The Draymond Green Experience puts away Pelicans


SAN FRANCISCO — Volatility is not always a bad thing.

Five personal fouls, a technical foul, a flagrant foul, and a win. The last statistic is all the Golden State Warriors cared about after Tuesday night’s 120-109 victory against the New Orleans Pelicans. Draymond Green’s final line was packed by the end of an emotional roller coaster ride that kept the Warriors' hopes of avoiding the NBA Play-In tournament alive.

For the first 18 minutes of the game, the Warriors looked dead. The Pelicans finished the first quarter on a 16-2 run and led by as many as 20. Considering the stakes, it may have been Golden State’s worst half of the season.

Then Draymond Green found an opening to insert his emotion into the game.

With 3:45 remaining in the second quarter, Brandon Ingram drove to the basket. Green shouldered him to the ground. It wasn’t a dirty play but met the criteria for a flagrant foul. Ingram understandably took offense and went chest-to-chest with Draymond. The exterior result was a double-technical, but internally Green admitted after the game that dust-up gave him an “in.”

It was Green’s invitation to start chirping at the New Orleans bench and incite Chase Center’s crowd. It was also an invitation to play with more physicality. Twenty seconds later, Green barreled into Herb Jones, nearly earning a second technical after appearing to kick Jones on his way up from hitting the floor. It was a sequence that, combined with the Warriors lack of urgency, led the audience to believe the game was headed from bad to ugly.

Instead, it proved to be the Warriors point of ignition. Golden State outscored New Orleans 74-46 in the second half and Green was a game-high plus-26. “Draymond ‘willed’ us to victory tonight,” said Steve Kerr postgame. “He was mad at the world, our bench, me, and frankly, we all deserved it.” Green’s sheer will is a big reason why many cannot count out the Warriors as title contenders.

Kerr described Green in those situations as having “extreme energy” and his own team is not off-limits to it. At the 4:48 mark of the fourth quarter, Green picked up his fifth foul after being called for a charge. He vehemently disagreed, immediately asking the bench to challenge the call. Kerr turned and asked his coaching staff if the call was worth challenging. Kerr's staff said no, which incensed Green. After being taken out, Green berated the Warriors staff and wasn’t letting it go. It took Warriors President and general manager Bob Myers to calm Green down.

Tuesday night, Green walked the tightrope of volatility as tightly as he’s done all season, maybe his career. Green described his tactics, with an ear-to-ear grin, as “perfectly executed.” That might be up for debate. What is not is the result of the game. It’s a movie the Warriors have seen before; Green gets pissed off, he pisses off the opponent, the opponent gets more pissed after they lose their composure, and even more once they lose the game.

“We don’t ask anyone to be anything other than themselves,” said Stephen Curry, who was magnificent with 39 points. “That fire, it’s there. Until proven otherwise, we rely on that.” Whether you agree with Green’s antics, Golden State relies on that fire. They are not, and have never been, a championship team without Green. He can take opponents out of their rhythm and enjoys doing the dirty work as much as scoring a basket. That was evident against the Pelicans, taking just five shots. That's because he recorded 13 assists, six rebounds, and two steals.

Few are better than Green at playing well when emotions get ratcheted up. It’s why he’s defined by many as the “heartbeat” of Golden State’s dynasty. He fuels a competitive fire that’s burned brightly for a decade. That fire has, of course, spilled over in detrimental ways throughout Green’s career. The most notable example occurred before this season when he punched Jordan Poole. Green is the ultimate wild card and has become increasingly more unpredictable with age. What is predictable is his intensity.

Green will do everything to be the fuse, match, gasoline, and explosive for the Warriors. Kerr, as much as it may age him, trusts Draymond to toe the line between helpful and harmful. That trust is a key reason why the Warriors are four-time champions. Golden State’s win over New Orleans felt like a postseason atmosphere. There was trash talk, physicality, and intensity. At the center of the action, was Green. He always has been and always will be.

Towards the end of his presser, Kerr slipped in “they still got it” in reference to his championship core’s confidence and level of play. Who knows whether that will be enough to win a fifth title? What is certain, is that Draymond Green will be himself for the entire ride.

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