Warriors vs Celtics: Draymond Green’s defense among top three for Golden State in must-win Game 4

Warriors vs Celtics: Draymond Green’s defense among top three for Golden State in must-win Game 4

For the second time in these NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors find themselves in a must-win situation. Yeah, I get it, they’re not technically facing elimination. Play this card if you wish. But if they lose 3-1 with another loss on Friday, that streak is over, just as it would have been over had the Warriors dropped Game 2, because no team in history has recovered to win the Final after having lost the first two. games at home.

The Warriors know full well that only one team in history has overcome a 3-1 deficit to win the Finals. It was the Cavs in 2016. That’s not going to happen in this series. That’s already a steep enough climb for Golden State to have to win three of the next four games against a Celtics team that looks increasingly superior as this series progresses.

That said, a win in Game 4 changes the equation a bit. This would restore home court advantage to Golden State in what would become a three-game series. Here are three things that would go a long way toward the Warriors doing it on Friday night.

1. Value every possession

The team that won the turnover battle won each of the first three games of this series. Both teams have a way of shooting each other in the foot with reckless turnovers, but the Warriors have less room for error. They don’t have the defense the Celtics have to fall back on, and they don’t have multiple All-Star-level builders like Boston.

What the Warriors have is Stephen Curry, who is shooting 49 percent on 3 in this series on 12-plus attempts per game. Every time the Warriors turn the ball around, in addition to leading to a transition offense for a more athletic Boston team, it just takes away one more opportunity for Curry to get going, and Golden State needs all the magic of Curry that he can muster to keep pace with the Celtics.

These types of high-risk passes should be set aside.

Golden State always follows a nice risk-reward line, and it’s understandable that they want to take a chance looking for easy field goals against a Boston defense that becomes a monster when set up. But these passes just don’t have enough benefits. Green threads a needle that is too tight in both cases.

The Warriors are scoring 97.2 points per half-court possession in this series, per Cleaning the Glass. It’s almost identical to their regular season mark. It’s not like they haven’t been able to score, especially when Curry is on the court, when they take him down and direct their attack. Picking up the pace and playing free is fine, but the Warriors need to value every possession as if the championship is on the line, because it is.

2. Draymond has to show up

Green has been downright bad in two of three games. For the series, he has more turnovers (6) than baskets made (5). He was aggressive to score in Game 1, going 2 for 12. He missed short shots in the paint, lay-ups and four 3-pointers as the Celtics essentially ignored him on the perimeter to slump a defender extra in the paint, blasting the traffic lanes.

In Game 3, Green had two points, three assists and four rebounds before committing a foul. After the game, he said he was playing “like shit”, and there’s really no other way to put it.

With Stephen Curry executing a ton of pick-and-roll, Green would typically make plenty of plays on the short roll, but the Celtics aren’t all-out on Curry, so those 4-on-3 opportunities haven’t been there nearly as much as Green is used to it.

When Green doesn’t facilitate the attack, his inability to shoot, or really pose any scoring threat, becomes a much bigger problem as he essentially becomes a non-spacer, trying to hang around in the gray areas without getting too stuck. , which is especially problematic when Kevon Looney, another non-shooter, is also there. They’re two guys Boston can ditch to tread on more imminent threats.

Without much room in the half-court for attacking impact, Green playing excellent defense becomes even more necessary to justify his minutes, which, let’s be honest, won’t be cut no matter how badly he plays. The problem is that the defense hasn’t been very good either.

Point-of-attack defense is a major issue for Golden State in this series. They don’t stay in front of Boston’s creators, which sets off the domino effect that leads to all sorts of open shots as Golden State isn’t equipped to protect the rim without sending multiple defenders into the lane, and therefore, off shooters .

It’s not a stress issue. The Warriors simply don’t have the perimeter defenders they once had. Klay Thompson is a shell of himself defensively. Jordan Poole is a walking target. Curry is a solid defender in a fair fight, but he’s small, and the Celtics took full advantage of that multiple times on the switches in Game 3 with Al Horford and Marcus Smart post-ups. Looney can be pulled out and attacked. Bjelica has held on, relatively speaking, but he’s not playing big minutes and he’s certainly not going to be more than a neutral defender at best.

All this to say that if Green, one of Golden State’s few truly reliable defenders, is also beaten, the Warriorit really is have no chance. Brown got all the shots he wanted in the first quarter of Game 3, and a lot of them came at the expense of Green.

Again, this has been a terrible streak for Green for the most part. But he has time to turn the script around. Just as Curry has to carry an offense that really has nowhere to turn for consistent production, Green has to do the same on defense. His supposed ability to do so is a big reason why Golden State was favored early in this series (not in my eyes, but at least in Vegas) and the fact that he didn’t take that responsibility is equally important reason that they were turned into outsiders.

3. Poole or Payton Game

Unlike the Celtics, who can play lineups in which neither offense nor defense are compromised, the Warriors have to choose. If they play Looney for his defense and his rebound, their spacing suffers. If they play Bjelica for his shot, they lose the defense. If they get small to score, they get killed on the glass. If they are playing big, they are collectively slow.

There aren’t two players who better reflect this trade-off dilemma than Jordan Poole and Gary Payton II, who skipped Poole in the Game 2 rotation and looked great, but then only played 11 minutes into the game. 3. It’s a fluid situation. If Poole does, he’s too valuable as the only secondary creator next to Curry, and obviously as the only one when Curry is seated, to be without. But his defense is a major issue.

For Payton, it’s the other way around. As one of the few guys who can contain penetration and disrupt Boston’s creators, his defense is vital, but he’s not a shooter Boston is going to give the follow-up two thoughts, so he’s messing up the spacing . When Payton is on his game, he takes advantage of defensive inattention by cutting for layups and dunks and he’s still excellent on the open court.

It would be optimal if these guys had a big game on the same night. They can mirror each other’s minutes and support each other with their contrasting skills. But at least one of them has to play big on Friday. Poole getting hot or Payton mounting the defense makes the Warriors a different team. One of those things happening is making the Warriors a little less dependent on Curry to erase all those game shortcomings with a nuclear exit — which could happen, but it’s not something you want to rely on.

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