Is it easier to stop Warriors' offense than Draymond Green's defense?

Is it easier to stop Warriors' offense than Draymond Green's defense?

OAKLAND -- Teams facing the Warriors can and do create plans to defend Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, and even if those strategies meet with varying degrees of success.

But there is no known offense that solves the problems opponents confront when facing Draymond Green’s defense.

Indeed, it may be easier to prevent the Warriors’ three leading scorers from doing whatever they please than it is to keep their top defender from doing whatever he wants at the other end.

Take Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinal Tuesday night against Utah. As impressive as Green’s statistics were -- 17 points, eight rebounds, six assists, two blocks, two steals - they provide only the slightest hint of his overall impact on a 106-94 victory.

“He’s always been active,” acting coach Mike Brown said Wednesday. “I don’t even know how it was possible, but his activity has gone up another notch or two -- especially defensively.”

No single sequence was more illustrative of Green’s devastating effect on an opposing offense than that which occurred late in the first half.

Following a Jazz score by Dante Exum, Green inbounded the ball to Stephen Curry, who carelessly flipped it ahead -- so far ahead that Exum, who had made it to half court, turned and grabbed it. There was a 2-on-1 window with Exum and Gordon Hayward coming at Green. Exum passed to Hayward, whose layup attempt was stripped at waist-level by Green. Curry picked up the loose ball, fired it to Andre Iguodala, who whipped to the cutting Kevin Durant for a transition dunk.

The groans turned to cheers in the snap of a finger. Green not only got Curry off the hook for an egregious turnover but also was credited with a block. Curry got the secondary assist, Iguodala the actual assist and Durant the easy bucket.

“That play was a big play,” Durant recalled. “I think we might have turned it over. But Draymond hustled back and got his hand on the basketball and just made an end-to-end play. Definitely got our crowd into the game.”

There is no offensive game plan for such a sequence. It was a spontaneous work of splendid defense.

There is no offensive game plan for the calculated defensive risks Green is prone to take. He’s terrific on the ball, but also has the reflexes and anticipation to freelance. As impressive as it is that Green is the only man to effectively guard all five positions, what’s absurd is that that he can do so on a single possession.

“They switch a lot; they switch a lot of pick-and-rolls,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said of the Warriors. “They switch a lot of screening actions. It gets back to how quickly they think and connect.”

Which is a testament to Green, who thinks and acts as quickly as anyone in the NBA.

Half-court or open court, he’s there protecting the rim, the back door, the mid-range and the 3-point stripe -- all while firing up teammates. Whether he’s sharing the court with starters or reserves, Green shoots megawatt energy through the group.

“He can affect the game in so many ways, and it’s not just scoring,” backup guard Ian Clark said. “He takes pride in knowing he can do that because he’s so talented and he’s a very, very smart player. So being able, especially with the second unit, to get three or four stops in a row and we get easy buckets, it generates easy points for us. And we don’t have to work as hard.”

The stakes are highest when the NBA advances into the postseason. This only stokes Green’s eternal flame. His work so far this postseason has been stellar at both ends, and he feels it’s all a part of his natural evolution as a player and as a man.

“Obviously, in the playoffs, every possession matters, especially against a team like Utah, where there aren’t as many possessions,” he said.

“When you’re playing the same opponent four or five or six or seven times, you kind of figure out what you’re going to get.”

The game-planning gets easier for Green and, by extension, the Warriors. As for the Jazz, they can game plan most everything the Warriors do. That is, except for Green’s defensive impact.

How do you turn to Gordon Hayward (4-of-15 shooting in Game 1) and Joe Johnson (4-of-10) and tell them to avoid Green? The video is proof he’s all over the court.

Green is so exquisite on defense that it’s easy to fall into the trap of ignoring his offense, which can be sneakily effective; through five playoff games he’s shooting 52 percent from deep.

Perhaps because it’s easier to plan for that than for his defense, which presents a quandary for any coach who dares to examine it.

Curry out at least three weeks with Grade 2 MCL sprain

Curry out at least three weeks with Grade 2 MCL sprain

Stephen Curry will be reevaluated in three weeks after an MRI on Saturday revealed that the Warriors point guard suffered a Grade 2 sprain of his left MCL, the Warriors announced on Saturday. 

