wing, with Garnett setting a brilliant backscreen on Pierce’s man to get him free. Then Pierce rescued a poor Nets possession by driving into the lane late in the shot clock for a lay-up, though it’s hard to say he didn’t travel. And finally, with Toronto managing just two points over the last three minutes of game action, Pierce drilled a fallaway mid-range jumper off an inbounds pass to put the game away for good.

This was an extremely tough game for the Raptors to lose. Not only did they give up homecourt advantage in this game, but they lost in the most disheartening way possible. The Nets were putrid offensively, not because they ran bad sets, but because they’d get good looks and miss them. They shot 4-of-24 from three in this game and prior to Pierce’s dagger late in the game they had missed 19 three-point attempts in a row. Brooklyn wasn’t a great offensive team this season, but most of their line-ups with Pierce as the smallball four scored at a pretty good rate, so this kind of offensive outing is not something you’d expect from them again going forward.

Meanwhile, the Nets defense was completely locked in all game. They had the Raptors scouted well and their scheme neutered almost all of Toronto’s actions. Their combined length on the perimeter deterred drives and disrupted passes, forcing the Raptors into 17 turnovers while holding them to 39% shooting. The Nets showed on almost all pick-and-rolls, taking away any space for Kyle Lowry to launch from deep while rotating quickly on the outside. Just about the only consistent success that the Raptors had offensively in this one was with Jonas Valanciunas in pick-and-rolls as he was able to make a couple of clean catches on the way to the basket for some good looks.

Other than that, though, the Raptor offense was stagnant and bogged down. Despite playing some line-ups with three shooters spacing the floor around their pick-and-roll, Toronto was still unable to find space because of Brooklyn’s tremendous defensive effort. And, perhaps most importantly, Shaun Livingston submitted a sublime individual defensive effort on DeMar DeRozan, forcing DeRozan into one of his worst shooting games of the season (3-of-13 from the field, 0-of-4 from deep) and stifling a lot of the sets that the Raptors are used to flowing into to get DeRozan the ball in good spots. Take this play for instance, where Livingston and Pierce prevent DeRozan from getting any momentum off a pick-and-roll with Amir Johnson while Livingston recovers, sticks right on the hip of DeRozan and forces him into a bad shot.

Plays where DeRozan was able to get free from Livingston in this game were few and far between, and when Livingston sat with foul trouble, Joe Johnson did an admirable job defending DeRozan. Dwane Casey will have to find ways to get DeRozan the ball in space and with momentum going towards the rim to get him going in this series, because the Nets’ pick-and-roll coverages prevent him from turning the corner off a screen, and he’s been unable to get by his man in one-on-one situations. That’s easier said than done, though, and it’s entirely possible than the potential laden DeRozan simply needs another off-season to develop the kind of one-on-one maneuvers necessary to beat the tight defense he’s going to see in the post-season over the next decade.

The Raptors were OK themselves defensively, but the numbers would have looked much worse had the Nets made even half of the many good looks from deep that they got in this game. Toronto has to be much smarter with their double teams for the rest of the series, whether that means coming earlier, changing up where the help comes from throughout the game or simply trying to let Lowry, DeRozan or Ross defend in the post one-on-one, because Johnson feasted on their second and third rotations in this game when they came to double him in the post.

This was an extremely disheartening loss for the Raptors. The fans were pumped to have the post-season back in their city and the Nets played very poorly offensively for the majority of this game, opening the door for the Raptors to start the series off on a good note. But the Raptors just couldn’t capitalize. Brooklyn’s strong, smart defensive effort kept them from every establishing rhythm and Pierce’s late-game heroics fossilized them for good.

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It’s difficult to tell if the Warriors are going to make this a series or if the atrocious officiating, which hurt both sides in this game, muddied things up so much that there’s nothing to take away from this one other than that Mark Jackson really had his troops ready to play. Blake Griffin played 19 minutes in this game because of foul trouble, Andre Iguodala fouled out in the fourth quarter after picking up four in the first half, Chris Paul had to spend more time than usual on the bench because of a few ticky tack calls and David Lee had an early hook because of some quick whistles. Rarely did both teams have their best units on the floor – and, of course, Golden State never will because of the injury to Andrew Bogut – and during the rare stints when Griffin and Iguodala were able to be on the floor, they were tentative because of how poorly the officials were calling the game.

