After he spent the regular season fighting his teammates, averaging 7.4 points per game, and getting ignored by defenses, Draymond Green has taken a few old textbooks out of his hefty backpack and showed up to the playoffs with an intensity and focus unseen for almost a year. The Golden State Warriors are up 2-0 on the Houston Rockets even though Steph Curry and Klay Thompson have shot 11-for-37 from three. That’s because Kevin Durant is functionally unguardable, but also because Green has put his stamp on the series.
While Green’s most important contribution to the Warriors’ 115-109 win in Game 2 might’ve been his impromptu examination of James Harden’s optic nerve, his defense has kicked ass. Green’s understanding of space and timing has been tremendous, and it’s disrupted Houston’s pick-and-roll strategy. The Warriors and he have mixed up the looks they’ve given Harden, sometimes doubling him, sometimes digging, and sometimes playing the lob to Clint Capela. Green and the third help defender have been stingy with easy buckets, and more importantly, they’ve forced 31 turnovers through two games.
As Steve Jones Jr. pointed out, watch how Green showed the double to Harden, then backed off for the easy steal at exactly the right moment:
Green was also happy to run up and grab the ball:
Green has been a proactive defender who has constantly thrown Houston off their rhythm. Check out here how he baited Harden into trying an ill-fated lob.
Playing in four straight Finals is a draining experience, and Green pretty clearly chilled out during this regular season. The lift on his shots wasn’t quite there, and like the rest of his teammates, he had his game on cruise control probably until the Clippers won two games in the first round. Green has freely admitted that he was out of shape for the bulk of the regular season, and when GM Bob Myers confronted him about his weight earlier this season, he told his boss he had a plan. Sure enough, Green reportedly dropped 23 pounds in six weeks ahead of the playoffs, and he has that spring back. Although he hasn’t found his three-point shot, the Warriors don’t really need that bonus to succeed. They just need Green to keep making life hard for opponents.