The Warriors long ago realized they particularly are vulnerable when Stephen Curry is ordinary and that they’re probably cooked when his game flatlines, as it did in the second half on Saturday.
Though Curry’s 1-of-10 shooting after halftime greased the path to a 113-112 loss to the Clippers at Crypto.com Arena, there were numerous positives Golden State could take on the way out of Los Angeles.
Perhaps none was more encouraging for the Warriors than the performance of Draymond Green.
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The veteran power forward scored an efficient 21 points – including four 3-pointers in the first quarter – to shoot through the 20-point barrier for the first time since 2019. He grabbed a season-high-tying nine rebounds. He defended, at various times, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Despite missing a potential game-winner at the buzzer, Draymond brought his “A” game.
“Being a basketball player,” he told reporters in LA. “That’s been my main focus.”
Draymond was referring to the work that contributed to his impressive 3-point shooting this season. He’s 17 of 36 (47.2 percent).
But that same statement should apply to his composure.
Golden State Warriors
For it is particularly notable that Green’s production and impact came without any significant reduction in passion. He didn’t lose his zest. Rather, he revved high without losing control. No prolonged spats with officials. No rhythm-stopping antics. No playing villain for the crowd.
What happened when, in the fourth quarter, Draymond pulled Clippers guard Terance Mann to the floor while trying to pry the ball away? Green helped Mann up, was assessed a foul – that arguably could have been ruled a jump ball – and resumed playing basketball.
This is the Draymond who can make the Warriors a much better team, even if they lost to a Clippers team that was better in the second half.
Green did not sacrifice any leadership ability; he might have enhanced it by devoting every ounce of his prodigious energy to a game the Warriors led for all but the last nine seconds.
“This was a clean game,” coach Steve Kerr said. “Our guys brought spirit, effort, energy. I like this version of our team. This is the team I expect going forward.
“But no question, this hurts.”
It hurts because the Warriors dominated the first half and pushed their lead to 22 early in the third quarter. Because Stephen Curry’s first-half brilliance faded badly in the second half. Because Moses Moody, Brandin Podziemski and Green submitted excellent performances.
There were, again, other positives, at least three, the Warriors can take from this.
One: The change in the starting lineup. Kerr swapped out Kevon Looney for Dario Sarić at center. That provided improved spacing for the offense and was a factor in the first half. Golden State shot 54.8 percent from the field, including 54.5 from distance, while putting up 67 points.
Two: The growth of Moses Moody. Thriving while seizing an opportunity afforded by a finger injury sustained by Andrew Wiggins, the third-year wing piled up 21 points, 13 as the offense was wheezing through the second half.
Three: The influence of Brandin Podziemski. The rookie filled multiple voids left by injured teammates. He brought some of Gary Payton II’s disruptive defense, Chris Paul’s scoring/playmaking blend and Wiggins’ rebounding during a fearless and effective 37 minutes.
“Our guys were poised,” Kerr said. “They stuck together. Every guy who came off the bench had great energy. You see Klay and Draymond playing the way they’re playing. We were connected. And that’s what I expect going forward.”
“Poise” is not a word often associated with Draymond. But it applied to him in this game. It was not enough to assure victory, but such commendable conduct greatly diminishes the risk of ejections and suspensions.
Green is shooting 48.3 percent from the field, well above his 44.9 percent career total entering the season. His 3-point shot is at career-high accuracy. His 124 rebounds rank second on the team despite being absent from completely unavailable for eight games and being ejected from two more. The Warriors are 6-4 when Draymond plays a full game, 3-7 when he does not.
Having him on the floor, giving the Warriors what they need, is essential for them to approach any lofty goal. He proved on this night that he can perform at a high level without the sideshow.