It’s possible that Blake’s early exit threw everything out of whack for the Clippers, who have come to rely on him more than ever this season, and it’s certainly true that the Warriors can more easily find a replacement for Iguodala than the Clippers can for Griffin. If foul trouble doesn’t play a major role in game two, then the Clippers may win handily against a Warrior team that is missing its defensive centerpiece.

But then again, the Warriors showed something in this game that is almost assuredly going to continue to cause problems for Los Angeles no matter who is on the floor for them: Mark Jackson is willing to go small again, and the Warriors play extremely well on both ends of the floor when Draymond Green is inserted at the power forward spot. The Warriors were insane defensively when Green was on the floor, limiting the Clippers to 78.5 points per 100 possessions during his 22 minutes. Even Harrison Barnes was great when he was asked to play power forward, and he had the play of the game in the fourth quarter when he blocked Chris Paul’s lay-up attempt in transition with two minutes to go before getting back on the other end and drilling a three that put Golden State up by two.

What’s even more troubling for the Clippers is that the Warriors destroyed their defense even when it was Lee and Jermaine O’Neal sharing the floor, as Lee’s expert passing in the paint helped lead to numerous defensive breakdowns of the Clippers. In the first half DeAndre Jordan was doing an adequate job protecting the rim, racking up five blocked shots, but in the second half he was nowhere to be found, sucked in often by dribble penetration with nobody else on the backline there to help the helper. Again, it’s tough to evaluate the Clippers’ overall performance because of how little Blake played, and putting Glen Davis on the floor for any length of time will lead to some defensive issues, but the Clippers had no rim protection in the second half and they got slaughtered on the boards, allowing 15 offensive rebounds for the game.

Blake is obviously one way for Doc Rivers to counter Golden State’s smallball attack as he can get him on the block and have him attack Green downlow, but another flaw emerged in this game for the Clippers, and it’s one that could wind up being fatal for the Clippers if they don’t adjust: They can’t guard Stephen Curry on high pick-and-rolls.

Curry is an offense all unto himself. A simple screen-and-roll with him up top can result in countless breakdowns for the opposition, whether it’s someone slipping up and giving an inch of space to launch a three or the backline rotations not being quick enough to recover for the big man that had to come up to prevent Curry from stepping into a shot. The Clippers chose to trap Curry on his high screen-and-rolls, and with Lee being such a great passer and decision maker on the move, the Warriors were comfortable using the pick-and-roll as an invitation to bring a Clipper big away from the rim. Curry would wait until the perfect time to hit Lee on the roll, allowing for Jordan or Griffin or Davis to come out far enough to make it difficult for them to scurry back into the paint. The result was driving lanes for Lee, who was able to get a few buckets at the rim and find shooters on the weakside as the Clippers were forced to breakdown to protect the paint.

Take a look at a sampling of Golden State’s tremendous ball movement against the trap in this one. And remember, all of this happens because the Clippers are frightened by the idea of Curry coming off one of those picks and launching a three-point attempt.

Los Angeles will have to change things up going into game two. All season long they’ve had Jordan and Griffin become comfortable sagging back on pick-and-rolls on their ICE coverage, but in this one they decided to come out and be aggressive to keep Curry from beating them. Well, even though it’s a dramatic shift in philosophy, having their bigs play a little further back and forcing Curry to beat them without getting others involved may be an optimal strategy, or at least one worth trying after their original plan was torched in game one.

The Clippers should be fine on the other end. Paul was brilliant in this game despite his late free throw misses and six turnovers and J.J. Redick was on fire from deep. If they can get Jamal Crawford’s game out of the gutter and a full performance from Blake, they have to like their chances going forward. That said, the Warriors took the fight to them in this game and Curry showed that even when he’s not lighting up the scoreboard himself, he can still have a dramatic impact on the outcome.

