With Draymond Green back home celebrating the birth of his first son, the Golden State Warriors had to make do without their defensive captain on Thursday night in the first leg of their three-game Eastern Conference road swing.
Early on, Green’s absence was apparent — especially in the second quarter, when the Brooklyn Nets outscored their guests 31-16 to take a 65-49 advantage into the break.
“The millennials struggled in the first half,” head coach Steve Kerr joked to reporters after the Warriors rallied for a 117-101 win. “But they locked in in the second half. They put their phones down and started to defend.”
The Dubs began the second half with a 24-5 outburst, which Kerr said was a result of his squad clamping down on the Nets.
“Steph[en Curry] made a steal right away that led to [Kevin Durant’s] dunk which gave us some life,” Kerr said. “I thought the overall defensive intensity the next few minutes got us on that run and changed the game.”
Klay Thompson offered a simpler explanation for the defensive turnaround.
“Probably playing harder,” Thompson said.
“The Nets, they play really hard,” Thompson added. “We knew we had to play a lot harder and I think we did. When we make mistakes on offense, it can be masked by our really good activity on the defensive end.”
The Warriors forced 18 turnovers during a second half in which they outscored the Nets 68-36. Curry led the Warriors with five steals while Zaza Pachulia posted season highs in minutes (26), points (15) and rebounds (14).
“I thought Zaza and David [West] were the keys to the game,” Kerr said of the pair of centers. “We needed that veteran leadership, that poise. They understand games like this. They’ve been through these many times.”
While making a rare appearance in a postgame on-the-court interview, Pachulia offered his best wishes to Green, the absent All-Star.
“We definitely missed Draymond,” Pachulia said. “And first of all, I want to use this opportunity to congratulate him. I’m so happy for him to have a new addition. A baby boy. That’s amazing.”
“He’s such a glue guy for our team. One of the key guys we have and it’s just obviously different to play without him. But again, I’m committed to the team and everybody is. Obviously we all know our roles and we just play basketball.”