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Western Conference Finals: It’s the season of Draymond as Warriors prepare to take on Houston

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Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) attempts to block a shot by New Orleans Pelicans guard Rajon Rondo (9) at Oracle Arena during Game 2 of the Western Semifinals in Oakland, California, on May 1, 2018. (Stan Olszewski/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Hours after the Golden State Warriors opened up their fourth consecutive extended postseason run, dispatching the San Antonio Spurs, 113-92, on April 14, Draymond Green took to Twitter to fire off a rare tweet.

The two-time NBA champion was responding to the following headline from a prominent reporter: “The Warrior facing the most pressure this postseason: Draymond Green, whose GSW future could be on the line”.

“[D]amn already?” Green wrote, quoting the original tweet. “Lol cold world hahaha”.

A month later, with the Warriors on the doorstep of the long-anticipated Western Conference Finals showdown with theHouston Rockets, Green’s reply looks prescient. Having arguably the most impactful postseason of any Warriors player,Green’s ability to guard all five positions — and his propensity to stir the pot — could decide the series with Houston.

“The guy has huge energy, amazing defense, incredible basketball intellect,” Kerr said after the gentleman’s sweep of the NewOrleans Pelicans in the conference semifinals. “He’s a future Hall of Famer. I mean, he’s right in his prime right now but thisguy, he is the perfect, modern-day NBA big.”

He’s a threat from three — hitting 33.3% this postseason — and can handle the ball in transition.

“This is what the NBA has become,” Kerr said. “And you have to have somebody like Draymond to have a good team, so we’re lucky to have him.”

The bedrock of the Rockets offense is the pick-and-roll, which means the Warriors will have to switch and switch and switch on defense to slow them down. With Green’s defensive versatility, he’ll be integral to slowing down Chris Paul and James Harden.

“Just play one-on-one defense,” Green said. “It can be very tiring, with guys looking for an iso for 48 minutes. That can get tough. If that’s what they want to do, that’s fine. We’ve just got to man up and play one-on-one defense.”

Green limped out of the opening-night 122-121 loss to the Rockets seven months ago with a left knee strain, setting the tone for the most injury-riddled season of his career. During the regular season, Green missed 12 games — one fewer than he’d missed over his previous five seasons, combined.

After that opener, Green suffered from lingering right shoulder soreness. A gnarly swollen right elbow and a pelvic contusion all followed. So did another loss to Houston, on Jan. 20, 116-108. After that game, center Clint Capela declared: “We are better than them.”

“We want to win another no championship and it don’t matter who is in the way of that,” Green said after Game 5 against thePelicans, with the series finally, officially set. “If you in the way of that, then you happen to be in the way.”

In Golden State’s first playoff series set to commence on the road under the Kerr regime, Green is likely to guard Capela, given what the sometimes-small-ball center did against Anthony Davis in the second round. Greet is looking to do what he does best: Set the tone.

“We don’t want to let them come out and build on the confidence they already have,” Green said on Friday. “We want to come out and try to instill some doubt.”

There’s been no doubt about how valuable Green has been to Golden State. With Stephen Curry sidelined due to a sprainedMCL, Green averaged 11.4 ppg, 11.2 rpg and 8.0 apg during the rout of the Spurs. Then, there were the off-the-court highlights.

On the TNT broadcast, Chris Webber leveled a strange critique at the reigning defensive player of the year and master facilitator: “If he was on other teams and expected to score, he might not be in the starting lineup on some teams.”

“My jewelry fit well,” Green said, referring to his two championship rings.

In the semifinals, Green upped his line to 14.8 ppg, 11.8 rpg and 10.0 apg, only to have Charles Barkley — on TNT’s Inside the NBA — declare, “I want to punch his ass in the face.”

The outspoken studio analyst was irate after Green went face-to-face with fellow irritant Rajon Rondo.

“He’s seen me a bunch of times,” Green said. “Punch me in the face when you see me, or if not, no one cares what you would have done. You old and it is what it is.”

Green was the impetus behind Durant’s 38-point masterclass in Game 4 in New Orleans. Green had been so frustrated by theGame 3 loss to the Pelicans a couple of days earlier that he stayed up all night watching film, sending Kevin Durant a challenge in a “long-ass text.”

The day of Game 4, though, the playoffs took a dark twist, when a purported comedian tweeted the he hoped Green would get shot in the face after leaving the arena.

“I care a lot about basketball,” a composed Green explained. “But I don’t care that much. Being that we’re in it every day, we’re literally blood, sweat and tears in this every day — and it don’t mean that much to me, it shouldn’t mean that much to him either. I just pray that he gets the help that he needs.”

After dropping 19 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists in closing out the Pelicans, the podium villain was back, ready to zero in on the chirping Rockets, who have made no secret about being built to defeat the Warriors and their switching defense.

“Man, we won two championships in three seasons,” Green said. “We’re not about to run off talking about how badly we want to play somebody.”

Green is as locked in as he’s ever been, but Rockets won more games during the regular season (65), had a higher offensive efficiency rating (115.5) than any team that’s faced the Warriors in the playoffs since 2015.

“We got a goal and whoever’s in the way of that goal, you know, then we got to see you,” Green said. “You got to see us.Aight. Now they in the way. Perfect. But we ain’t running around talking about, ‘Man, I can’t [wait]. We got them. We want them bad … Nah, we want a championship bad, another one. That’s the truth.”

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