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Before this series, it seemed radical to suggest that the #1 seeded Pacers may have to take the player that they’ve built their entire, incredibly successful, defensive scheme around off the floor because of how he matched up with the 8th seeded Hawks, who finished the season six games under .500, but you can’t argue with it after game one. Whether it was by directly involving him in a pick-and-roll or having him hang around the perimeter to guard a spot-up shooter, the Hawks exploited their schematic advantage time and time again, running pick-and-pops with the floor spaced with shooters, putting the Pacers at odds with their principles.

Indiana wants to clog the paint and keep ball handlers out of the middle of the floor, but against the Hawks starting five, there is no weak link to sag off of to help pack the paint, and the usually statuesque Hibbert is required to leave his comfort zone to guard Atlanta’s stretch bigs. At first, the Pacers stuck to their gameplan and let the Hawks bigs get some open looks on pick-and-pops, but as the game wore on and they started drifting further and further out to guard the shooters, Jeff Teague began ripping apart their interior defense, routinely blowing by George Hill, who had no help on the backline thanks to Atlanta’s floor spacing bigs.

Just look at how much space there is behind the initial defender and how beautifully Teague goes about getting by his man to get into the wide open lane.

Teague was excellent, putting up 28 points and five assists, and the Hawks also got a huge game out of Paul Millsap. When the pick-and-roll game stalls for Altanta, Millsap is the one player that the Hawks can count on to get something going on his own, and he wound up with 25 points and eight boards for Altanta, in addition to hitting a pair of threes. And though Kyle Korver had an off night by his standards, the Hawks got him some really clean looks off some pretty pindown and curl screen plays, and they’re likely to be there again in game two. Picking up the slack for Korver was DeMarre Carroll, who played a hell of a game, scoring 12 points, pulling down 10 boards (five offensive), hitting a couple of threes and playing some really good defense on Paul George.

The worst part about this game for the Pacers wasn’t necessarily that they lost, it’s that they got down by 20 at one point in the fourth quarter and the team started slumping its collective shoulders like we saw many times during their tumultuous stretch to close out the regular season. Coming into the game the team preached about having a clean slate in the post-season, but they showed the same signs of losing faith in each other when things got tough in this one.

And let’s be honest here, Indiana’s struggles don’t have everything to do with attitude. It plays a part, but the real issue here is that the Pacers just can’t score the basketball efficiently, and despite solid games from George and Lance Stephenson in this one, there’s just nothing else there aside from the occasional C.J. Watson outburst. George Hill is better suited for a utility role like the one he filled for the Spurs, not as the creator for an offense that doesn’t have any space, David West struggled with foul trouble and never got going, Luis Scola was 0-of-6 from the field and Hibbert has always been an average offensive player at best unless he’s got a colossal size advantage.

Indiana’s offensive ineptitude finally caught up to them when their defense slipped even the slightest bit, and against a team like Atlanta that further minimizes the impact of Indiana’s usually stellar defensive scheme, the Pacers are in big trouble now that they’ve surrendered homecourt advantage, something I’m sure can only damage what was already a deteriorating team psyche.

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You have to credit the Grizzlies for fighting their way back into a game that they trailed by 25 in during the first half. Memphis didn’t even make a shot outside of the paint for the first 23 minutes and 59 seconds of this game, finally getting a three to go at the halftime buzzer. The came out strong in the third against a Thunder team that clearly thought they had closed the coffin on them in the first half, putting together a 31-13 run that made it a game going into the fourth quarter. The Grizzlies even cut Oklahoma City’s lead to two in the fourth when Mike Miller hit a three with 8:45 to go in regulation, but that shot was just about all the Grizzlies had left in the tank. They wouldn’t score another field goal over the next three mintues of game time, allowing the Thunder to go on a 13-1 run that put the game out of reach for good.

Most of the credit for Memphis strong third quarter effort has to go to Tony Allen. He held Durant to 5-of-14 shooting, allowing just 13 points compared to the 20 points Durant dropped on his teammates on 73% shooting. His activity off the ball often prevented Durant from even getting a touch, a familiar sight after seeing Allen do this to Durant twice over the past two post-seasons, and he created turnovers that led to easy buckets for the Grizzlies on the break, which was huge for a team that struggled to create good looks in the halfcourt all game long

Even though Memphis made up some ground in this one, it still feels like the gap in talent between these two teams is too large. The Grizzlies just have no space offensively, and it’s just something have to accept because Allen, who, despite a decent shooting outing in this game, remains an impotent outside threat, is their only defender that can slow down Durant. I’m sure Conley will rebound after his poor shooting performance in this one, but the Thunder also have the length and athleticism to throw at Conley all game long and there help defenders can be aggressive in digging down on him when he drives, too. If there’s any hope for the Grizzlies in this series, they’ll need Allen to replicate those same results each and every night and hope that Conley and Marc Gasol can work enough magic in the two man game to create any kind of rhythm for their offense.

