Being a facilitator is nothing new for Draymond Green. He’s been a bridge to scoring explosions for Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson through three Warriors title runs.
So it wasn’t a shock to see Green as a center of attention in Thursday night’s 147-116 road win over the Dallas Mavericks, filling out a box score with 11 points, 15 assists and six rebounds. With Thompson out for the season, it was Kelly Oubre Jr. who stepped up along with Curry, taking advantage of Green’s penchant for getting everyone involved.
Oubre scored 40 points and Curry had 28, with Green’s 15 assists just one off his career high in only 29 minutes of play. With the Warriors playing without a true center due because of injuries to rookie James Wiseman and Kevon Looney, Green was in his element dissecting the Mavericks as a 6-foot-7 center.
“I’m very comfortable with going small, playing the five,” Green said Friday in a teleconference. “I think that exposes things on other teams as well. It’s something we’ve done a lot over the years and at this point it’s kind of second nature.”
The Warriors outscored Dallas 73-40 in the second half in a scoring extravaganza that was somewhere in between their title runs and the Run TMC days of Tim Hardaway, Chris Mullin and Mitch Richmond.
Under coach Steve Kerr, passing from the post is ingrained into the system.
“Our offense has been built on passing big men over the years, whether it’s Draymond or Andrew Bogut, David West, David Lee, and we’ve been blessed with big guys that can really pass,” Kerr said. “When you have that combination of a big who can pass and a guard who’s a threat off the ball, it opens up the whole floor.”
The beauty of Green is the facilitation doesn’t stop with passing. He’s also a master of setting screens, getting clear looks for teammates without the benefit of an assist. To Green, who had those lessons instilled at Michigan State under Tom Izzo, they are one and the same.
“The reality is I view screens like I do assists, and I get more excited to get an assist than I do scoring points,” Green said. “It’s just how I’ve always been. When I nail a guy on a screen and Steph hits a three I probably feel better than he does about making the three. Playing for coach Izzo, that was something that was hammered home at all times.”
Just getting into peak shape after a training camp interrupted by a foot injury and COVID-19, Green is again asserting himself in ways that go far beyond his scoring average of 5.0 points per game.
“Draymond is a true point forward,” Kerr said. “That’s his natural instinct is to handle the ball and get everybody involved. You combine that with his defensive acumen, it makes Draymond one of the most impactful players in the league . . . I would argue that he impacts winning as much as the very, very best players in the league.”
Green rounding in to form has helped the Warriors on defense, where they’re currently No. 9 in the NBA in defensive efficiency.
Starting centers in NBA history to EVER tally 15+ assists in a single game:
— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) February 5, 2021
“It bears out what we had hoped in the preseason when we built the roster,” Kerr said. “Draymond has tied it all together, but we’re getting a lot of great individual defensive performances. Andrew (Wiggins) in particular, has been really good . . . we’ve been on an upswing now since Draymond’s return.”
As much as the Warriors (12-10) ran the Mavericks (9-15) ragged Thursday night, Kerr understands the notion of having Green at center for comparable stretches in Saturday night’s rematch may not be tenable.
“I just think playing small has its limitations,” Kerr said. “One of the reasons we only did it for 12, 15 minutes a game in the past is it’s a great sort of change-up that can change the momentum of the game. But if you’re going to do it 40, 48 minutes, you’re really vulnerable to certain matchups, to wear and tear of a season, and being vulnerable on the glass. We’ve got to be careful about doing that too often.”
The rematch with Dallas could play out very differently for reasons having more to do with motivation than matchups. A case in point — on Jan. 1, the Warriors were blown out 123-98 against Portland at Chase Center. Two nights later, they beat the Blazers 137-122.
“I look at these little two-game series just like I do a playoff series,” Kerr said. “I’ve always felt the biggest adjustment is the emotional one . . . that’s what’s coming from Dallas tomorrow and we know that. That was obviously a tough night for them last night and they’ll be ready.”
Forward Eric Paschall, who woke up Thursday morning with right knee soreness and didn’t play against the Mavericks, is making progress but is no lock for the rematch.
“He’s feeling better. The swelling went down a little bit and he’s getting some shots up,” Kerr said. “We’ll just say he’s questionable for tomorrow. We’ll take it day by day.”
Contributed by local news sources