Draymond Green’s return brings vitality Warriors will need down stretch

Draymond brings vitality Warriors need for playoff push originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

SAN FRANCISCO – The vitality flowed, and the production followed. Call it mojo, if you will, and the Warriors had it Monday night because Draymond Green made sure of it.

Green’s return after a nine-week absence made a visible impact, whether he was barking at an official, defending three different players on one possession or exploiting immediate synergy with longtime sidekicks Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

Layered below that, though, were subtleties uniquely Draymond. Discouraging a drive from someone three inches taller. Slipping a bounce pass to Klay that everybody they knew would come and still resulting in a layup. Finding the precise time and place to set the perfect screen to shield Curry, whose seven 3-pointers – three assisted by Green – all came during the 20 minutes when Draymond was on the floor.

All of this was enriched by a fresh and pure passion making its way through the roster and filling the air inside Chase Center during a 126-112 victory over the Washington Wizards.

“You heard the crowd when he checked in,” coach Steve Kerr said. “Draymond has been our heart and soul for a long time, and he’s beloved here in the Bay. So, the crowd was into it. But it’s everything . . . there’s a level of physicality that we gain as a team when Draymond’s out there.

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“He makes us a better team, makes me a better coach, makes our players better, makes Bob (Myers) a better GM and Joe (Lacob) a better owner.”

Green finished with six points, seven rebounds and six assists. He was a team-best plus-24 during his 20 minutes.

“He’s indispensable,” Curry said. “He fills a lot of holes. His leadership. His demonstrative nature. His IQ on the court. To impact with some of the stat lines he has; he only shoots four times but has a very evident impact on the game.”

Green’s first game in nine weeks wasn’t perfect; it never is when the primary orchestrator of an NBA offense and defense misses that much time. He had three turnovers, two of which came on misreads.

But each time Draymond checked in, the Warriors got a boost in spirit and production. Conversely, each trip to the bench allowed the Wizards to creep closer.

It was tied 17-17 when Green entered to a standing ovation with 4:50 left in the first quarter. Two minutes later, the Warriors were leading by six. An 11-point lead in the second quarter grew to 17 in about three minutes. A nine-point lead when Draymond entered with 4:57 left in the third expanded to 18 with 2:29 left.

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When Draymond checked in for the final time, with 4:47 left to play, the Wizards were back within nine (112-103). When he checked out, along with Curry and Thompson, the Warriors had a 123-108 lead with 1:57 remaining.

“My energy was through the roof, and that’s contagious,” Green said. “I love Kyle Kuzma and (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope) and those guys. (The Wizards) are not having the greatest season. It may be harder for our guys to get up and maintain that energy. They’ve been in this grind for 68 games.

“I’m just in a position where it’s my first game in two-and-a-half months. So, guys could feed off my energy when I’m out there, and it’s a different energy on the floor.”

Green was, by design, not in the starting lineup. The idea was to give the coaching and training staffs greater flexibility in keeping his playing time in the 20-to-22 minutes range. Restrictions will, as was the case with Thompson in January, trend upward for a couple weeks.

But Kerr was reminded of Draymond’s importance to the fate of the Warriors in this game and those to come.

“The game changed immediately when he got out there. In a lot of different ways,” he said. “It changed for Steph right away. As soon as Draymond got out there, he had an assist to him in like five (actually 11) seconds in.

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“The chessboard changes with Draymond out there with Steph. Everything looks and feels a little bit different, and it’s tougher to navigate defensively for our opponent.”

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The Warriors have won four in a row, with the hot Boston Celtics coming to town on Wednesday. They’re less concerned with the quality of the opponent than with gathering themselves for the final 13 games of the regular season.

Green’s return is the launch point to Golden State’s stretch run, It’s off to a fantastic start.

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