Draymond Green lifts lifeless Warriors to edge 76ers

The Warriors played three quarters of the game like the Sixers had just sucked their basketball skill out of them, Space Jam style. Luckily, they have their own version of a Monstar in Draymond Green, who singlehandedly willed the team to an ultra slim 106-104 victory.

He picked up full court on defense, he was everywhere on the court, he blitzed ball handlers and blocked shots. On the other end, he drilled a 3-pointer that brought the Warriors (53-14) from 16 down all the way back to within one, it was the only one he hit all night.

This story has been updated with quotes and post-game material from the Warriors’ locker room at Oracle Arena.

Green finished with a stuffed stat line of 20 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, four steals and six blocks.

Matt Barnes said Green reminds him of himself with how he values defense:

“I love it, I love his energy, his energy is contagious. It’s similar to the way I play. But there’s times where he’s picking up the point guard full court just to take time off the clock, and then to be able to switch and guard multiple people. He does everything out there defensively. He was definitely the key tonight to light a fire under us.”

To mix movie metaphors, Green basically “Weekend at Bernied” the lifeless corpses of his teammates, reanimating them into a fully-functional basketball team.

Green said he tried to remind guys to keep on grinding during the game:

“We’ve been in a little bit of a rut, and the only way to change that is to grind your way out of it. It’s not going to be pretty, the shots aren’t going to fall. You don’t go in a rut and then come out and hit 20 threes. It just don’t work like that. You have to grind your way out of it.”

Before Green’s energy infusion, birthday boy Stephen Curry had been 4-of-17 through three quarters. After Green electrified the entire city of Oakland, Curry hit 3-of-5 from distance and had 12 points in the fourth quarter to finish with a game-high 29 points.

Klay Thompson joined the 20-point club with 28 of his own on 10-of-22 shooting, and was literally the only player in a Warriors jersey to have a decent shooting night.

Steve Kerr said shooting slumps can usually be tied to effort:

“It’s funny how energy and made shots go together. And when you’re not bringing it defensively the open shots seem to not go in. And all of a sudden you start playing with more intensity you tend to make a few shots. It’s just kind of the way the game goes.”

The Warriors needed every last one of their big three’s points, as they were eaten alive in the first three quarters by the bottom-dwelling Sixers (24-43).

Curry tried to break out of his-don’t-call-it-a-slump by getting to the line. He shot 7-of-7 in the first half, which is the most free throws he’s shot in an entire game in the last 10 games. But the only thing it helped was his point total, at least until the final frame.

RELATED Deep in shooting slump, Curry hasn’t lost confidence.

Since Kevin Durant got hurt, Curry has been struggling mightily, shooting 28.6 percent from behind the arc and 41.2 percent from the field. But it wasn’t just the Durant injury that derailed him; in the two games prior, Curry shot a combined 2-of-20 from distance.

Curry said his stroke feels fine, the shots just aren’t falling:

“It’s frustrating only because in the moment everything feels good. You want to make shots as a competitor and a gamer, that’s what you expect to happen. It doesn’t affect the next shot. But it’s just one of those things you will yourself through. And that next opportunity you step up like you’ve made 10 in a row.”

Though Curry’s shooting stroke remained tied to the tree of woe, it wasn’t the offense that was the problem Tuesday; the defensive end allowed the Sixers to shoot 44.3 percent on generally wide open looks. And that percentage is after it fell off a cliff in the fourth quarter, when Philadelphia managed just 14 points.

Kerr said that Curry continuing to take those open shots is the only way for him to bust out:

“That’s what I love about Steph is that he’s never going to stop shooting and he never loses confidence. It wasn’t his night and yet he still scored 12 points in the fourth quarter. That’s the mark of a star, when it’s not your night and you still hit big shots. I thought it was a really good response in an otherwise tough night for Steph.”

Dario Saric absolutely ate any of the Warriors that switched onto him in the pick-and-roll. Saric finished with 25 points, seven rebounds and six assists and looked genuinely unstoppable at times. The Warriors’ switch-everything defense didn’t just backfire, it literally exploded, as mismatches on the pick-and-roll got exploited over and over again with no adjustment. That is until the fourth when Green guarded the rookie and refused to switch off of him.

It wasn’t just Saric though, the Sixers also ruled the matchup at center, getting a combined 36 points, 14 rebounds and six blocks from Richaun Holmes and Jahlil Okafor, easily the two best bigs in the game. The Warriors center rotation eked out just six points and 11 rebounds between the quartet of Zaza Pachulia, David West, JaVale McGee and James Michael McAdoo.

Golden State came into this game with aspirations of getting back to normal Warriors basketball after their three-game losing streak, and they actually did. Unfortunately, it took them three quarters to finally figure it out. But they hope the final quarter is a sign of things to come.

Up Next

The Warriors will play consecutive games at Oracle for the first time since February 23rd and 25th when they take on the visiting Orlando Magic Thursday. The Magic have lost five of their last six and currently have the second worst record in the NBA, sitting ahead of only the depressingly bad Brooklyn Nets.

Notes

This was the eighth consecutive win for the Warriors against Philadelphia. The Warriors last loss to them came on March 2, 2013. Zero of the players on that Sixers team are currently on their roster. … Curry hit five 3-pointers to push him over the 250 mark for the fifth straight season. He now owns five of the top nine single season 3-point totals in NBA history and needs just three more this season to make it five of the top eight. … With Draymond Green‘s six blocked shots Tuesday gave him over 400 in his short career. He became just the 11th player in Warriors franchise history to reach that benchmark.


Curtis Uemura is SFBay’s Golden State Warriors beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @CUemura on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Warriors basketball.