Draymond Green had struggled in the NBA Finals, but that was far from the case Thursday night in Game 4. The soon-to-be restricted free agent started at center for the first time all season — a position where he’s logged approximately 1 percent of his minutes in both the regular season and playoffs.
Steve Kerr’s bold move worked, and the Golden Warriors raced out to a series-evening 103-82 win.
Directing attention to his teammates rather than the refs, Green poured in 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting, dished out six assists and corralled seven rebounds. The Warriors were 36.2 points better with him on the floor per 100 possessions, and he had no problem letting the fans in Cleveland’s Oracle Arena know that was the case.
Zach Lowe recently posited a notion on his podcast that many harmonize with: “I don’t think they [Golden State] can win this series without Green finding his game.” Green has been the team’s defensive linchpin all season and there are few, if any, power forwards as versatile on both ends of the floor.
His playmaking ability is uncanny for someone his size. Early in the first quarter, Green spotted Andre Iguodala leaking down the sideline and threw a 40-foot outlet pass, creating a transition basket.
Cleveland has no favorable matchup on him when his shooting requires the defender to hug him around the perimeter.
Green’s proficient screen-setting ability opens up a number of Golden State’s offensive sets. After draining a few shots, Tristan Thompson — a formidable force on the low block but substantially less so outside the paint — was required to maintain a close proximity, even as Green was stationed behind the arc.
Taking away paint defenders creates more avenues to the rim, and although Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson would soon become available targets in the restricted area, Green was able to find Iguodala for a wide-open three-pointer.
Green had an expected win probability of 0.8 in Game 4, the second-highest of any Golden State player, and appeared to be back to his productive ways. For Kerr, that’s positive news considering that the team benefits greatly when he’s producing:
- Golden State is 9-1 this postseason when he has five or more assists (20-5 during the regular season)
- 7-1 this postseason when he scores 15 or more points (16-3 during the regular season)
- 7-1 this postseason when he has an effective field goal percentage about 50 percent (39-5 during the regular season).
On a team loaded with all-stars and depth that makes the Cleveland fan base groan each time it’s mentioned on a telecast, Green is a crucial piece of the puzzle.
Josh Planos has been published at the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, the Guardian, the Pacific Standard and VICE, among other publications. He has been heard on CBS Sports Radio, Fox Sports Radio and ESPN Radio. Planos is currently a Digital Editor at KETV NewsWatch 7 and a freelance writer.