Before game 5 vs Los Angeles LakersWarriors’ player development coach Jacob Rubin had told Green that his presence hasn’t been as felt as it should have been this series. Not in the way Rubin expected.
“It comes across aggressively on both sides of the hall. This is verbal so everyone in the room can hear you. I felt a little disrespectful when he said that,” Green said. “I knew it was up to me to come out and set the tone for our boys. … The season is at stake, with its back against the wall. You have to come out and give everything you can. That was my attitude.”
Green proved to be the engine of the Golden State in the Warriors’ 121-106 win.
He finished the game with 20 points on 7 of 11 shots, 10 rebounds and three steals. This was his second 20-point game this postseason, along with Game 5 vs Sacramento Kings in the first round. It’s the first time since 2017 that Green has had multiple 20-point games in a postseason. Before the playoffs, he hadn’t scored 20 points since Christmas 2019.
“I think in a situation like this where you’re about to be eliminated, you just expect that,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr. “Draymond is one of the greatest competitors I’ve ever worked with. So you just expect him to bring it. I didn’t tell him anything. He doesn’t need any encouragement from me, that’s for sure.”
Green’s first play was a defensive foul Anthony Davis – a sign of the aggressiveness and physicality with which he played at this end of the parquet. Then, on the next possession, Green hit a 3-point shot, the Warriors’ first points of the night. That let her know he was out to score.
“I think there’s a statistic somewhere… when [Green] “If we get a certain number of points, we usually win,” Kerr said.
He was right: Golden State is 43-10 in the regular season and playoffs if Green scores at least 20 points.
Kerr continued, “When he’s that aggressive and wants to attack, it definitely adds another dimension to our team. I liked his approach to tonight’s game. … He says, ‘I’m coming.’”
Perhaps the greatest luxury of Green’s assertiveness on offense was taking some of the responsibility away from him Stephen Currywho faced a crushing Los Angeles defense throughout the series.
Curry may have finished with 27 points, but it was a steady accumulation over the four quarters. He never had a goal break, as is so often the case.
“How the teams respond to Steph and… clay [Thompson]“They’re really doing everything they can, selling these guys and trying to take them out of the game,” Green said. “We get paid a lot for this, so you can’t just sit back and watch them.” …You have to do something about it.”
Green also kept the Lakers on 6 of 15 shots on tackle shots and Davis as his main defense on 3 of 8 shots.
It wasn’t just Green who took some of the burden off Curry and Thompson’s shoulders. Andrew Wiggins finished with 25 points on 10 of 18 shots, seven rebounds and five assists.
With 9:32 left in the fourth round, Wiggins picked up speed again Lebron James on Center Court. Wiggins managed to knock the ball away from James for a split second before recovering. Then he stayed by James’ side the whole time James drove to the basket.
James played the ball to Davis from under the basket, but when Davis got up to score, Green hit him on top to block.
“That was the best game Wiggs has played since coming back,” Kerr said of Wiggins, the returned to court on April 15 for the Warriors’ first game of the playoffs after missing two months because of a family matter. “We ask so much of him on defense and in any playoff series he will end up with the opponent’s best player. In this series, of course, that’s LeBron. And thank God we have Wiggs because he can play all night.”
Game 5 was Wiggins’ third-highest scoring playoff game of his career, behind his 27- and 26-point games last postseason.
Led by Wiggins, the Warriors finally found success by completing drives against the Lakers. He scored 16 of his points in paint.
In Games 1 through 4, the Warriors shot 19 of 52 drives, or 37%. In Game 5, they got 9 out of 17 drives (53%). According to ESPN Stats & Information, it was the first time they scored at least 50% of their drives in a game of this series.
Before Wednesday’s game, Wiggins was averaging 14.8 points per game in that series. Green averaged a 6.8. But they knew they had to do more to keep their season alive — and that’s not changing after they forced a Game 6.
“You just have to keep fighting and know that this team will come out and give us their best. You have to take that hit and react,” Green said. “If you react, they will strike again and you have to react again. If you can do that, the game tends to turn in your direction.”
With their Game 5 win, the Warriors improved to 8-2 while facing elimination under Kerr, including 7-0 against Western Conference opponents — the best win ratio of any team facing elimination since 2015.
With the series moving back to LA, they have to fight back once again to get the series to Game 7. And if they succeed, the Warriors are confident they can overcome a 3-1 deficit for the second straight season in franchise history.
“We trust and believe in ourselves,” Green said. “[But the Lakers are] won’t give it to us They will come out and play aggressively. They have great leaders there, incredible winners. … They won’t just collapse. It’s up to us to go in there and embrace it.”
He continued: “Our work is not done yet. We’re still on the verge of elimination and will have to reckon with it for the rest of the series as well. So we have to have the same attitude. Back on the wall, you must come out fighting.”