Draymond Green leads Warriors to Game 1 win over Jazz
OAKLAND — Draymond Green and Steph Curry miscommunicated on a second quarter inbound that wasn’t even being defended, leading to an overthrow and the type of careless turnover that, if capitalized upon, can breathe life into the underdog but resourceful Jazz.
But Utah didn’t capitalize. Draymond Green destroyed a should-be 2-on-1 score — unofficially the 987th fastbreak he’s busted up this season — stripping a Gordon Hayward layup, then pushing it ahead for an eventual Kevin Durant dunk, as a quartet of fans in section 101 rose with signs to spell out D(evensive) P(layer) O(f the) Y(ear).
There were stars all over the court on Tuesday night, but no one really starred in the Warriors’ workman-like 106-94 Game 1 win over the Jazz. But that’s the kind of game — and this is the kind of matchup — that so perfectly fits Green.
The Warriors were idle the seven days prior, awaiting their second round opponent after sweeping through the Blazers. There was concern about some possible early rust.
And maybe there was a bit, at least offensively. Steph Curry and Kevin Durant both airballed in the first few minutes. The Warriors didn’t score on the first few possessions. It took them more than five minutes to reach 10 points. But it took nearly four minutes for Utah to score at all.
That included a Jazz shot clock violation before a Jazz point. After bleeding the clock under five seconds, lanky center Rudy Gobert found himself about six feet from the hoop, needing to make a play against Zaza Pachulia. But as he gathered for a hook, Green pounced, double-teaming a stunned Gobert and causing him to fumble it away.
There was a lot of that early for the Jazz. The change of defensive speed from the Clippers to the Warriors — particularly Green’s — seemed to throttle them. They missed their first five shots and turned it over three times, as Golden State crawled to a 7-0 lead.
“One of the things about Golden State is just how quick they think,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “Just mentally, they’re able to get, not just from possession to possession, but within a possession.”
The Jazz steadied a bit, adjusted and remained competitive for patches of the night. When Green left midway through the first quarter, they cut the lead to 27-21 by the start of the second.
But that’s when the Warriors planted maybe their most dominant spurt of the night. Green opened the second quarter by bolting back from a defensive assignment on the perimeter for a block of a Derrick Favors layup, already Green’s 18th block in five playoff games. It led to a David West layup on the other end.
Green fed West for a layup a minute later and then, the possession after, nailed a wing 3. The Blazers continually left Green open on the perimeter in Round 1 — a wise strategy considering the surrounding weapons and Green’s inaccuracy this season (under 33 percent). But he punished the Blazers, making 11 of his 20 3s and he again punctured a Jazz defense that deployed a similar strategy in Game 1, making two of five.
“Early on in the season, my shot didn’t feel good at all,” Green said. “Just really didn’t feel used to the ball. As the season’s gone on, I feel like I’ve got my rhythm back…Riding high on the confidence (right now).”
Green is now 13-of-25 from deep in the postseason. He finished with 17 points on the night, including a rumbling transition dunk just after that first 3, sprinting the Warriors up 14 early in the second quarter. He was the engine of their sturdy defensive start and the spark for their offensive separation. Green was a plus-19 in his 34 minutes.
From there, the Warriors mostly cruised, as their lead fluctuated from just under 10 to around 20 and settled at a non-dramatic 12. No one stole the show offensively. Steph Curry had 22 points on 11 shots — his night highlighted by a ridiculous crossover of Jazz behemoth Rudy Gobert, spinning him in a circle before hitting a reverse layup.
“I had the best seat in the house,” Mike Brown said. “And I didn’t even pay for it.”
Kevin Durant had 17. Klay Thompson had 15. Pachulia had 10. No one on the Jazz had more than 13. Game 2 is Thursday.
“Next game we need to come out with energy,” Kevin Durant said. “We can’t be relaxed. Relaxed teams, happy teams get beat.”