Draymond Green’s self-assessment of his game after Game 3 was spot on – two points, three assists, four rebounds and he fouled. He’s also the continuous line of what went wrong in the Warriors’ Game 1 loss, when a more aggressive green shot 2-of-12. Green has as many personal fouls, 15, as he has points in this series.
Stephen Curry was the best player on the floor in that series, scoring 31.3 points per game and shooting 48.6% from 3, but he didn’t get enough help – and the Warriors couldn’t wreak havoc on the Celtics defense in a spin cycle , where the Golden State thrives. Boston doesn’t blitz Curry, and it doesn’t get thrown off by the Warriors’ off-ball actions like other teams typically do. Al Horford in particular played back too far when Curry came off a pick, but part of that is letting Curry shoot and not get everyone else to run him.
Where Green succeeds is in the 4v3 situations where teams trap/blitz Curry and he makes the short roll pass to Green who then finds shooters and gets a defense that messes up. The Celtics don’t blitz Curry, Green doesn’t get the ball at the free throw line, and at this point Green is just another non-shooter messing up the Warriors’ flow.
The length, athleticism, physicality and recoverability of the Boston defense are also issues for Golden State.
Klay Thompson woke up with 25 points in Game 3 but hasn’t returned to his old self just yet. This is a tough streak and matchup for Jordan Poole. Kevon Looney and Gary Payton II are out there primarily as defenders, not for their goals (although Looney has stepped up and finished around the rim).
That’s where Green comes in – his passing is crucial to the Warriors’ offense to get the defense climbing on the halfcourt. Green needs to score a little better, get the Celtics to cover him and then get the ball moving. He’s crucial to the Warriors’ offense.
Green also hasn’t provided his usual defensive edge protection against the Warriors’ smaller lineups, but that depends on what’s asked of him in this series. Steve Kerr put Green on Jaylen Brown because he’s the best defender 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 if Green is for his own good. Boston’s depth means there’s no weak link where Green can ignore his man and freelancer on defense, he has to stick to Brown.
That leaves Kerr with lineup questions he doesn’t have a good answer for yet (Green will get plenty of minutes no matter how he plays, there’s no other answer on the Warriors bench). The Warriors’ defense looks better with Looney and Payton on the ground, but then they lack shot creation against an elite defense. Kerr can put Poole out, but he’s an instant target that’s exploited by the Celtics offense when he’s on the ground (and Poole’s offense hasn’t made up for that this series).
Will Kerr’s Game 4 lineups be offensive or defensive?
Green is the bridge that makes both things work – he gets the ball moving and puts the Warriors’ defense on offense.
If he doesn’t do this in Game 4, the warriors will be in a hole too deep to climb out. At least Green can talk about it on his podcast.