Steph Curry held his hands up to his face in the shape of binoculars to celebrate Draymond Green’s vision. Green, his longtime teammate, had just whipped a bullet pass through three Mavericks defenders to lead Curry into an easy layup.
In their years together, Curry has come to expect such high-level anticipation and execution from Green. But that doesn’t make gems like this from Green, who finished with 11 points and 15 assists in Golden State’s 147-116 win over the Mavericks in Dallas on Thursday, any less spectacular.
The play occurred late in the second quarter, before the Warriors (12-10) broke open the game with a 15-2 run in the third quarter that took control of a game that featured 17 lead changes and oodles of points. Curry, freed up by Green facilitating the offense, scampered off the ball to score 28 points on 9-for-17 shooting (4-for-10 from 3-point range).
For the Mavericks (9-15), Luka Doncic had 27 points, six rebounds and six assists, and Kristaps Porzingis finished with 25 points.
Below, three takeaways from the game.
A turning point for Draymond Green: This is the Green the Warriors need, especially on a night when they were without a single player taller than 6-foot-7 due to injuries depleting them of their centers. Without James Wiseman (left wrist sprain) and Kevon Looney (left ankle sprain), Green took over as the team’s starting center on defense, but played more like a point guard on offense.
The situation was made more dire when forward Eric Paschall was a late scratch after he woke up with swelling in his right knee. To counter the lack of size, head coach Steve Kerr threw out the conventional game plan and told his team to sprint the floor, launch 3-pointers and blitz on defense.
Green was central to the approach. After struggling to produce on offense for much of the season and only a few days since he claimed he was “two or three weeks away” from reaching peak condition, Green turned in a vintage performance. He grabbed rebounds, turned fast breaks and even canned a couple dunks (he had two all season prior to Thursday).
“This has always been his strong suit as an offensive player — being a point-forward, pushing the ball, generating tempo and pace,” Kerr said. “He did all that tonight.”
This game could end up being an inflection point for the Warriors. Prior to this week, Green had not played a single minute at center this season. In his 29 minutes Thursday night, he played the position exclusively, and his best game of the season correlated with the Warriors’ most exciting performance. Over the next few games, the Warriors will gain a larger sample of lineups without a traditional center, and Kerr could pull some things out of this stretch to implement going forward.
“You sort of naturally fall into actions when you play a different lineup and a different group, and sometimes you’ll see something on film and you realize ‘Yeah we have to make that a staple offensively,’” Kerr said. “So those types of things, you can latch onto and turn into a more consistent part of what you do.”
Dray has tunnel vision 👀 pic.twitter.com/JwnIpqvVeu
— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) February 5, 2021
Defense locked down in the second half: Despite having the size advantage, the Mavericks (playing on the second night of a back-to-back set) didn’t try to punish the Warriors near the basket. For the game, the Warriors out-scored the Mavericks 54-36 in the paint. Of Porzingis’ 16 shot attempts, eight came from beyond the arc. Though hot shooting carried the Mavericks until halftime (76 points, 15-for-29 from 3-point range in the first half), the Warriors limited the Mavericks to 40 points and out-rebounded them 26-17 in the second half. That’s because the defense swarmed, used speed to counter size and rebounded in groups. The result: the most dominant stretch of the season, outscoring Dallas 73 to 40.
Kelly Oubre Jr.’s breakout performance: Other than Green, no player benefited from the newfound space more than Oubre. Actually, he may have benefited even more than Green — his 40 points were a career high, and he did so on a tidy 14-of-21 shooting (7-of-10 from 3-point range) in 36 minutes. This isn’t the first supposed-breakout for Oubre this season, but none have been quite as loud or as necessary.
Oubre’s issue has been stringing together such positive performances. For example, a night after scoring 20 points on 7-of-9 shooting last week against the Timberwolves, he went 1-for-11 with four points in Phoenix. The energy, the disruptive defense and the dunk attempts are always there. If he can shoot more efficiently and within the flow of the offense, he may have a chance to turn his season around.
“One thing he can control is his energy, his effort and that’s always present when he’s out there on the floor,” Curry said. “And I have a lot of respect for a guy like that with how his season has gone so far.”
Juan Toscano-Anderson, making the right play: Getting the start after scoring a career-high 16 points against Boston, two-way contract forward Toscano-Anderson finished with 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting (2-of-4 from 3-point range), eight rebounds and five assists in 40 minutes. But his best stat may have been the team-best plus-26 — an indication of how quick he is to react and make the right play.
This is the kind of play Warriors coaches will highlight while watching film tomorrow. Running the break, Toscano-Anderson calls for the ball. Oubre doesn’t pass it ahead but, instead of customarily flaring out to the corner, he sees the player in front of him. Knowing Oubre is going downhill, Toscano-Anderson sets a pick in the lane, setting up Oubre for a wide-open pull-up jumper. It’s this quality that has led Kerr to compare Toscano-Anderson to Green.
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