SAN FRANCISCO ( Associated Press) — When the Golden State Warriors made their fourth-quarter push to return to the NBA Finals, Drummond Greene had an unusual role as a spectator.
The versatile Green, who has been one of the legends of Golden State’s dynasty, was pulled into a Game 4 crisis in what was a shocking and effective decision by coach Steve Kerr.
Now tied in Game 5 on Monday night with the series relocating back to California, Kerr said he has no worries about what he’ll turn out to be from Green the rest of the way.
“Draymond is Drummond. He’s going to bring it up every night,” Kerr said on Sunday. “I think the thing that probably got lost the other night is how good he was down the stretch. He ends up with four steals in the game. He was brilliant defensively. He did what we needed to do to win the match.”
Green said he was not “thrilled” by Kerr’s decision in Game 4 in Boston on Friday night to send him to the bench with 7:32 to play four points down with the Warriors.
But the move worked well, with Golden State running 11-4 behind a lineup featuring Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Jordan Poole, Andrew Wiggins and Kevon Looney.
Green returned with 3:41 to play and the Warriors lead 97-94, then with the pool locked in and out as Kerr used most of the Green when Golden State was on defense. The plan worked and Golden State won 107–97 to level the series with two matches each.
“I think I made an impact on the game throughout the game,” Green said. “I think you can get caught up in everything that’s happening around, but what I see and understand basketball, I’ve influenced the whole game. So I don’t think there was a switch in the last few minutes. ”
Greene has been one of the core forces of the Warriors since Kerr’s arrival in the 2014–15 season, and Greene immediately landed an opening role ahead of Andre Iguodala.
Green’s versatility defensively was key to Golden State’s small-ball lineup, and his playing skills helped take advantage whenever opponents tried to double-team Curry.
Kerr has had to tinker more with her lineup this year, instead focusing on which center — if any — works best with her stars.
“It feels a little different this year,” Kerr said. “There has been a little bit more mix-and-match. Really proud of the group, everyone, for being prepared and ready and not allowing that kind of change and changes from game to game to bother them.”
While Green remains a defensive stalwart, his offensive game has fallen to him as he has almost stopped taking 3-pointers and rarely seeks his shot.
Having set the tone defensively in a Game 2 victory at home, Green was nearly invisible at the offensive end in game two at Boston and was also exploited defensively several times in a Game 3 loss.
Green scored just four points on a 2-for-11 shooting for two games in Boston, but contributed nine rebounds, eight assists and four steals in Game 4.
Green is shooting just 23% in the series and averaging 4.3 points, which caused Kerr to go with Looney at crucial moments when he wanted only one non-shooter on the court.
If the Warriors are going to take two more games and win a fourth championship during this run, they will need more aggressive help from Curry.
Curry has scored 32.5% of Golden State’s points in this series, the third-highest total in the NBA Finals in the past 15 seasons after only two years for LeBron James in Cleveland.
Curry said the key to the next few games will be how the Celtics handle Golden State’s “pet plays” and Green is the perfect player to help make that happen.
“I think he’s going to do an amazing job of adapting and figuring out where he can find his angles, ways to make an impact on the offensive ending,” Curry said. “He will, again, feed the game the way he influences on the defensive end of every game. That’s why high-IQ people usually figure it out, and when it comes to understanding the game of basketball it’s at the top of the list. ,
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