OAKLAND -- Deep into his seventh season playing alongside Draymond Green, Stephen Curry has seen and heard just about everything his firebrand teammate has to offer on the court, from defense and rebounding, to playmaking and tantrums.
But on Friday night, Green came up with something new.
“Tonight was the first time I’ve seen Draymond apologize for a ‘heat check,'" Curry said after a 120-114 win over the Cavaliers.
A ‘heat check’ is a impulsive shot one takes to test the limits of his rhythm at that particular moment. 'How hot am I?' It’s usually associated with such scorers as Klay Thompson or Curry, two of the best long-distance shooters in NBA history.
Green, however, is the one Warriors starter teams dare to fire at will. Please, anybody other than Curry or Thompson or Kevin Durant or DeMarcus Cousins (who rested on Friday).
Scoring is not Draymond’s forte. The Warriors ask a lot of him and he usually provides. He leads the team in assists and steals, is second in rebounding and third in blocks. He also defends all five positions, sometimes three in a single possession.
But now he has the gall to add scoring to his repertoire. He’s not only contributing points, he’s also doing it efficiently including from -- of all places -- the 3-point line. He scored a season-high 20 points Friday on 8-of-14 shooting from the field, including 3-of-7 from beyond the arc. He also totaled eight rebounds and five assists, the kind of statistics expected of Green.
If this is the way he’s going play it, the Warriors have the capacity to torture opponents five different ways.
“It’s obviously a huge confidence boost, because of the way teams defend us, picking and choosing who they’re going to shade and send help to and things like that,” Curry said. “Everybody on the floor’s got to be a threat and be able to finish off plays.”
Green’s shooting percentage from beyond the arc has remained in the 20's all season; he entered the game Friday shooting 28 percent from deep. No need to bother defending that.
Lately, though, he has been splashing at a rate usually reserved for the likes of Curry and Thompson. He’s 16-of-38 (42.1 percent) over his last 12 games.
Green attributes his current shooting to feeling healthy and being more assertive with his shot, avoiding hesitation, getting his legs into it and letting it fly.
This scoring thing smacked the poor Cavaliers, who were willing to give Green all the 25-footers he wanted, right upside their unexpecting heads.
“That was the game plan,” said Larry Nance, the Cleveland power forward assigned to defend Green at a distance. “And he shot us out of it.”
“Kudos to him. Those other guys go without saying. Steph is Steph, KD is KD, Klay is Klay. And those guys are going to do what they’re going to do. Draymond hurt us tonight.”
On his third shot in the first 82 seconds -- all 3-pointers -- Green finally missed, after which Curry rejected his apology. After opening the game with back-to-back 3-pointers inside the first minute, a delightful surprise to the sellout crowd at Oracle Arena, Curry knew Green had earned that privilege.
After all, he may never get another.
If Green continues to make deep shots with 40-percent accuracy, teams won’t have a choice. They’ll have to guard him. They can’t risk sagging off him to double-team DeMarcus Cousins in the post or blitz Curry on the perimeter.
Curry is all for it, as is coach Steve Kerr.
“He does so many other things for us that we don’t need him to score,” Kerr said of Green. “But when he does, it’s gravy.”
For the Warriors, yes. For opponents, the idea of Green as an efficient and productive shooter is a toxin for which there is no antidote.