At the Oracle on Tuesday, Golden State Mr. Krabs meme-d its way through the first three quarters against Philly. The Warriors narrowly avoided their fourth consecutive loss, despite Steph, Klay, Draymond, and Iguodala all resting three days prior against the Spurs; the game being at home after a long road trip; and the competition being the 24–42 76ers, led by a rookie and Robert Covington.
On his 29th birthday, Curry’s shooting was still funky, going 2-for-8 before the fourth quarter. With Kevin Durant’s absence, the Warriors’ success seems increasingly tied to Curry’s shooting (on the good nights, he’s the best in the world, but lately his off nights have correlated with losses). Couple that with the fact that this team’s bench is much less experienced than last year’s vet-led mob (wave for the camera, Leandro Barbosa, Festus Ezeli, Mo Speights, and Andrew Bogut), and last night’s eventual win over Philly made one thing clear: They really rely on Draymond Green.
Green’s offense isn’t typically flashy, and he’s rarely going to be the guy going for 30 points on any given night. But he’s (most likely) the reason the NBA tracks hustle stats now. Watch Tuesday’s game and see the complete takeover: willing himself to the line for a season-high 14 free throw attempts while lockdown-defending on the other end (where is this man’s DPOY? Give him a DPOY), all while having enough floor sense in the moment to foul before Dario Saric could get a shot off in the final moments.
Green finished the game going 11-for-14 from the stripe, scoring 20 points and notching eight rebounds, eight assists, four steals, and six blocks — a line last accomplished when Driving Miss Daisy won Best Picture. He was the everywhere man until Curry remembered how to sink the deep ball (which he eventually did, going 3-for-5 in the fourth and, to his credit, also making the win happen).
Draymond just sounds like the guy you would want on your team if you were down 16 in the third quarter. At the half, he was the one telling the team they had to “dig their way up.” After the game, he said, “The only way to change that is to grind your way out of it.” Kerr called him the team’s “emotional leader.”
But (there is always a but with Draymond): For every time Green made it to the line, there’d be another when he’d argue a call. Green is the player version of Doc Rivers — pleading his case at the top of his lungs, with the theatrics of a first-year drama major. Green was notoriously forced to sit during one of last season’s Finals games, but it doesn’t seem like he’s learned anything from the experience. He’s tied for the third-most technical fouls in the league with 13, and is tied for the 13th-most fouls per game with 3.0 (also 3.0 fouls debated). Tuesday was an example of when it all goes right and ends in a win, but the most haunting instance of it all going wrong is the difference between one ring and two. Against the Sixers, leading a comeback, Green brought all his passion, and all the chaos that comes with it.
Green’s hot-and-hotter personality has been the one constant of the Warriors season. This is a team that’s been forced to do a temporary rebrand two-thirds of the way through the campaign. It’s impossible to remember who they were before Durant’s injury because of the roster moves needed to acquire him; this is not the same squad that went 73–9. And in terms of identity, they can’t be the Splash Brothers if the brothers aren’t splashing. Some nights, they are going to be Draymond’s one-man-band version of the Bad Boys. If Green is the guy holding things together until KD returns, it’s going to be a grind.