Game 2 was one Portland had to steal. Up 17 in the third quarter — up eight with four minutes to go.
But just as he has done seemingly every defensive possession in this series, Draymond Green snatched it out of the air and made sure there would be no upset at Oracle Thursday night.
Green upped his already stellar play to another level down the stretch and willed the Warriors to a 114-111 win and 2-0 series lead.
Green finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists, five blocks and numerous deflections and turned in key play after key play in the fourth quarter, all while playing with five fouls.
He said he has to play the same regardless of fouls or he’s not helping anyone:
“If I’m going to be out there and play timid, then I may as well go sit on the bench. … I play aggressive on the defensive side of the ball, so I can’t take that away because everyone on our team is used to me playing aggressive on that side. So if I stopped that, they don’t know what to do because they are used to me playing a certain way, so I just got to play and just try not to reach. You know, if I just move my feet and don’t reach, live with the results.”
He scored or assisted on the final five Warriors field goals offensively, while stunting and recovering on drives all while playing with five fouls on defense.
Steve Kerr said that it was obvious that Portland played better despite the loss:
“We stole that game. I thought they outplayed us for much of the night, the majority of the night, but we brought enough competitive fire in the second half to overcome their great play. We’ve been here before. I think our experience helped us.”
It was a masterpiece. But it seems like Green has been turning in works of art every game since the playoffs have started, averaging 12.5 points, 9.3 rebounds, 7.8 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.2 steals this postseason.
But the stats still don’t really illustrate his impact. Every decision he made down the stretch was the optimal one. He reads exactly what the defense is doing and makes them pay with precision every time.
When a big like Meyers Leonard makes a good decision on the short roll once in five possessions, it gets everyone’s attention. Green does it on five straight possessions, and that’s what makes him so special.
Kerr said that ability is what makes Green so special:
“Well, he’s our leading assist guy. The way people play Steph allows Draymond to be the play maker frequently in our games because he catches the ball out of the traps and he’s just a great passer and great decision-maker, throwing the lob, throwing the cross-court passes. He’s a fantastic two-way player and a guy who has just been irreplaceable around here for a long time.”
It was such an exceptional performance by Green it pushed Stephen Curry’s 37 points, eight rebound, eight assists to but a footnote.
Curry continues to have his way with the Blazers after being freed from the clutches of the Houston Rockets. While he didn’t get as many wide-open looks as he got in Game 1 with the Blazers changing their pick and roll coverage to a blitz scheme, he still found quite a few openings.
Where he struggled though, was when his brother Seth Curry was matched up on him. Seth finished with four steals, all on his brother, and seemed to read every move the All-Star wanted to make, reminiscent of the games in their backyard.
Green joked about what he thinks of watching the two brothers go at it:
“Them two, growing up in the backyard playing against each other their whole life. … You compete your entire life. And to be on this stage, it don’t get much better than this. But me on the outside looking in, I really don’t give a damn. I hope Seth miss every shot and get destroyed by Steph. He had too good of a game tonight for my liking but he was definitely amazing.”
The younger Curry also rained in 16 points, including a huge 3 with just over five minutes remaining in the game to give Portland a seven point lead.
Curry’s explosion illustrated how far from an all-around convincing victory it was, despite all the excitement at the end. The Warriors returned to their apathetic ways in the first half.
While Green played out of his mind defensively, the rest of the squad fell flat. Green had four blocks in the first half alone, but his teammates played like they knew he was there to clean up their mistakes.
The Warriors let C.J. McCollum get going early, which they had avoided in Game 1. He had an effortless 16 before halftime. Portland as a team hit 11 3’s in the first half, after connecting on just seven in Game 1.
But it wasn’t just the Warriors defense that was troubling, their ball security probably gave Steve Kerr PTSD. They fumbled the ball away 14 times in the first half alone, most of them coming without any pressure, and the Blazers scored 24 points directly off of them.
Down 15 at the half, the Warriors stormed back to start the third. A 13-0 run in just two minutes helped snap the Warriors out of the trance like state they played in for the first 24 minutes.
Curry said it’s a trend that he really has no answer for:
“We obviously got challenged at halftime to play with more energy, more fight, more competitiveness and we obviously answered it, but I don’t know what it is, finding that edge, you know, when our back’s against the wall… You know, down 15, that’s — it was 13-0 run coming out at halftime, that’s crazy. We done it before, but we don’t want to be in those situations.”
And while both Splash Brothers lasering in 3’s helped, it started on the defensive end with Green and a suddenly actively supporting cast. Kevon Looney started the third in place of Andrew Bogut, and the Warriors immediately were more aggressive with their traps, and more vigilant on the defensive glass.
Looney continues to earn himself some money in the offseason as he put down 14 points and seven rebounds, and just consistently produces.
They also got some good minutes from Jordan Bell, who looked like he destroyed his NBA career earlier this season with some questionable off-court things, and uninspired play on it.
But he may have resurrected it in the span of just three games. Bell’s played double-digit minutes in each of them and has been flying around both on offense and defense. The hustle is impressive enough, but he’s also not afraid on offense and scored 11 points in a variety of ways.
Green said while his on-court game has matured it’s the other part of the game where he sees the most progress:
“I think he’s evolved mostly mentally. His professionalism. I think that’s where he’s grown the most and I think right now, that’s paying off for him the most… It’s the staying ready, being in the gym nonstop, even when you’re not playing for 10 games straight, staying in the gym, being there early and getting the work in. That’s what’s paying off for him now.”
The Warriors rode the momentum from the bench to outscore Portland 39-24 in the third frame and bring the game even. But all that momentum evaporated into thin air when they leaned to heavily on it and started the fourth quarter with Klay Thompson and the all-bench unit.
The Blazers were all too happy to let Thompson try to create off the dribble, something that never amounts to good looks. And it also tired him out, as he was tasked with chasing Damian Lillard around the perimeter and trying to create every scoring chance for the Warriors.
Then the starters returned, the Green-Curry pick-and-roll returned, and that was just enough for the win.
But Portland had a chance fading down the stretch. Up three with 10 seconds left, Andre Iguodala added to his career playoff highlight reel of amazing defensive plays, forcing Lillard out of a quick 3 before stripping the Blazers of the ball — later officially ruled a blocked shot — and sealing Golden State’s comeback victory.
That moment, while spectacular is nothing new for Iguodala Curry said:
“He’s been doing it for years. He’s got a knack for it. He has strong hands and uses his wingspan really well and he’s just smart, speaks so highly of a guy that can have a game like he had, where offensively, there weren’t many opportunities, but he makes the biggest play of the game to help us win, and he’s so excited about that part, his role for our team.”
The Warriors now travel to Portland for Game 3 Saturday, as the series keeps its every other day schedule.
Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins were both ruled out for Games 3 and 4 before the game according to GM Bob Myers. While they are making progress, both will be re-evaluated in one week, which would make the earliest return possible Game 6.