SAN FRANCISCO — Draymond Green wasn’t going to let the Golden State Warriors’ season end Wednesday night. His goal is to set the tone for his team.
Before Game 5 against the Los Angeles Lakers, Warriors player development coach Jacob Rubin told Green that his presence has not been felt so far in this series. Not as Rubin knew.
“It’s aggressive coming on both ends of the floor. It’s verbal so everybody listens to you on the floor. I felt a little disrespected when he said that,” Green said. “I knew it was on me to come out and set the tone for our guys. … The season is on the line, the wall is up. You’ve got to come out and give it everything you’ve got. That’s my mindset.”
Green was Golden State’s engine in the Warriors’ 121-106 victory.
He finished with 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting, 10 rebounds and two steals. It was his second 20-point game of the season, along with Game 5 against the Sacramento Kings in the first round. It was the first time since 2017 that Green had multiple 20-point games in a postseason. Before the playoffs, he had not scored 20 points since Christmas Day 2019.
“I think you expect it in a situation like this where you’re facing elimination,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “Draymond is one of the greatest competitors I’ve ever been around. So you expect him to bring it. I haven’t said anything to him. He doesn’t need any pep talks from me, that’s for sure.”
Green’s first play of the game was a defensive foul on Anthony Davis — a sign of the aggressiveness and physicality he plays on that end of the floor. On the next possession, Green hit a 3-pointer for the Warriors’ first points of the night. Let them know he’s looking to score.
“I think there’s a stat somewhere… when [Green] If we score a certain amount of points, we usually win,” Kerr said.
He’s right: Golden State is 43-10 in the regular season and playoffs when Green scores at least 20 points.
Kerr continued: “When he’s aggressive, looking to attack, it definitely adds another dimension to our team. I really liked his approach to the game tonight. … He was like ‘I’m coming’.”
Perhaps Green’s biggest luxury on offense is taking some of the responsibility away from Stephen Curry, who has been suffocating Los Angeles’ defense all series.
Curry finished with 27 points, but it was a steady accumulation over four quarters. He never had the scoring outburst that he often does.
“How teams are key on Steph and Clay [Thompson], they’re really doing everything they can, selling those guys and trying to get them out of the game,” Green said. “We get a lot of money to do this, so you can’t just sit back and watch them. … You have to do something about it.”
Green also held the Lakers to 6-of-15 shooting contests and held Davis to 3-of-8 shooting as his primary defender.
It wasn’t just Green who took some of the weight off Curry and Thompson’s shoulders. Andrew Wiggins finished with 25 points on 10-of-18 shooting, seven rebounds and five assists.
With 9:32 left in the fourth, Wiggins took on LeBron James at center court. Wiggins managed to poke the ball away from James for a split second before he recovered. He clung to James’ side as James went to Hope.
James fed the ball to Davis under the hoop, but Davis rose to score, with Green meeting him at the top for a block.
“That was the best game since Wiggs came back,” Kerr said of Wiggins, who returned to the court April 15 for the Warriors’ first playoff game after missing two months due to a family issue. “We ask a lot of him defensively and in any playoff series, he’s going to be the opponent’s best player. In this series, that’s obviously 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, trailing his 27- and 26-point games last postseason.
Led by Wiggins, the Warriors finally started to make successful drives against the Lakers. He scored 16 points in the paint.
From Games 1 through 4, the Warriors shot 19-52 (37%) on drives. In Game 5, they went 9-17 (53%) on drives. According to ESPN Stats & Info, it’s the first time they’ve shot at least 50% of their drives in a game this series.
Before Wednesday’s game, Wiggins was averaging 14.8 points for the series. Green averaged 6.8. But they know they need to do more to keep their season alive — and that won’t change now that they’ve forced a Game 6.
“You have to keep fighting and know that this team is going to come out and give us their best punch. You have to take that punch and respond,” Green said. “If you react, they’ll punch again and you’ll have to react again. If you can do that, the game will swing your way.”
With their Game 5 win, the Warriors improved to 8-2 when facing elimination under Kerr, including 7-0 against Western Conference opponents — the best winning percentage of any team facing elimination since 2015.
When the series shifted back to Los Angeles, the Warriors needed to avoid elimination again to push the series to a Game 7. And if they do, the Warriors are confident they can overcome a 3-1 series deficit for the second time. time in franchise history.
“We trust and believe in ourselves,” Green said. “[But the Lakers are] Not giving us. They are going to come out and play aggressively. They have great leaders there, incredible winners. … They’re just not going to fold. It is our responsibility to go there and take it.”
He continued: “Our work is not done. We still face elimination and we face elimination from the rest of the series. So we have to have the same mindset. Against the wall, you have to come out fighting.”