But right now, I wouldn’t bet on that happening.

Green Light

in NBA by
draymondgreen

As a rookie, playing in an NBA playoff game can be extremely nerve-racking. It’s very rare for a kid fresh out of college to be prepared for the pressure that comes with performing under a microscope, and the magnitude of the moment often overwhelms young players.  When that playoff game is in a hostile environment, just going through the lay-up line can make you nervous.

So, imagine you’re Draymond Green. As of 7:10PM central time, your head coach Mark Jackson has stated that he’ll stick with rookie Festus Ezeli as his starting power forward in game two, working under the assumption that Tiago Splitter or Boris Diaw would be starting in the same spot for San Antonio. But as the teams take the floor an hour later for warm-ups, Gregg Popovich finally shows his hand and now Matt Bonner starting at power forward was the news buzzing around the arena.

When Jackson got wind of this, he sent someone out onto the floor to tell Green, who was working up a sweat on simulated drives to the rim after passing on a pre-game stretching session due to some tired legs, that he’d be getting the first playoff start of his career and just his second start of the entire season.

Now, it’s not as if Green was buried on the bench next to Andris Biedrins or anything – he exceeded starter’s minutes in game one with 38 minutes of court time – but the designation of starter is still one that carries a lot of weight, particularly in a road playoff game. Getting off to a good start can set to the tone for the game and, especially in the case of the Warriors in game two, give a team an emotional lift if they are have any doubt about their competitiveness. Even if it was just a token start and even if Green was going to play the same amount of minutes regardless, being on the floor when the ball is thrown into the air is a huge deal to a second round pick.

The decision to start Green was a tactical one designed to neutralize the threat of a Tony Parker/Matt Bonner pick-and-pop comprising the Warriors’ defense. Golden State’s precision in the half-court on the defensive end is the main reason they were up in game one, and it order to preserve optimal chemistry on that side of the ball, Jackson sticks his most versatile perimeter defender on Bonner.

Golden State executes one of two coverages any time Bonner comes up to set a screen for Parker; either Green is going stick to Bonner’s body, giving him no space to receive the pass, much less get a shot off (also known as the “Dirk” coverage) or the Warriors will switch the action, putting Klay Thompson on Bonner and Green on Parker.

Now, you can count on one hand how many players in the league would be able to switch a 1/4 pick-and-pop involving someone as good in one-on-one situations as Parker (LeBron, Taj Gibson, Josh Smith, and Serge Ibaka), but the Warriors shifted Green onto Parker with no qualms whatsoever. Why, you ask?

Because Green had done everything in his power to earn the trust and respect of his coaches and peers. And, because it worked.

***

When Draymond Green got to Golden State, he was not informed by Mark Jackson that his primary role with the ball club would be as a defensive specialist. The Warriors didn’t draft him because they saw something specific on film that they thought would fit into their defensive scheme. Golden State took Green because they saw the same qualities – the high basketball IQ, the all-around offensive game, the advanced playmaking for his size – everyone else did, only they decided they couldn’t pass on him with the 35th pick in the draft. At that point in the draft, a “positionless” player is more than worth it if they have talent (as it turns out, being positionless has actually been extremely beneficial for Green and the Warriors).

Green’s rookie season was a very unique one to say the least. Throughout the entire year he battled knee tendinitis that hampered his ability to get into a rhythm with his jumpshot. When you see that a second round pick shot 33% from the field and 21% from three in his rookie season, it’d be logical to assume that all of those numbers came on one end or the other of a blowout.

