OAKLAND, Calif. -- We're obsessed with scoring. The NBA has altered all sorts of rules to keep point totals up and the 3-point shots flying. You never see a sneaker or sports drink commercial with a star player throwing a crisp bounce pass that leads to a hockey assist. We reward those who put the ball in the bucket, and with good reason -- there's nothing more entertaining than an unstoppable scorer.
Partly because of that adoration, the narrative after Kevin Durant's injury in Game 5 of the Houston series was largely the same: Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are going to have to carry the offense. That's the logical response, and it's proven accurate as Golden State's legendary duo has combined to average 61 points in three full games since Durant went down. But we sometimes forget that "offense" isn't just scoring, and Draymond Green was there to remind us of that on Thursday.
His unique ability was on pristine display during the final stretch of the Warriors' 114-111 Game 2 win over the Trail Blazers. In the final 4:20 of the game, Green had four points and three assists while playing his normal, suffocating defense. He finished the game with 16 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and five blocks.
What Green does with his defense, energy and leadership is well-documented. But too often, because he doesn't score the points himself, Green's offensive contributions go criminally unrecognized. Of course the shot-making of Curry and Thompson is the engine that drives the Warriors, but when defenses throw multiple bodies at the Splash Brothers, it's the Pass Brother who takes Golden State to nuclear efficiency.
"The way people play Steph allows Draymond to be the playmaker frequently in our games because he catches the ball out of the traps, and he's just a great passer and great decision-maker, throwing the lob, throwing the cross-court passes," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after Game 2. "He's a fantastic two-way player and a guy who was just been irreplaceable around here for a long time."
This is almost the perfect series to highlight the difference between having Green as a play-maker out of traps as opposed to what normal teams have to deal with. The Warriors are putting incredible pressure on Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, sending double-teams early and often to force the ball out of their hands. When they patiently give up the ball, it goes to someone like Moe Harkless, Al-Farouq Aminu ... maybe Meyers Leonard. By the time those average NBA players make their decisions, it's often too late -- the Warriors defense (usually also led by Green) has recovered, the shot clock has run down and the play has been blown up.
On the other side, Green so many times makes the correct, lightning-quick read, resulting in an uncontested dunk or wide-open 3-pointer for a teammate. His instincts are second to none, seeing the play unfold before it happens -- sometimes to a detriment. He admitted that he almost botched a late assist for an Andre Iguodala dunk because of a telepathic miscue.
"I almost threw that one to Dre too soon because I know with Steph flying off like that, both defenders were going to go with him and he was going to be wide open," Green said with a smile after the game. "As a passer, that's like heaven. You've got Steph coming from all the way from the other side of the floor, flying off and knowing Dre is going to slip to the rim like nobody is there. I almost got ahead of myself."
Part of the reason can seemingly tell the future is because he's so in tune with his teammates that he knows what they're going to do before they do it. This group has been together for so long and has such a tremendous collective basketball IQ, that when you mix in the shooting of Curry and Thompson (and, oh yeah, Kevin Durant), it only makes Green's ability more lethal.
And it's not just the instincts. Both Lillard and Blazers coach Terry Stotts used the word, "smart," to describe Green after Game 2, a sentiment echoed throughout the year by teammates and opponents alike. Green takes note of how defenses are playing him, both through film and over the course of a game, and adjusts accordingly. On Thursday he realized mid-game, with some prodding from Kerr, that he needed to be more aggressive going to the rim instead of looking to pass first.
"Once I started coming out with a mindset of attacking, and looking like I was going to attack, then at that point, you really force the defender to make a decision," Green said after the game. "Early on in the game, I was kind of coming out of the pick-and-roll and looking for the lob the entire time. I'm telegraphing it."
It goes to highlight, once again, how unprecedented this Warriors team is. Not only do they have arguably the two best shooters to ever play the game, plus one of the greatest scorers in NBA history, but they also have a razor-sharp, eternally confident, willing play-maker who has no qualms scoring zero points for an entire game. Green said earlier this season that one of his many triple-doubles stands out among them all -- the one in February 2017, when he became the first player in NBA history to record a triple-double without scoring 10 points. His final line: 12 rebounds, 10 assists, 10 steals ... four points.
"You know, being a play-maker is something I take pride in. It's something I love to do," Green said. "You know, I love to make a play for someone else more than I even like shooting the ball, and I've been that way my whole life."