Curry sprained his left MCL with 3:09 remaining in the third quarter of Friday night's win over the Atlanta Hawks. Teammate JaVale McGee landed awkwardly on the two-time MVP's left leg, and Curry limped to the bench. He then headed to the locker room where he received further treatment, and did not return. 

Curry has missed 21 of the team’s 71 games this season. Before Friday, he missed the previous six games after spraining his right ankle against the San Antonio Spurs on March 2. 

Back-to-back ankle and knee injuries previously dogged Curry in the 2016 postseason. In his first game back from a right ankle sprain in the first round against the Houston Rockets, Curry suffered a Grade 1 right MCL sprain, and missed the next four games. 

Hopeful night at Oracle turns solemn after Curry sprains left MCL

Hopeful night at Oracle turns solemn after Curry sprains left MCL

OAKLAND -- The words came dribbling out slowly, ruefully and with more than a trace of despair.

JaVale McGee, the 7-foot accidental villain, could barely speak about his role Friday night in the moment that left the Warriors pleading for mercy while their fans were screaming at the sky.

Stephen Curry, returning to the lineup after a six-game absence due to a right ankle sprain, lasted 25 minutes before sustaining another injury, this one a sprain to his left MCL. The two-time MVP will undergo an MRI test Saturday.

“I pray to God,” McGee said, “that nothing’s wrong with him.”

The injury occurred with 3:09 left in the third quarter. After biting on a pump fake by Atlanta forward Mike Muscala, McGee wound up tumbling backward, with his 270 pounds landing directly at the front Curry legs. Curry immediately started limping away, with the sellout crowd at Oracle Arena gasping in horror.

“I was trying to block a shot,” McGee said beneath a vacant stare, “and I ran into him.”

That’s the kind of month it has been for the Warriors. All four of their All-Stars have been knocked out of action by an array of injuries.

Curry went down March 8 after tweaking his surgically repaired right ankle. Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson were injured March 11 at Minnesota, Durant sustaining a rib cartilage injury after taking a elbow from 7-foot Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns and Thompson spraining his right thumb after making contact with Minnesota point guard Jeff Teague.

Draymond Green began the next week as the team’s only healthy All-Star, a distinction that lasted eight days before he was struck down with a pelvic contusion Monday night in San Antonio.

“It’s like a juju or something on us,” McGee said. “I’ve never been part of a team where everybody just got injured, especially the starters. It’s kind of scary to tell the truth.”

Durant, Thompson and Green were unavailable Friday night, which is why Curry’s return was so encouraging. After a 2-point first quarter during which he went 1-of-6 from the floor, Curry found his stroke and over his next 16 minutes scored 27 points on 9-of-12 shooting.

Then came the most frightening moment of the night, throwing a massive damper on a 106-94 victory.

“I assumed it was his ankle when he came out hobbling and I found it was his knee,” coach Steve Kerr said. “We will see what the MRI says tomorrow.

“There is not a whole lot we can do or predict. It’s kind of a strange, cruel twist of fate. He rehabs his ankle for the last couple of weeks and gets that strong and the knee goes. We’ll see what happens. Fingers crossed.”

The Warriors came out of the All-Star break fairly healthy and ready to make a run at the No. 1 overall seed. They’ve achieved it in each of the last three seasons, coming away with two championships.

Hopes of getting there this season have disappeared under a pile of injuries, all of them coming over the last 16 days. As of late Friday night, there was no knowing how serious Curry’s injury is, or how long he might be out.

What’s known is that it was another in a succession of frightful moments.

“It’s a little somber in there,” Kerr said of the locker room. “Everybody feels for Steph. But it’s more a case of just keep going and keep pushing forward. We’ll come into tomorrow, short practice and get ready for Utah.”

That’s at the request of the schedule. That’s a dose of NBA reality on a grim night.

McGee didn’t seem ready for that. He was feeling awful about the entire episode.

“I can’t describe it,” he said of the play that followed everyone into the night. “Everybody has a TV. I fell into him and . . . I know y’all (reporters) don’t think I’m standing here like, ‘Yes, I fell into him.’

“That’s a star player. Of course, we don’t want him to be injured, especially after he came back. So I feel very bad for the fact that I was a part of that.”

McGee said he hopes Curry is out no more than a couple games.

The Warriors would be ever so pleased if it’s a couple weeks. They want to be whole for the postseason,, the only season by which they will be measured and a season that, on this night, nobody was of a mood to visualize.