Draymond’s value to Warriors crystal clear in loss to Nuggets originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
SAN FRANCISCO – The trading of Draymond Green was, a few months ago, a frequent topic of conversation among fans of basketball and the Warriors. Can’t and won’t shoot. Best days are behind him. He is an “old” 31.
He is, insult of insults, washed.
The Warriors stubbornly and smartly never seriously considered such a deal. They had their reasons, all of which were on inglorious display in the first half of an 89-86 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday night at Chase Center.
With Draymond sidelined by the NBA’s health and safety protocols, the Warriors submitted their worst half of the season, scoring 36 points on 37.8 percent shooting, including 23.5 percent from beyond the arc. The defense was the perfectly wretched counterpoint, with Denver shooting 57.1 percent from the field and taking a 60-36 lead into the locker room.
By the time the Warriors absorbed the spirit of Draymond in the second half, introducing ferocious defense, cutting into the deficit and turning the home crowd’s muttering boos to vociferous cheers, it was a few ticks too late.
“Held them to 29 points in the second half, which is remarkable, and at least gave ourselves a chance to win,” coach Steve Kerr said.
“We went into the locker room and spoke about it,” Juan Toscano-Anderson said of the abominable first half. “Steve said we have to change some things, that we have to come out with more energy and be more aggressive offensively and defensively in the second half. At that point, it was just a hole too deep for us to get out of.”
The Warriors were tremendous in the second half, particularly on defense. They limited the Nuggets to an astonishing 25 percent from the field, including 1-of-18 shooting from distance. They won the half by 21 points.
It was a nice recovery after a first half that exposed all of elements missing without Draymond. The offense was a disorganized mess, without rhythm or flow or, at times, purpose. The defense was error-prone when not listless.
“Obviously, we’re going to miss Draymond while he’s out,” Kerr said. “He’s one of the best players in the league. But Denver is without half their team with injuries and everything else. It’s not an excuse. The whole league is missing people.
“We just have to get better in terms of our offensive execution while Draymond is out. Obviously, we run so much of our stuff through him, so we have to make that adjustment.”
There is no one on the roster who operates the offense with the skill and dexterity of Draymond, who coordinates, facilitates and implements. He leads the team in assists, as he has for the past five seasons.
He is the left hand that works in concert with the right hand of Stephen Curry, who at times over the first 24 minutes seemed disoriented.
“It was a little different look, obviously, with Draymond out,” Curry said. “We know how much he provides defensively, but offensively he’s amazing playmaker and knows how to be in the right spot and make the right read. It’s the first time without him out there orchestrating a lot of our offense, especially when I’m off the ball.”
Curry’s first half: Two points, 1-of-6 shooting, 0-of-5 from deep, two assists, four turnovers, minus-17 over 18 minutes.
His second half: 21 points, 5-of-10 shooting, 5-of-9 from deep, two assists, two turnovers and plus-22 over 21 minutes.
Curry did, as he tends to do, adjust to the surroundings. With Green likely to miss at least the next two games, he’s going to need his teammates to do the same.
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It would help, too, if they shoot better from the line. The Warriors missed 15 free throws.
That, however, is not what cost them the game. They needed a half to adjust to Green’s absence – and to crank up the intensity.
“(Green) is an undeniable talent defensively and he is the brains for the most part offensively,” Toscano-Anderson said. “Those are big shoes to fill, but they are not impossible.”
For one person, it is impossible. It’s going to require a team effort, general efficiency and, above all, the level of energy that Draymond generally brings.
The Warriors now know how it looks when they don’t have those components. Ugly, really ugly.
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