Warriors Created Momentum Without Draymond


Draymond Green‘s suspension for his “stomp” on Domantas Sabonis meant that it was gut-check time for the Warriors.

There were a lot of conversations about who would replace Green in the starting lineup for Game 3. Whoever was going to step into that spot would have a lot of pressure on them, especially with the Warriors down 0-2. There were reasons for guys like Donte DiVincenzo or Jonathan Kuminga to get the nod, but both are not able to replace the entire package of Green’s skillsets.

Steve Kerr gave the nod to Jordan Poole, the most erratic player in the rotation for the entire season. The Warriors added Poole to Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Kevon Looney. They did more than just survive and came away with the convincing victory.

The team was able to figure out how to win without one of their most irreplaceable players on the court.

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With about an hour before Game 4, Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that Draymond Green was going to come off the bench. In the postgame press conference after a 126-125 win, Green mentioned that he went to Steve Kerr about that idea.

“I never want to reach that point in my career where I feel entitled to something.” — Draymond Green

The reasoning to his answer speaks volumes about the veteran leadership on this team. Curry came off the bench in last year’s first-round series against the Nuggets, so it’s not something new. It’s just another example of how the Warriors are not afraid of making extreme adjustments during a series.

Green saw that the offense was flowing better with only one big on the floor, so it was easy for him to make that suggestion. The Warriors took advantage of the adjustment, and have now shifted momentum on their side heading into Game 5.

Kerr’s History of Playoff Adjustments

Since Kerr became the coach of the Warriors, he has made critical lineup adjustments in important playoff series.

In Game 4 of the 2015 Finals, Kerr decided to replace Andrew Bogut with Andre Iguodala in the starting lineup. That lineup ended up becoming the infamous “Death Lineup“, and changed the way the NBA audience defines “small ball”.

Looney was taken out of the starting lineup against the Grizzlies last year, only to return to it in Game 6 of that series. Kerr and his staff are not afraid to make these changes, as he has built up a lot of trust within the organization. They do not have this amount of success if they were not bold enough to change things up when the original game plan does not work.

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The Strategy Moving Forward

As mentioned before, Green coming off the bench means the starting lineup has more spacing on offense. The Warriors have struggled to find a viable lineup with Curry, Thompson and Poole all on the court.

That trio did not work too well in last year’s playoffs, but with the growth of Looney and Wiggins, it’s been solid these past two games. According to NBA.com, that five-man lineup is a +21 so far in 32 minutes played together so far in the series. Their next-best lineup in +/- is Curry, Thompson, Wiggins, Green and Looney at +13 in 27 minutes.

Here are some clips that accentuate what the Warriors figured out when they had to only play one big at a time. As long as the Kings are not punishing them on the glass, they will continue to base their rotation on that idea.

Green usually has the ball in his hands and makes a lot of decisions throughout a game. His absence allows other players to get touches more often. With only Looney on the floor surrounded by shooters, Sabonis is forced to guard every action he is in. The pairing of Looney and Green is usually masked offensively by Curry and Thompson.

As this series has leaned more toward the offenses, the Warriors need another scoring threat on the perimeter. Adding in another capable player who can dribble, pass and shoot helps their offense a ton.

The amount of space the Kings have to guard on the perimeter is vastly different with one big. The amount of space that Curry has to make a simple basket cut after giving up the ball is a massive advantage. Sabonis had trouble getting set on defense, and he simply has no chance if he has to defend these actions.

These sets are there for the Warriors to run all game long as long as Looney or Green is the lone big. And as the series develops into the late stages, the Warriors will get more difficult to defend. They have been in playoff series like this, where they had to outlast the other team on both ends.

Effects on Rebounding and Defense

Another point is that it allows Looney to anchor the collective rebounding effort. Without Green’s defender sagging off and staying in the paint, it lets Looney use his elite positioning on the boards.

In Game 3, he finished with twenty rebounds, eleven defensive and nine offensive. Looney was a dominant force on the glass, all while matching Sabonis’ minutes throughout the game.

Hindsight is 20/20, but it is criminal that Green has only one Defensive Player of the Year award, while Rudy Gobert has three. Green is still one of if not the best defenders in the league. It may not always be there every possession throughout the season, but it shows up in the playoffs.

Even with how fast Sacramento has been playing on offense, Green is always a step ahead. He has made a career of playing the cat-and-mouse game on a 2-on-1. Even after stripping Sabonis, he was able to tip it for Wiggins to make the hustle play.

Game 5 Preview

Anthony Slater of The Athletic reported Monday that De’Aaron Fox has suffered an avulsion fracture and is listed as doubtful. There is a clip of Fox during the play in which most believe he hurt the index finger on his shooting hand.

As simple as this sounds, the Warriors should just be worrying about themselves. With the way they have played on the road this season, nothing about Fox being doubtful for the game makes it an automatic win.

They will most likely bring Green off the bench again to start. Thompson and Wiggins both had solid two-way performances in Game 4. Thompson hit every momentum-killer shot to keep the Warriors in the game on Sunday. In a critical Game 5 in the raucous Golden 1 Center, the Warriors need one of if not both to have a big game.

The Dubs also need one of their role players to show up in Sacramento. So far on the road, they have not had a good game from guys like Poole, DiVincenzo or Kuminga.

These are the games the Warriors’ core has won in all of their most intense playoff series throughout the years. It is the perfect time to finally show that championship DNA on the road.

Script Golden State Warriors

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About Christian Oblena

Born in San Francisco, raised in the East Bay, lifelong Bay Area sports fan. Here to give my own opinions on everything Dubs.

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