OAKLAND, Calif. -- Draymond Green was carrying the Warriors to a Game 2 win over the Jazz when his knee stopped carrying him. In the fourth quarter of the Warriors' 115-104 victory Thursday night, Green fell to the floor after a drive to the hoop stalled. He tried to pick himself off the court to help his team on the defensive end but didn't make it more than three steps before he collapsed.
He stayed down.
Draymond was able to get up and walk off the court without any help. pic.twitter.com/jj5xsI2yo3— SLAM Magazine (@SLAMonline) May 5, 2017
Oracle Arena, which had to that point enjoyed a stress-free evening, grew silent as the team surrounded Green, who favored his knee. A brief "Dray-mond!" chant broke out. Eventually, Green got to his feet and headed directly to the locker room. An eerie yet familiar feeling overtook the court.
A few minutes later, Green emerged from the tunnel, taking his spot on the bench. Shortly after, he returned to the game to help close out a valiant Jazz team, which was missing George Hill, that didn't quit no matter how many times the Warriors buried them.
And so, the Warriors moved to 6-0 in the playoffs, Green described the injury as "a little tweak," which shouldn't impact him moving forward, and the Warriors are onto the third game of a series in which they've yet to trail. Crisis averted.
But the feeling persisted. It felt like a year ago, when untimely injuries reduced Stephen Curry to a shell of himself in the playoffs and ultimately played a role in the Warriors' failure to finish a 73-win regular season with a ring. If Green had gone down with a serious injury -- not a tweak -- the Warriors' championship hopes would've been wrecked, which is to say that Green is the Warriors' most important player this year, even though he plays on a team that features Curry, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson.
It's Green who holds the most value. He's the key to the Warriors championship hopes -- because of his consistency on defense and his volatility on offense.
When Green is drilling his open 3s, the Warriors turn from an already incredible offense into an almost unstoppable force.
That's what Green did Thursday night. He made his first four shots from deep. At halftime, when the Warriors led by 13, Green had as many 3s as the entire Jazz roster. By the end of the game, he had racked up 21 points on 7-of-13 shooting (5-of-8 from 3).
When Green is making his 3s, there's really no way for a defense to contain the Warriors. Opposing teams don't want to cover him at the top of the arc, they want to leave him alone so that his defender can roam the paint and be available to help stop one of the Warriors' more dangerous weapons.
"Obviously, their game plan is to have whoever's guarding Draymond sit in the lane," Warriors acting coach Mike Brown said. "So, he's getting wide-open 3s. Knock on wood, hopefully he'll keep shooting the ball the way he's been shooting it throughout the playoffs and make them pay."
In the playoffs, Green has connected on 18 3s -- more than Klay Thompson, LeBron James and Kevin Love.
"I feel particularly open every game we play," Green said in between laughs, after he was asked if he feels particularly open against the Jazz. "So yeah, I do. Pretty sure I'll stay particularly open and that probably won't change."
Draymond on always feeling like he's left open behind the arc: pic.twitter.com/rb8n8THkfJ— Sean Wagner-McGough (@seanjwagner) May 5, 2017
When Green becomes the Warriors' best sharpshooter, he ruins defensive plans. He creates space for the Warriors' array of weapons. He gives the Warriors' offense -- already the most prolific in the league -- another dimension.
He does this in more ways besides shooting. Before Thursday's game, Jazz coach Quin Snyder compared Green to Magic Johnson in terms of his ability to bring the ball up the court. When Green grabs a board, he doesn't need to pass the ball off to Curry or another guard. He takes off and sparks the Warriors' transition game himself.
"He's like Magic Johnson out there pushing the ball," Snyder said. "If you wait for the guy who's got him to guard him, then that's not going to be good enough."
Green finished with six assists.
It's telling that we still haven't even mentioned his defense yet, which allows the Warriors to play small with their Death Star lineup. What more is there to say about Green's defense that hasn't been said already? Green isn't just the best defender in the league this year, he's an all-time great defender.
He's listed at 6-foot-7 and managed to block the 7-foot-1 Rudy Gobert in the opening minute.
Draymond Green shows Rudy Gobert why he should be DPOY pic.twitter.com/fP4ACEriXK— The Crossover (@TheCrossover) May 5, 2017
In all, Green racked up seven rebounds, four steals and that block. He's a defensive star and he's always been the emotional leader of the team. That's never changing.
On the other hand, there's no guarantee that Green's shooting spree will continue. He shot just over 30 percent from deep in the regular season. He won't keep shooting like this during the Warriors' entire playoff run. But with the Cavaliers still lurking on the other side of the bracket like a final video-game boss, the Warriors are likely going to need Green to hit those open shots. Remember, the Finals swung last year when Green missed Game 5 because of a suspension. This year, the Warriors will need Green on the court and they'll need him shooting like he did Thursday night.
Draymond Green feeling it from ð in the first half! â pic.twitter.com/OEk8GdIaXL— NBA TV (@NBATV) May 5, 2017
Thursday also happened to be May 4, as in "May the Fourth be with you," as in "Star Wars" day. My favorite installment is "Rogue One," in which the story's hero, Jyn Erso, begins a stirring speech with: "One fighter with a sharp stick and nothing left to lose can take the day." Jyn, leading an undermanned underdog army against the Galactic Empire, ultimately succeeds in her mission.
Unfortunately, that's not the way the NBA works. The Jazz can't take down the Warriors with their sticks and mindset. As my colleague Matt Moore likes to say, "You can't bring rocks to an artillery fight." And you especially can't bring rocks to an artillery fight when it's Draymond Green -- not Curry, Thompson or Durant -- who leads the blitz as the primary bomber. At that point, all hope is lost.