That wasn’t the case for Green, though. For someone that couldn’t buy a basket to save his life, the 6’7″ tweener forward found himself as a rotation piece for the Warriors, playing 13 minutes a night in 79 games in his rookie campaign. This is far from a common occurrence in the NBA – most coaches would stick a rookie struggling so mightily with his shot on the bench and keep him there until he was forced to play him again.

But that’s where the beauty of Mark Jackson comes in. After spending just a few days around him, it’s abundantly clear that no coach believes in his players more staunchly than Jackson. Though overly ballyhooed, Jackson’s religious beliefs clearly factor into his career as a coach; he’s a man with unwavering faith in his players.

That’s how a rookie who that scored just .678 points per possession this season according to Synergy Sports Technology (second worst mark in the NBA of players with at least 300 possessions) never fell out of the rotation for the Warriors. Jackson kept relying on Green, and Green kept giving him reasons to put him on the floor. Even though he wasn’t finding his way offensively, Green earned his playing time by developing into a very reliable defensive player.

“No,” Green said when I asked him if he was told to expect a defensive role with the Warriors. “You just find your niche. I knew I was struggling with my shot and didn’t have my legs all the way under me. But you gotta find something that you can do to stay on the floor, and you can always play defense. That’s what I was doing, and I’m going to continue to defend. At the end of the day, defense wins game.”

Green wasn’t billed as a stalwart defender coming out of Michigan State; many doubted what position he would guard at the NBA level and he was a bit hefty in college, leading to questions about his lateral quickness in a league that gets faster by the day. But Green has worked diligently on reducing his mass – undergoing what I would call the Marc Gasol transformation – and is now sleek with toned bulk. And as far as questioning his defense instincts, shame on those who doubted a disciple of Tom Izzo’s defense-first program.

“Coach Izzo helped my defense a lot,” Green said of his former college coach. “In high school, my coach taught a pressing defense, so it was all about getting steals and trapping. When I got to college, Coach Izzo used to say ‘You’ve gotta defend! You’ve gotta defend!’ and stayed on me about moving my feet so I’d be able to guard guards. Because if I was going to make it in this league, I’d have to be able to guard guards.”

Guarding guards, or perimeter players, was Green’s specialty this season. While Thompson is likely Golden State’s best perimeter defender, Green is a close second, and over the course a long season, you’d like to save a guy like Thompson from the physical punishment of guarding star players. Green was happy to step up to the challenge, though, and he checked everybody from Kevin Durant to Carmelo Anthony to LeBron James. And, per Synergy, he was effective in that capacity, holding his man to just 29% shooting in isolation this season.

“It’s all about heart,” Green said about facing off against the league’s best scorers. “When you’re facing those guys, you just do your best to contain them.”

Green understands the nuances of the game and how important they are in order to win games in the NBA. His determination to win the small battles for his team never wavered even as he was in the midst of an extremely disheartening and season long shooting slump. Green never slumped his shoulders or pouted about the basketball gods being unkind, he simply continued to compete as hard as he could in order to give his team a jolt.

“I’ve always been the kind of guy that will do whatever it takes to win and to do whatever I can to make an impact,” Green said when I asked him about his game-winning shot against Miami earlier in the season.

“It’s not all about scoring, it’s not all about getting assists. Sometimes it’s just about doing the little things that don’t show up on the statsheet. I always try to be the guy that’s going to do those little things. Those little things will keep you on the floor, whether or not you are struggling with your shot or struggling with this or that.”

It’s impressive to hear such a young player willingly preach about the importance of subtle victories in a possession, and it makes easy to see why Jackson never lost faith in Green. And what has Jackson gotten in return for believing in a player that was so inefficient at half of the game all season?

An improbable and inspiring stretch of playoff basketball that has the Warriors in a position to make it to the Conference Finals.

***

It started in game two of the Denver series when Green knocked down a spot-up three. The impulsive reaction of basketball nerds was one of disbelief as one of the league’s worst marksmen had just defied the odds in a big game. And then he made another three in game three, and two more in game four and then two more in game six.

By the end of the first round, Green had gone from an offensive non-entity that was hurting team spacing because his man would willingly leave him to clog the paint or crowd Curry or Thompson to someone with a natural comfort in big moments. With the knee soreness all but gone, Green was punishing defenses for ignoring him and thus making himself an extremely valuable rotation player for Golden State; the defense was always there, but now that he was hitting shots, the reasons to keep him on the floor far outweighed the reasons to keep him off.

