Draymond Green‘s self-assessment of his play after Game 3 was pretty spot on — two points, three assists, four rebounds and he fouled out. He’s also the through-line of what went wrong in the Warriors’ Game 1 loss, when a more aggressive Green was 2-of-12 shooting. Green has as many personal fouls this series, 15, as he does points.
Stephen Curry has been the best player on the floor in this series, scoring 31.3 points a game and shooting 48.6% from 3, but he hasn’t gotten enough help — and the Warriors have not been able to get the Celtics defense into the chaotic spin cycle where Golden State thrives. Boston is not blitzing Curry, and it is not thrown off by the Warriors’ off-ball actions like other teams usually are. Al Horford, in particular, has played too far back on Curry coming off a pick, but part of that is letting Curry shoot and not letting him get everyone else going.
Where Green thrives is the 4-on-3 situations where teams trap/blitz Curry and he makes the short-roll pass to Green, who then finds shooters and gets a defense scrambling. The Celtics aren’t blitzing Curry, Green doesn’t get the ball at the free throw line, and at that point Green is just another non-shooter who mucks up the Warriors’ flow.
The length, athleticism, physicality, and ability to recover of the Boston defense also are problems for Golden State.
Klay Thompson woke up in Game 3 with 25 points but is not back to his vintage self yet. This is a rough series and matchup for Jordan Poole. Kevon Looney and Gary Payton II are out there primarily as defenders, not because of their scoring (although Looney has stepped up and finished around the rim).
This is where Green comes in — his passing is critical to the Warriors’ offense getting defenses to scramble in the halfcourt. Green has to score a little better, make the Celtics cover him, then get the ball moving. He is critical to the Warriors’ offense.
Green also has not provided his usual defensive rim protection in the Warriors’ smaller lineups, but that is a function of what is asked of him in this series. Steve Kerr has put Green on Jaylen Brown because he is the best defender of that job (although Brown has had hot starts the last two games), but Green can’t leave Brown and play free safety in the paint — and that’s when Green is at his best. Boston’s depth means there is no weak link where Green can ignore his man and freelance on defense, he has to stay glued to Brown.
That leaves Kerr with lineup questions he doesn’t have a good answer for so far (Green is going to get a lot of minutes no matter how he plays, there is no other answer on the Warriors’ bench). The Warriors’ defense looks better with Looney and Payton on the floor, but then they lack shot creation against an elite defense. Kerr can put Poole out there but he is an instant target exploited by the Celtics’ offense when on the floor (and Poole’s offense hasn’t made up for that in this series).
Does Kerr lean offense or defense with his lineups in Game 4?
Green is the bridge that makes both of those work — he gets the ball moving and brings offense to the Warriors’ defensive lineups.
If he doesn’t do that in Game 4, the Warriors will be in a hole too deep to climb out of. At least Green can talk about that on his podcast.