When people think of the Golden State Warriors, the first thing they usually think of are the “Splash Brothers” and a high-flying offense that rains threes from all over the court, demoralizing opponents with quick-strike runs and often running them out of the building. But what’s just as important to those runs is the Warriors’ havoc-wreaking defense, and if you haven’t been living under a rock, you’d know that Golden State had the league’s best defense this season.
That elite defense was on full display in a 97-87 victory in Game 2 against the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday night, although there were some cracks in the armor early on.
Anthony Davis scored 10 quick points in the first quarter, while Eric Gordon buried three three-pointers and had 11 points in the opening frame. The Pelicans had a lot of success in the first quarter when they moved Davis to the 5 and brought in Ryan Anderson to help stretch the floor, and that resulted in a 28-17 lead after one.
Unfortunately for New Orleans, that offensive success wouldn’t last, and things got especially ugly in the second half. The Pelicans notched just 35 points in the second half and 16 points in the fourth quarter, and the Warriors finally pulled away on the back of their defense and a huge quarter from Klay Thompson.
New Orleans’ offense was a hot mess in the fourth quarter, and while some of the issues were self-inflicted, Golden State deserves a ton of credit for clamping down. The Warriors completely flummoxed the Pelicans in the fourth quarter with their hyper-aggressive defense, and as usual, Draymond Green led the way.
Green locked up Davis in crunch time, as the Pelicans star went 0-of-5 in the fourth quarter. Davis did go 6-of-6 from the charity stripe in the frame, but he put up several ugly shots down the stretch that hurt New Orleans and finished shooting 9-of-22 from the field. Some of Davis’s struggles were likely fatigue related (he played 45 minutes and the entire second half), but Green did an excellent job contesting shots and not allowing the big man to get good position in the post.
The Pelicans shot just 4-of-16 from the field in the fourth quarter and also committed five turnovers. Green notched two steals in the quarter and had three for the game.
When all was said and done, Green put forth a stat-stuffing line of 14 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and three steals. And not only did he do an incredible job on Davis late in the game, but Green was superb on defense all game:
.@BillSimmons referred to Draymond Green's work on d as "a max contract game"
Green held the Pelicans to 5-of-24 shooting and forced 4 TO
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 21, 2015
Adding even more credence to Green’s impact was the fact that he finished a team-high +24 in in 42 minutes. That means in the six minutes he sat, the Warriors were outscored by 14 points. Single-game plus/minus can often be a poor indicator of impact, but in this case, it’s totally valid.
Looking at the two games thus far, the on/off splits for Green are just ridiculous. In his 84 minutes on the court thus far this series, the Warriors have given up just 85.9 points per 100 possessions, per NBA.com. In 12 minutes with Green on the bench in the series, Golden State has given up 188.1 points per 100 possessions. Yes, this is a crazy small sample size, but it represents a similar trend from the regular season, although obviously there wasn’t such a drastic difference.
Simply put, Green helps the Warriors go defensively, and that’s why he’s the front-runner for Defensive Player of the Year.