How Draymond Green, Steph Curry and the Warriors Plotted Their Game 4 Victory

The Athletic

SAN FRANCISCO — Draymond Green flipped on his TV, left his house, battled arena traffic and walked into the Chase Center with one thing on his mind with minutes left in the Warriors’ easy Game 3 win over the Kings last Thursday.

“Where’s Steph?” He shouted to the staff as he nodded in the Warriors’ locker room about 20 minutes after the final buzzer. Draymond quickly found himself in the training room, coming down from a blowout victory. And then the two leaders of this team put their heads together and immediately began planning for Game 4.

After watching the game, Draymond had an idea: Why change anything from the starting lineup that shook the Kings in Game 3 by suspending Draymond? Why force someone else to the bench to make room for him in Game 4?

And he urgently wanted to run past all that. (Beyond the strategy discussion, Draymond also wanted to celebrate Curry’s stellar performance in Game 3.) The result: Steve Kerr, who was thinking the same way, didn’t start Draymond in Sunday’s Game 4 and sometimes alternated Draymond with Kevon Looney, who Just like in Game 3, more shooters were put on the floor and the Warriors beat the Kings 126-125 to even the series at 2-2.

Looney played well, which is zero surprise. Jordan Poole, who will be taken out of the starting lineup if Draymond goes back, played well. And Draymond started the second half with Looney (and Poole out) as the Warriors took control of the game. Although the Warriors almost gave it back in the final minute with an all-time blunder when Curry called a timeout after the Warriors had spent it all (Carr took the blame for not telling his players about the timeout count), the victory was even. The Warriors needed to put the Kings on their heels heading into Wednesday’s Game 5 in Sacramento.

And here’s why he’s an instant part of Warriors lore: With Draymond volunteering for a seat on the bench, Andre Iguodala accepted losing his starting spot at the start of the Carr era, with Curry agreeing to come off the bench for the first four games. Denver series last year when he was coming back from injury and Looney yo-yoed out of the lineup his entire career.

That’s how the Warriors have always done things in this era. Think of the best thing to do to win the next game. Then do it. And the informal Curry-Draymond summit meeting was another example of how they work things through when they absolutely have to.

“It’s nothing new,” Curry told me after his postgame news conference of the strategy session. “We always have these kinds of conversations. In the playoffs, it’s a little more fun because you’re trying to find a certain series of chess pieces. But back to the Memphis barbecue spot in 2015 (first) Game 4, we always have those conversations.

Curry is, of course, referring to his mind-clearing dinner at Blues City Cafe with Draymond, David Lee and Festus Ezeli after the Warriors lost Game 3 to the Grizzlies and trailed the series 2-1. After that, the Warriors swept the next three games and won the first title of the era.

No one knows how the Warriors will do for the rest of this series or the rest of the season, but if Curry is fueling the legend of the Blues City, then something important happened when he and Draymond met after Game 3. Something that was significant to Draymond, and Curry, is therefore important to every part of the Warriors universe.

There was a lot going on — Draymond’s battle with the league office, the Warriors falling 2-0 and then collapsing at home in Game 3, and the sense that a loss in this series could be the beginning of the end for this dynasty. The group therefore had to return to the arena for Draymond to meet with Curry. Two future Hall of Famers were to continue this.

“I don’t think a decision was made at that point, but he seemed relatively excited about what he saw in terms of the adjustments we were going to be able to make tonight,” Curry said. “I think it was tough for him to bottle up that energy; I know he missed being out there. But it also gave him a different vantage point in the series that helped.”

Draymond and Curry decided it might be a good idea, Draymond went into Kerr’s office that night and told him it would be fine if Kerr wanted to keep Draymond out of the starting lineup on Sunday. Kerr agreed. And the movement was made.

“I just thought it was the right thing to do, and Steph thought it was the right thing to do,” Draymond said Sunday. “I mean, I think No. 1, it’s always been us. You have guys on this team who think hard about winning and about the team, and if you’re a guy who doesn’t, you stick out like a sore thumb because that’s the culture here.

“For me, it was a very simple matter. We won (Game 3) very easily. You just walk in the door like, ‘Fellas, I’m back, here’s my place.’ No, it’s—don’t act like that. You do what’s best for the team, and you know, just sitting and watching that game with me, I thought it was great, and I thought it was clear as day, and I thought I saw it from a mile away. can see Literally, a mile away.

What was Kerr thinking when Draymond made the suggestion?

“I’m not surprised because I know at his core Draymond just wants to win,” Kerr said. “All of his emotions and passion and things that he gets into with the league or the opponent or the officials, it all comes from a place of competitive desire. He’s one of the greatest competitors I’ve ever been around. He’s one of the smartest players I’ve ever been around. have been

“I wasn’t surprised because he recognized the same thing I did, which made it a lot easier. The fact that he came in and suggested it, it makes it a lot easier, and then we go from there. … We always collaborate. The decisions we make are collaborative with our key players. … Steph has come off the bench — four games against Denver last year. (Andrew Wiggins) came off the bench in Game 1. Do what you have to, and I thought Draymond had a good second half, really stepped up himself.”

In the second half, Draymond was also tasked with guarding De’Aaron Fox, who has largely been the Kings’ best player this series. After scoring 21 points on 9-of-16 shooting in the first half, Fox made just 5 of 15 shots in the second half. Draymond didn’t completely stop Fox, but no one will. It was just a different look, Kerr said, and he knew Draymond would love the challenge.

Now the Warriors have to decide how to handle this in Game 5 and beyond. It seems likely that Kerr will put Draymond back in the starting lineup for the rest of the season, but the Warriors are 0-2 in this series with Draymond in the starting lineup and are now 2-0 with Poole at that position to start games. (Of course, both losses were in Sacramento and both wins were at Chase Center.)

My prediction: Draymond and Looney will start together in Game 5, with Poole on that bench, but there could be a quick substitution if things start badly for the Warriors.

Kerr, naturally, won’t say what he’ll do in Game 5. And Draymond said he’ll be fine with whatever decision Kerr makes — adding that he played 31 minutes in the game (with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists). 4, anyway.

“Regardless of what coach thinks and what he does, absolutely,” Draymond said. “I’ve got to go watch film and see how all those things fare during this game. But if it’s true, it’s true and I don’t care. Played the same amount of minutes I normally play and didn’t really mind. That’s kind of my mindset.”

Along those lines, Draymond was also whistled for a technical foul (along with Fox) in the first quarter and barked just 55 seconds after he first checked in. It was his first action since he was ejected for a flagrant 2 foul in Game 2 and later suspended, while the league made sure to point out his “history of unsportsmanlike conduct.”

Was there a message for everyone watching the quick technical foul? Nice.

“I’m still here. … Still here, and no tech is moving me from my square,” Draymond said. “You know, Fox needed to stand up for his guy. I respect that. I respect him 100 percent. But I’m still here, and don’t change me for anything. It has been this way for 33 years. I pray that I can be like this for 33 more, and it won’t just be basketball. which comes to an end. But I am what I am, and all else is what it is.”

And if Draymond ever has to miss a game again, which he’s already said almost certainly will happen, he’ll be watching the game intently. After he finished he would run to talk to Curry and the others. Then he will say what he thinks. He will come up with a strategy. It may include starting the next game. It might not. And it will usually be smart. That would be exactly what Steve Kerr would normally do. And more often than not, the Warriors will win.

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(Photo: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images)

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