The debate over which members of the Warriors is most valuable to the team rages on, as it should, and a strong case can be made for all four of their All-Stars.
There is no dispute, however, which Warrior is most valuable whenever they come upon the Los Angeles Clippers.
It’s Draymond Green, because he practically owns the space inside the head of LA star Blake Griffin. And without a very good Griffin the Clippers are a very average NBA team.
The latest example came Monday night, when Green suffocated Griffin to the point of visible despair, allowing the Warriors to run off with a 141-113 victory at Staples Center for their 11th consecutive win over the Clippers.
Since Green took over as the starting power forward, LA is 1-12 against the Warriors, and the formula has been much as it was Monday night at Staples Center.
If Griffin wasn’t dribbling into the teeth of the reigning Defensive Player of the Year and forcing up an awkward shot, he was surrendering the ball to his teammates in what looked suspiciously like a passive form of panic.
We’ve seen it before when Griffin meets Green, even if Clippers coach Doc Rivers missed it Monday night.
“I thought he was aggressive,” Rivers said of Griffin after the game. “I just thought they attacked him. They doubled. I thought our spacing was poor. I didn’t think we helped Blake a lot with our spacing.”
There was some doubling, yes, but more often than not Griffin found himself caught the single vise between Green’s thumb and forefinger.
The man who was generating early MVP talk when LA opened the season with four consecutive wins took a season-low 10 shots, finishing with a season-low 16 points and a season-low three rebounds.
Furthermore, Griffin committed a season-high four turnovers and was whistled for a season-high four fouls. He was minus-23 for the game.
It was a mess of a game for Griffin, and typical of his play against Green. Even Rivers eventually came around to the obvious, without mentioning names.
“If you don’t trust your offense and move the ball, you become stagnant,” he said. “And that’s when their offense takes off, because you get frustrated on your end.”
That was Griffin on Monday. Stagnant. Frustrated. A different guy than he has been through the first five games. It happens every time he faces the Warriors, which means facing Green.
Green, by contrast, had a strong game at both ends: 16 points, nine rebounds, six assists, two steals and one block. He was plus-18.
More important, the Warriors once again routed the Clippers. Not much will change unless Griffin finds a way to get Green out of his head.