Golden State Warriors beat healthy competition, Green's health scare in Game 2
Green's knee fine after Warriors' Game 2 rout over Jazz
OAKLAND – The part about Draymond Green on his back and grabbing his left knee along the baseline near the Warriors bench and Oracle Arena turning hushed, that was taking it too far. The rest of it, though.
The rest of the scare Thursday night. There was one, after all, a noteworthy Golden State development in these days of regularly lounging through fourth quarters while turning opponents into splashed bowling pins, and maybe even a necessary development that will become beneficial once the Jazz are dispatched. Or officially dispatched.
It ended as a 115-104 victory, a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinals and a 6-0 mark in the playoffs, but after Utah had been within nine points with 4 ½ minutes remaining and seven with 1:45 left. Even if the Jazz couldn’t deliver more than temporary fright, they forced the Warriors to keep playing, a rarity after backhanding the Trail Blazers to finish the four-game sweep in the first round and then leading by double digits the entire final period and by as many as 21 in Game 1 on Tuesday.
Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala and even Green all having to play at least seven minutes in the fourth in Game 2 was an accomplishment for the Jazz, especially with starting point guard George Hill sidelined by a toe injury, and strangely good for the Warriors as well. They needed the run, not the rest. Playing with some pressure – anything close to resembling pressure, in their case – would be more valuable than just playing along.
This goes back to April 16 inside the same Oracle, after Game 1 of the first round, after his Warriors had been pushed by the Trail Blazers before winning, after Golden State had won for the 17th time in 18 outings dating to the end of the regular season, and coach Steve Kerr embraced being threatened. He said it from the safety of a victory, once the All Clear sign was given and the Damian Lillard-C.J. McCollum scoring menace had passed, but, “You take a really good punch from your opponent” and “It was, to me, the perfect way to win” and “You get a real taste for what you’re up against.”
The Warriors welcomed the chance to get hit, because it helped steel them for the increased intensity ahead and because in-your-face demands focus. Same thing Thursday night. They had to execute before Utah had a chance to turn the whole series into a scare at 1-1 heading to Salt Lake City for Game 3 on Saturday. Not winning easy for a change was a welcome development.
“It’s a good thing,” Mike Brown, Golden State’s interim coach, said. “Anytime we have to figure things out as the course of the game goes on, especially late, we like that challenge. But in the same breath, too, there are a lot of good teaching points we can make throughout the course of the game where we feel like we can be better as a unit.”
Another reporter at the post-game press conference suggested the opposite, that the Warriors won easily and have not been tested in the playoffs. Brown chuckled his way through the start of his response, knowing the theory was wrong.
“I’m going to switch seats with you next game,” he said. “Then you let me know that you thought that was easy.”
The Warriors have not been threatened a lot. Enough to stay sharp, though.
Thursday was one of those times.
“It wasn’t easy,” Brown said. “We felt it. We know we can play better. We broke down in a lot of areas where we should have been better. But in the same breath, too, yes, we did some nice things. We had 33 assists. We held them to five offensive rebounds. And then at the end of the day, we got the W. But some of our guys hit big shots to keep stretching the lead once they pulled within a few points. So I give our guys credit. They hung in there. They found a way to win. Anytime Utah went on a little run, they figured out how to stretch it just enough again to sustain it for a while until Utah went on another run. But that was a tough game for us. What it shows us is that Utah has some confidence and they’re going to be even more confident playing at home in front of their crowd.”
The Green injury scare, the bigger concern, passed as well. He went down after a missed scoring attempt inside, quickly got up to run back on defense and, he said, the left knee locked up. The eventual explanation was simple enough, but at the time, when he spent time on the court and someone hit the mute button on Oracle, when he walked directly to the locker room after getting up, when the entire playoffs, not just the Warriors’ immediate plans, could have been greatly altered if something was seriously wrong, it was a big concern.
Green left with 7:24 to play, essentially made a drive-through visit to the locker room, returned to the bench and checked back into the game with 5:16 remaining. The slightest concern of a real problem and he doesn’t play. But, he played.
“I knew my knee was just locking up a little bit,” Green said after delivering 21 points, seven rebounds, six assists, four steals and a few dozen heart attacks. “I had it before, a little tweak. It wasn’t like a huge sigh of relief (to be cleared) because I kind of knew what it was from the jump. But obviously it’s always good to know you’re OK.”
He’s OK, by every indication. The Warriors are OK, even if Kerr, still dealing with health issues, is scheduled to stay behind when the team plays twice in Salt Lake City. They’re all fine. That was the good kind of scare Thursday.