OAKLAND — Just inside the opening minute of the Golden State Warriors’ 115-104 win over the Utah Jazz on Thursday night, Draymond Green found himself face-to-face with Rudy Gobert, his chief rival for Defensive Player of the Year honors.
As Gobert rose into the air to collect a lob, Green met the 7-foot-1 Frenchman at the apex of his leap and used his raised right arm to shut down the dunk attempt.
The blocked shot spilled out to Zaza Pachulia, who fired the outlet pass to Kevin Durant in transition. Durant promptly found Green — unattended at the 3-point line — as he rained in the first of his four first-quarter triples.
“One thing that Draymond does, he has a tremendous feel of what’s going on for both team on both ends of the floor, but especially defensively,” acting head coach Mike Brown explained before the win. “So, he basically has carte blanche — for the most part.”
As the Dubs raced out to a 2-0 advantage over the Jazz, Green used his full discretionary power to stock the box score, tallying 21 points, seven rebounds, six assists, four steals and a block.
“He’s locked in on both sides of the ball — especially defensively — understanding his value on that end of the floor and his versatility,” Stephen Curry said of his teammate.
Like Green, Curry hit five of his eight attempts from beyond the arc.
“You add in the 3-point game and his playmaking ability — he’s doing a lot right now,” Curry said. “He understands the moment, like we all do. Anytime you’re out on the floor you try to make an impact and he’s giving us a lot of energy and we need it.”
Also like Green, Curry was a ubiquitous presence on Thursday night. The back-to-back MVP went for 23 points and was flying around the court, showing no ill effects from the left ankle injury he suffered in the series opener.
“You have guys that are effective in certain areas of the game,” Brown said of the Green and Curry duo. “You kind of give them a little bit more freedom or rope to do what they can do to help us win a ballgame.“
The club navigated an injury scare at the 7:30 mark in the fourth quarter when Green tweaked his left knee. The forward missed a layup, and then fell to the ground immediately after popping up to his feet.
Eventually, Green walked back to the locker room — under his own power — with a team trainer, as general manager Bob Myers and forward Matt Barnes trailed close behind.
“Anytime any of our guys go down, it’s a concern,” Brown admitted before quickly adding that he knew the defensive anchor would be okay.
“A guy like Draymond does so much for us on both ends of the floor and he very seldom goes down,” Brown said. “So when he did, you think that initially it’s got to be serious. When I went over to him and asked if he was alright, right away he said, ‘Yes.’”
Green explained that his knee locked up, but that he expects to be fine for Game 3 at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Saturday night.
“I expect it to be a hostile environment. It always is,” Green said. “They chirp pretty loud for their team.”