TORONTO – Draymond Green was headed toward the showers when an NBA official asked whether he was ready for his postgame press conference. Green said sure.
What was a little more dirty work?
For five years now, Green has given the Warriors whatever they needed. Their defense turns elite because of him. Their small-ball lineups feast because of him. Their competitive desire has lasted through one burnout-inducing postseason after another because of him.
And because of his determination, versatility and intelligence, Golden State beat the Raptors, 109-104, victory in Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday.
Early, he defended Pascal Siakam, whom Green vowed to shut down after a breakout Game 1. He then moved onto smaller guards Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet, changing the angles from which he could bring help defense. That adjustment – which also included Andre Iguodala moving onto Siakam and Klay Thompson onto Kawhi Leonard – befuddled Toronto, particularly during the Warriors’ 18-0 run to start the third quarter. Finally, Green took on Leonard down the stretch, stifling a Raptors comeback.
“As a defender, as a competitor I relish those opportunities,” Green said
Before the series, Green discussed being Golden State’s emotional leader.
“That title means a lot to me,” Green said. “But with that title comes great responsibility because when you are an emotional leader, your team feeds off that.
“It’s a role that you don’t get nights off. You’re going to have off nights shooting. You’re going to have nights where you turn the ball over. You’re going to even have nights where you don’t get as many rebounds. You don’t get off nights as an emotional leader, and if you do, the ramifications, they’re not good.”
The Warriors saw that in Game 1.
Green repeatedly got beat in transition. His rotations weren’t sharp. He played with too little force.
“Aggressiveness starts with me, and everybody else will follow that,” Green said Friday. “If I’m on my heels, everyone else is on their heels. I think that was kind of the story of last night.”
He delivered Sunday, putting his fingerprints all over the game. Green – who finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists, two steals and a block – swarmed defensively and passed marvelously.
Yet Toronto still led by double digits near halftime.
Green didn’t panic. He saw encouraging signs in the Warriors’ play and figured it’d work out for them.
This is what makes Green special – his ability to read the game. Few players have the physical tools to cover fast big forwards like Siakam, small guards like Lowry and VanVleet and superstar wings like Leonard. Even fewer have the thorough understanding of how to apply those tools. Green checks both boxes.
And he does it while playing demonstrably, giving his teammates so much to feed off.
Green probably won’t get enough recognition for Sunday’s win. Klay Thompson scored 25 points. DeMarcus Cousins found a groove after coming back from injury. Andre Iguodala hit the dagger shot.
But Green was so important to what the Warriors did.