Green’s run this post-season is a product of his incessant and diligent work to regain his shooting form all season long. Not for a moment did he let this shooting slump deter his work ethic or impair his confidence. Green never doubted his ability to come through for his team. Watching from afar, seeing the countless hours of overtime this second round pick put in, Jackson was at peace with Green shooting the ball without hesitation because he saw Draymond lay the groundwork for success.

As Jackson’s theory goes: If you are constantly working on a part of your game on your own time, then he’s confident in you taking those shots in a game.

All Green needed was to see the ball go into the rim for him to go on a run, and as the Nuggets continued to leave him open, he continued to make them pay.

“Huge,” Green said about the confidence boost be received as his shots began to fall against the Nuggets. “Huge. I worked on it everyday, night in and night out, before practice and after practice. Coming back in at night and shooting the basketball to get my legs back under me. It took awhile, but it’s paying off at the right time.”

If anything, Green seems to have a great sense of the moment. From his timely game-winning lay-in in the final second against the Heat earlier in the year to his post-season explosion, Green has found a way to deliver at the most opportune times, and last night was no different.

***

NBA: Playoffs-Golden State Warriors at San Antonio SpursAfter playing every second up to that point, Mark Jackson decided to try and get Klay Thompson a couple of minutes of rest at the eight minute mark of the fourth quarter, subbing in Green in his place. Immediately following Thompson’s trip to the bench, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker hit right elbow jumpers to cut the Warrior lead to six with just under seven minutes remaining. After stringing together a couple of baskets, the San Antonio crowd was on the verge of bedlam and the sense in the building was that the veteran Spurs were about to pull off another miracle comeback.

Desperately needing a basket to stave off San Antonio’s run, the Warriors put the ball in Jarrett Jack’s hands. He took the ball from a few feet above the key and attacked Gary Neal off the dribble, getting just enough of a step on him to force Matt Bonner to slide into the paint from the left wing.

Bonner was playing the percentages here and likely following the Spurs gameplan: cut off dribble penetration and force a 21% three-point shooter to make a shot. But unlike Bonner, a dead-on three-point shooter in the regular season that has struggled to produce in the post-season over the past few years, Draymond Green went through a pitiful regular season for that one moment in time.

Green caught the ball, wound up his release and calmly launched the three as Bonner flew at him to close out. Swish.

There was still plenty of time left in the game, but that shot by Green completely swung the momentum of the game for a possession, and winning those subtle possessions are what the playoffs, and Green, are all about.

***

Green is now 9-of-18 from three in the post-season after making just 14 triples in 79 regular season games. And seemingly everyone of those threes has come at a big moment; as defenses over compensate to prevent the Warriors’ stars from making shots, they leave Green open by choice, and he’s burning them at an extremely impressive 50% clip.

“Of course it motivates me, but it doesn’t bother me,” Green said about being left open. “I’ll take the open shots whether I’m shooting the ball great or not. Teams are never going to key on me; they’re gonna key on Steph, Klay, Jack. So the open shot is still going to be there, it’s just a matter of me stepping up and continuing to knock them down.”

Stepping up is one of the many ways we can define what Green has done this post-season. Even if it’s a small sample size, the development of Green’s outside shot in the playoffs has had a massive impact on the Warriors as a team. Even one or two threes a game from Green makes him worthwhile offensively, and that means Jackson can put in one of his best and most versatile defensive players without sacrificing spacing or scoring.

After the game, Green joked about coming into the game for Thompson as an offensive substitution specifically so he could hit that three.

“Well, Coach (Jackson) subbed me in the game for one minute,” Green said. “He told me ‘Hey, I need this big three out of you. I’m gonna take Klay out and put you in the game for the three because you’re my knockdown shooter!'”

Green had a big smile on his face as he said that, clearly soaking in everything he could about the crucial win on the road of the two seed in the Western Conference that he started and just helped clinch.

And, for a player that worked his tail off for six months both in and out of the public eye in order to be successful, it was hard not to smile back in appreciation of what diligence and desire can help someone accomplish.

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