A lot of good things happened to the Warriors in their postseason opener, but nothing trumped the return of the Green Monster, Draymond Green himself.
No, not the ugly one whose mindless one-game suspension at the worst possible time cost his team another NBA title last spring. But the one who gets paid $16.4 million to wreak havoc at both ends of the floor, the positive kind that only a few players are capable of on their best days.
Green was the biggest difference-maker on the court, no questions asked. He stuck to the Trail Blazers like tar on asphalt. He rebounded. He challenged shots. He blocked shots. He hit the open man. He scored when called upon. He played like his pants were on fire, and it was impossible not to feel his energy and urgency.
Coach Steve Kerr used words such as “amazing” and “phenomenal” to describe the performance. “Who else can do what Draymond did tonight?” he added.
Balls will even throw in a “silly good” and “wicked awesome.”
But forget his 19 points, 12 rebounds, nine assists, five blocked shots and three steals for the moment. What Green did best was play with discipline and selflessness. He was a team guy. He didn’t kick anybody in the privates. Heck, he didn’t pick up a technical foul.
Is it possible that those chats with his old Michigan State coach Tom Izzo did some good?
But let’s not come down with amnesia here, girls and boys.
The Trail Blazers are, well, the Trail Blazers. It’s one thing to be at your absolute best against one of the 27 teams that have zero chance to win an NBA title, quite another to do it against the San Antonio Spurs or Cleveland Cavaliers when the games are the most intense and stakes are the highest.
Has Green learned from his dunderheadedness of a year ago? It’s too early to tell, but he and the Warriors are off to a good start.
HEY, LOOK … Green even sank 3 of 4 shots from beyond the arc!
AND ANOTHER THING … Afterward, Green had this to say about the final days of the regular season: “You’re out there playing for the last few games, there was no disrespect to anyone. They just felt like pre-season games.”
Yep, dude nailed that one, too.
HAPPY TRAILS: The Warriors played their C game for three quarters. Stephen Curry blew hot and cold. Klay Thompson was spotty at both ends. Andre Iguodala seemed disinterested. Except for Ian Clark, the bench was so-so at best.
The Trail Blazers got 75 points out of C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard and entered the fourth quarter in an 88-all tie. Despite all this, the visitors led once the entire game. By two points.
So what makes anyone think the series will last more than four games, five at most?
Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts could switch to a bigger lineup especially if center Jusuf Nurkic (fractured right leg) is available, which is iffy at the moment. But that might play right into the Warriors’ hands.
Umm, think somebody named Jusuf Nurkic is gonna turn around the series?
The Trail Blazers could pack a bench, which combined for nine points and a minus-20 rating in the opener.
Better yet, the Trail Blazers could bring back Dave Twardzik, Lionel Hollins, Bobby Gross, Maurice Lucas and Bill Walton in their primes, although somethin’ tells Balls that Mo ain’t comin’ back.
AS GOOD AS ADVERTISED: While Green stole the show, it was efficiency as usual for Kevin Durant in his Warriors’ postseason debut.
Only Durant could score 32 points on 12 of 20 in the field, steal the ball twice, block one shot, alter a few others and do it in relative silence.
OK, all you doubters who weren’t convinced that Durant would fit in with Curry, Green and Thompson, you can come out now.
GIANT MISTAKE: Two weeks into the season, the sleeping Giants have gotten exactly one home run out of the clean-up spot. Or one less than pitcher Madison Bumgarner, who ranks second on the team despite only seven at-bats.
Adam Duvall and his $577,500 salary would look mighty good in left field at AT&T Park right now, ya think?
Duvall was part of the ill-conceived Mike Leake trade with the Cincinnati Reds two years ago. Leake won two of nine starts before the Giants allowed him to walk out the free-agent door. Meanwhile, Duvall clubbed 33 homers and was nominated for a Gold Glove Award last season, his first in the bigs.
Team management had some good reasons to make the deal at the time. For one, a veteran starter was needed to have any chance to repeat as World Series champs. There was no place for Duvall to play in the field and he was out of minor league options.
Yet the trade violated the rule that says you don’t trade a young power hitter for an older finesse pitcher. The Giants have paid for it ever since.
NO GUTS, NO GLORY: The more experienced Sharks took the Edmonton Oilers to school in Game 1 of their playoff series. Since then, they haven’t scored a goal in six periods.
Defensemen Paul Martin and Marc Edouard-Vlasic have accounted for three of their team’s eight points. Brent Burns, Logan Couture, Jannik Hansen and Patrick Marleau have bupkis so far.
The Sharks have limited boy wonder Connor McDavid to one goal and one assist, but hey, who needs him when the Oilers have Zack Kassian? The third-liner has a pair of goals, both game-winners.
Now Team Teal faces a virtual win-or-else situation in Game 4 at SAP Center on Wednesday. Consider that coach Peter DeBoer’s bunch has lost five of the last six matchups, and it’s hard to like their chances.
YOUR TURN: “Good points about the NBA fatigue factor and triple-double. Now good luck with getting the NBA to shorten the season. Money rules. Both MLB and the NBA have absurdly long seasons, especially when the playoffs run way past seasonality. And for a really silly metric, how about hitting for the cycle in MLB? Well, here I am at bat and I’ve hit a homer, triple and double. Please, not another homer. I want that single.” — Hank Maze, San Mateo
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