Draymond Green was not happy on bench in fourth, but should Kerr do it again?
With 7:32 left in a must-win Game 4 for the Warriors and his team down four, Steve Kerr made a bold, ruthless choice — he sat Draymond Green and put in Kevon Looney.
It’s not that Green didn’t deserve it — he was 1-of-7 shooting on offense and clogging things up on that end while not providing much rim protection on defense — but not many coaches would have the stones to bench one of their core players and an emotional leader in the clutch.
The Warriors went on an 11-3 run with Green out, taking a lead they would never relinquish and tying up the NBA Finals at 2-2.
“I’m definitely never thrilled coming out of the game with seven minutes to go in the fourth quarter in a must-win game,” Green said. “I’m not going to sit here and act like I was thrilled. I’m a competitor. But, at the end of the day, if that’s what Coach decides, then you roll with it...
“I’ve always been on the bandwagon of if you’ve got something and it’s rolling, you stick with it. So it is what it is.”
Green got back in the game a few times in the final minutes, part of an offensive/defensive switch Kerr tried to do with Jordan Poole. Green ended up with a couple of key assists and rebounds in those minutes.
Kerr tried to play off sitting Green as it being regular rest but then he stuck with what worked.
“We took him out and put Loon in around maybe the eight-minute mark maybe, 7:40, which was our plan, anyway. But Loon was playing so well and Jordan Poole was playing so well, so we just stayed with the group,” Kerr said. “We generally do that. Like most coaches, if you’ve got a group that’s going well, you just stay with it.”
Sitting Green in the clutch would have been unthinkable in the Warriors’ previous trips to the Finals — him being suspended for Game 5 in 2016 is part of what cost the Warriors that ring. This year Green has struggled all series, shooting 6-of-26 (23%), and while he’s played good defense he’s been a step slow at times on Jaylen Brown and Al Horford (his primary assignments) and not provided his usual level of rim protection. Part of that is the challenges Boston presents, both as a defense challenging shots and as an offense with a balanced attack (Green can’t leave Brown to play free safety). But part of it is Green has looked older and like a guy half a step slower. Even Green’s mother doesn’t know what’s going on.
The bottom line is the Warriors are -1.3 per 100 possessions with Green on the court this series and +3.4 when he sits.
Which leads to the question: Will Kerr have to do it again?
“Look, this is a tough series for him to score because of Boston’s size and athleticism, but he’s still impacting the game at a huge level,” Kerr said. “And he knows we’re just going to do whatever it takes to win. We’ve got a lot of guys who can contribute. A lot of guys did that tonight, and you know, we got it done. And whatever it takes in Game 5, that’s what we’ll do, too.”
Kerr is saying yes, he’d do it again. Green could see more of the bench if he continues to struggle and Looney plays this well.