OAKLAND -- Three quarters into Game 1 of a postseason they’re built to win, the Warriors, at home, before 20,000 roaring maniacs dressed in bright gold T-shirts, were caught up in a tie game with a 15-point underdog.
Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant combined for 22 points in the third quarter, and still the eighth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers, without their only imposing big man and relying on only two players, would not back down.
With the fourth quarter looming, Warriors coach Steve Kerr formulated a plan he hoped would lift his team to victory.
Code name: Draymond.
It worked. Like magic. With Curry and Durant on the bench, Draymond Green and his crew entered, and Green began waving the kind of defensive spell rarely seen on a basketball court, rudely informing Portland there would be no upset on Easter Sunday in Oakland.
Barely four minutes later, the Warriors had their first double-digit lead of the game, parlaying it into a 121-109 win in Game 1 of this first-round Western Conference playoff series.
“I felt like we finally had a little traction defensively,” Kerr said of his personnel decision to start the fourth quarter. “And also, KD was going really well in the third quarter. He was scoring, so we didn't want to take him out.
“So it made perfect sense to go to Draymond to start the fourth, and he and David West, I thought, anchored our defense really well.”
West anchored the defense. Green electrified it.
“In the fourth quarter, that unit that was out there to start the quarter got a lot of stops and got the crowd into it, got the momentum back on our side,” Curry said.
“We had six turnovers in the fourth,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “Draymond had an impact on the game at the rim and in the paint.”
Green opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer, giving the Warriors a 91-88 lead they never lost. Playing all but 80 seconds of the fourth, Green produced 10 points on one end, three blocks and two steals on the other.
He blocked a short jumper by CJ McCollum (41 points) that led to a Klay Thompson bucket, giving the Warriors a 99-90 lead with 8:19 remaining.
Green swiped the ball from Damian Lillard (34 points) that led to a pair of free throws by Ian Clark, putting the Warriors up 101-90 with 7:57 left.
Twenty-two seconds later, Green blocked an Evan Turner jumper, forcing a Portland turnover.
Green added one more steal, and another block -- a spectacular denial of Lillard at the rim -- that led to a Durant layup and a 109-99 lead with 4:39 remaining.
What Green did not do was part the sea or turn water to wine. He merely cleared Oracle Arena of all the tension built up through the first three quarters.
“Draymond was amazing,” Kerr said. “He made some tremendous defensive plays. He made threes. He rebounded the ball. He had nine assists. I mean, he played a game that I'm not sure anybody else in the league is capable of, honestly.
“Who else can do what Draymond just did tonight? He's so unique and so important to us. He was phenomenal.”
Green’s final line: 19 points (6-of-10 shooting, including 3-of-4 from deep, and 4-of-7 from the line), game-high 12 rebounds, game-high nine assists, game-high five blocks and game-high three steals.
He played a team-high 27 minutes and submitted a plus-15 total was, of course, the best on either team.
No two plays demonstrated Green’s impact more than the block on Lillard, which sent away Portland’s All-Star, and a similar at-the-rim rejection of Blazers big man Noah Vonleh in the third quarter. Both blocks turned the Warriors bench into a flash mob, while sending the crowd into hysterics.
“When you block it at the rim, it's a little different because that's one of those plays where you're within a half inch to a centimeter of being dunked on,” Green explained. “So when you actually come up with the block, it is a bit more excitement.
“When you're coming across and you get a swat, that's usually weak side. You come across the top and you get a swat on a guy. But at the rim it's mano y mano, man against man. Who is going to win the battle?”
Green won the battles, all of them that mattered, allowing the Warriors to win the game and take a 1-0 series lead.
The series isn’t over, but Green curtly told the Blazers to go elsewhere in search of a comeback.