The Warriors’ all-star forward dodged a bullet by not receiving a suspension (courtesy of Sports Illustrated) for his kick to Steven Adams’ groin. The possible inadvertent kick sent Steven Adams down for several minutes in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals.
Green’s kick after being fouled came in the second quarter of a blowout loss to the Thunder. NBA.com reported that the league levied a hefty fine of $25,000 on Draymond Green in place of a suspension. The Golden State Warriors trail the best-of-seven series 2-1. Losing their “enforcer” for Game 4 would have crippled the defending champions.
Judging by the way the Thunder have approached these playoffs, the Warriors need all of their players available.
No one expected a cakewalk for Golden State once the playoffs began. Everyone saw the Western Conference Finals being a struggle for them, no matter which team they would face. The Warriors winning 73 games is a great story. Can they reel off four victories against another quality team that has the ability to game plan for them, as is the case in a best-of-seven series?
Not even a 2-1 series deficit is a surprise. How soundly they were defeated by the Thunder — well, that was a stunner.
Sure, Oklahoma City have Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, the latter of whom is quietly putting together his best-ever postseason. There were times in Game 3 when the lead ballooned beyond 40 points. Despite early shooting woes, the Warriors did manage to shoot 41 percent from the field. On the contrary, they only connected on 30 percent (10-30) from the three-point line.
Another thing which was evident in Game 3 was that Golden State was out-hustled by the Oklahoma City Thunder. Every loose ball seemingly went to the home team, who held a decisive rebounding advantage of 52-39.
Because they have the bigger team, the Thunder have opted to do what most teams will not when playing the Warriors. Oklahoma City is using their size. In the past, teams would match the Warriors with a small-ball tactic. How the Warriors are built, with several players in the 6’5″ and 6’8″ range, they can get away with the strategy. Most teams are not structured that way.
It is perhaps the Thunder’s size which is getting under the skin of Draymond Green and other Warriors’ players.
On top of having a size advantage, many will argue that the Thunder have more athleticism than the Warriors. Overall skill, shooting, and ball movement are clearly the Warriors’ strengths. That can be countered with athleticism.
Going back to Game 3 and how the Thunder were able to close in on the Warriors’ shooters. Oklahoma City did not crowd the three-point line as most teams have. They show space, only to use their length to help make up the difference.
There are a couple of subtle differences between the Warriors and Thunder which have made the difference in the series. It starts with the size and carries over to other factors. It is why the Thunder are ahead in the series.
Any thoughts of a Warriors’ return to the NBA Finals rest with Draymond Green. He is the catalyst for what the Warriors want to do. Be it his footwork on defense, being a facilitator on the offensive or his work on the backboard, Draymond Green is the player who gets things started. Not receiving a suspension from the NBA was a blessing and a curse for him.
Draymond Green gets to help the Golden State Warriors try and knot the series at two. The spotlight is officially on him and he must deliver, or else the Warriors historic season will go down in flames. If that winds up being the case, not everyone will consider it an upset, given the makeup of the Oklahoma City Thunder. That can be forgiven and forgotten. What cannot be is the belief that a series defeat will rest on Draymond Green’s shoulders.
[Photo by J. Pat Carter/Getty Images]