Let us all bow our heads at the altar of Draymond Green, for he has risen.
Not only did Green post a near triple-double with 19 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists but he sprinkled in three steals and five blocks just to put a bow on this Easter basket.
Is there a Defensive Player of the Year for the playoffs? Because Draymond probably just locked that up after Game 1 as he led the Golden State Warriors to a 121-109 Game 1 win over the Portland Trail Blazers Easter Sunday.
He’s the first player with that stat line in the playoffs since blocks and steals were first recorded in 1973-74, and Warriors head coach Steve Kerr heaped the praise on Green after the game:
“He played a game that I’m not sure anybody else in the league is capable of honestly. Who else could do what Draymond just did tonight? He’s so unique and so important to us.”
It wasn’t just his counting stats but the way he got them, stuffing any dunk attempt that entered his vicinity, including one from Oakland’s son Damian Lillard.
NOT TODAY ???????????? pic.twitter.com/juDMHJaIVS
— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) April 16, 2017
But that wasn’t even his defensive highlight as he pulled off one of the single greatest stops any has witnessed.
???????? Nope ???????? pic.twitter.com/OrHMD8EwkA
— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) April 16, 2017
Not only was he able close out on Lillard, cutting off his drive, he recovers all the way into the paint to emphatically block a Noah Vonleh dunk above the rim.
Green said those blocks felt better than just coming over and getting a swat:
“You’re within a half an inch to a centimeter of being dunked on. So when you actually come up with the block it’s a bit more of excitement. If you come across and get a swat, that’s usually weak side, but at the rim it’s mano-a-mano, man-against-man, who’s going to win the battle. And to win that battle is just a different type of emotion.”
That whole play was triggered by a horrid turnover from Klay Thompson, who had himself a rough night. Not only did he get torched by Lillard and C.J. McCollum on the perimeter defensively but had trouble even hitting the rim on offense. Quick shots and careless turnovers was what Thompson contributed, he basically had a game of all heat check shots with no actual heat behind them. He finished with 15 points on 6-of-16 shooting and a pair of turnovers.
Luckily for the Warriors they got a Thompson-esque spark from their bench, mainly it was JaVale McGee, who’s five-minute stretch in the third quarter might have been his best all season. Gone were the biting on pumpfakes but the blocked shots remained. And he triggered a gang of plays on his hustle alone.
Playoff basketball ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/XVYmAvIghg
— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) April 16, 2017
Ian Clark took over on offense from there as he scored 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting. Clark has feasted against the Blazers this season as he came into the game averaging 13 points per game against them on an insane 76 percent shooting. Numbers he actually raised with his performance.
The numbers themselves are great, but the most important part of McGee and Clark’s impact is that, with them on the court and Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry on the bench, the Warriors were able to not just take the lead but push it to double digits. That’s something that absolutely dooms opposing teams: not being able to capitalize when the Warriors stars are out.
And speaking of the MVP duo, they scored a combined 61 points. Durant had another quiet 32 just four games after returning from his knee injury and looks to have fully shaken off his rust. He essentially iced the game for the Warriors on a handful of isolation post ups in the fourth.
Kerr said Durant knew just when the Warriors needed him:
“I thought he attacked at really important times of the game where we needed some aggression. We were settling for jump shots for much of the game and when he started to attack that made a huge impact on the game.”
Things did not start out as pretty as McCollum put on a show hitting 11-of-15 shots for 27 points in the first half. It was eerily reminiscent of the last game at Oracle January 4, when he poured in 26 points in the first half.
The difference this game is that the Blazers had a healthy Lillard, who dropped 21 of his own in the first half. That’s 48 of the Blazers 56 total points coming directly from their backcourt. And yet, they couldn’t pull ahead of the Warriors and ended the first half tied at 56.
Green said that it wasn’t necessarily bad defense, it’s just that they are some of the best scorers in the NBA:
“Quite frankly, they were hitting some tough shots in the first half. Damian hit a bunch of floaters, C.J. hit tough fadeaways and tough threes over contested hands. But we knew that at some point you have to make them miss. You can say, ‘ah man I got a great contest and he hit a tough shot’ but at some point or another you have to make them miss.”
If it wasn’t for the Warriors and their super sloppy 10 turnovers, they would have blown out a team that saw their starting backcourt combine for 48 points in a half — scary.
The backcourt would finish with a combined 75 points, their problem was they didn’t get anything at all from their teammates. No one else on the Blazers shot 50 percent and they only got nine points from their bench.
But in their defense, they had to deal with the snarling, swirling, panic-inducing defense of Green all game.
The Warriors and Blazers will get the longest rest period possible, a two-game break and get back to action Wednesday night at Oracle.
Matt Barnes was not available for Game 1, although he shot around pregame and ran full court sprints and didn’t look bad. There’s a chance he’s healthy enough to return in Game 2 but the safer bet would be for the Warriors to hold him out till Game 3. … Portland center Jusuf Nurkic was also ruled out for Game 1, but that was hardly a surprise. The realistic timetable was always a Game 3 return for him as well, and even then if he were to return it would almost assuredly be at less than 100 percent. … With their victory the Warriors have now won their opening game of the postseason in four straight seasons, dating back to 2014 when they won their first game against the Los Angeles Clippers.