Stephen Curry had battered the New Orleans Pelicans, pouring in 30 points.
Kevin Durant had bruised them, too, going for 27 points and also a spectacular timely blocked shot inside the final minute.
But the play that best defined the Warriors’ 113-109 comeback win over the Pelicans came inside the final seconds Tuesday night at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans.
It involved defense and, perhaps naturally, Draymond Green was at its center.
With 6.7 seconds left, the ball went to Pelicans star Anthony Davis a couple feet outside the left block. And as the gifted forward backed in toward the key, preparing for a game-tying shot, Green robbed him blind.
Stole the ball, lifting it before Davis had a chance to pivot toward the basket, leaving Davis hopping and gesturing, howling for an official to blow a whistle. None did.
Green wrapped the ball in his arms, was fouled and eventually, with 1.4 seconds remaining, drained a pair of free throws to close out as rugged a victory as the Warriors have had this season.
Golden State Warriors
“I knew he wanted to drive left; that’s always what he wants when he’s on that block,” Green recalled for reporters at Smoothie King Center. “He probably goes left 85 percent on the time on that block, so I knew he wanted to go that way.”
The play capped another brilliant night for Green. He posted his first triple-double, with 12 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists, which left him shrugging.
“Triple-doubles don’t matter to me; it is what it is,” Green said. “But to get a stop to win the game? I’d always rather win like that than to win on the offensive end because you have to dig deep, especially against a player like Anthony Davis in order to get a stop like that. So that means a lot more to me.”
This was merely the latest example of Green providing precisely what the Warriors (22-4) need, at exactly the right moment.
“Draymond loves being in that situation,” coach Steve Kerr said. “He relishes in it, he really does. Even against a guy like Anthony Davis, who’s so good, it didn’t surprise me. If he’s one-on-one against anybody, I’ll take Draymond any day. He’s a nasty defender.”
There were other defensive plays that were impactful, such as Durant racing over from the weak side to reject a layup by Davis with New Orleans trailing by three and 34.7 seconds remaining. This remarkable play, showcasing the rim protection some think the Warriors lack, was “huge” according to Green.
After singing and waving on defense for most of the game, the Warriors in the fourth began attacking like a pack of angry wolves, holding the Pelicans to 28.6-percent shooting – a stark contrast to their 54.1-percent rate in the first three quarters.
New Orleans (8-18) managed one field goal over the final seven minutes, and none over the final 4:46, during which the Pelicans were 0-of-7 with four turnovers.
“Our defense was great the last five minutes, our offense was not,” Kerr said.
“That was the disappointing part about tonight, was not executing down the stretch and getting better shots,” he added. “We have to improve in that area. But defensively, we turned it up and it was a good defensive close.”
The Warriors were, to be frank, outplayed for the majority of the game. Davis went for 28 points, making 10-of-14 shots from the field. Reserve guard Langston Galloway rang up 20 points, including five 3-pointers.
Yet all of it was wiped out by the Warriors’ gritty fourth quarter, with Green slamming the final door.
“He’s helping us win, and those are key moments,” Curry said. “He loves a challenge and obviously steps up when it matters most. He knows exactly how he can impact a game on that end of the floor, no matter if it’s the first quarter or second quarter or the last 10 seconds of a game.”
For Green, who openly covets the Defensive Player of the Year award – he finished second in each of the past two seasons – this was another moment for his expanding promotional video.
“I don’t want to be the guy that gets scored on for game,” he said. “And I love playing defense, so when it comes to a situation where you’ve got to get a stop to win the game, I enjoy that moment. It’s fun to me.”