On January 9, Draymond Green played for the Golden State Warriors for the last time this season. He had missed the last two games and was on the court a total of seven seconds that day just so he could be alongside Klay Thompson, who was playing his first game since the 2019 NBA Finals.
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At the time, the Warriors were tied with the Phoenix Suns for the NBA's best record at 30-9 and well ahead of the Western Conference's third-best record team, the Memphis Grizzlies. Last night the Warriors lost their fourth straight game, falling half a game behind the Grizzlies in the standings. The loss went to the struggling and at times listless Los Angeles Lakers. LeBron James was spectacular for the Lakers with 56 points from 61% from the field, but it was a team effort on the track that sealed the Lakers 124-116 victory – their first since the All-Star break.
There were back-to-back lines of Austin Reaves and newly acquired D.J.. Augustin, and it was Carmelo Anthony who finished the game with an offensive rebound and a layup that ultimately gave the Lakers the lead and a 3-pointer with 34 seconds left to put the game away. The Warriors, arguably the best defensive team in the NBA over the past 10 years, were unstoppable. They've given up more than 110 points on every loss during that four-game losing streak and have given up 124 on the Lakers' most painful offense to watch, which is no doubt proof that without Green, the Warriors have none in the playoffs. .
The injury that sidelined him from that January 9 match isn't even exactly the reason he's staying out two months later. He was listed on the injury report for that match due to calf strain, but on January 16 he was substituted with a back injury. It's his left L5-S1 disc that's causing the calf strain and he's expected to be out "at least two weeks." A week after the start of March, there is still no timetable for his return.
It's not often in the NBA that a player averaging 7.9 points per game and shooting less than 60% from the free throw line can be the difference between a championship and early playoff elimination. , but that's absolutely the case with the Warriors. Even though Thompson has appeared in 19 of the Warriors' last 26 games, they've lost 11 of those games without a green, including eight of their last 10.
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While Green's offensive game was sorely lacking, the Warriors' overall offensive performance was similar to his on the court. It's their defense that has been on a steady downward spiral during Green's absence. On January 9, they had the NBA's highest defensive rating with 101.9 points per 100 possessions. They only managed a 110.4 defensive rating during his absence.
It's a reminder that as dynamic as the Warriors can be on offense, the reason they reached five consecutive NBA Finals and won three championships was on defense. The team really showed their potential when Steve Kerr started Green in the 2014/15 season. His ability to defend multiple positions and his basketball IQ make the Warriors defense look like an amoeba. Their defensive rotations go smoothly and easy shots are rare for opposing teams when Green is on the field.