OAKLAND — Within four seconds, Warriors forward Draymond Green defended an opponent in the post, at the basket and out on the perimeter.
That second-quarter snapshot explains how Green’s presence lifted the Warriors to a 116-99 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday at Oracle Arena.
“Draymond really set the tone,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “I’m not sure if I saw Draymond play better since I’ve been here than what he’s doing right now.”
That sequence also captures what has made Green such a unique defender through his seven-year NBA career. He cut off Minnesota guard Tyus Jones from driving into the lane for an open layup. Once Warriors forward Jonas Jerebko doubled in the paint, Jones then kicked the ball out to Anthony Tolliver for an open 3-pointer. That shot no longer remained open because Green immediately jumped to the perimeter to contest.
How does Green do it?
“One of my strengths is my basketball IQ,” Green said. “So I can see some things happen before they happen. That helps me get a step ahead.”
So in a game that the Warriors slogged through, relatively speaking, with a sputtering offense, Green jump-started their engine with some good old-fashioned defense. The Timberwolves (4-5) held a 87-83 lead with only one turnover entering the fourth quarter. After that, though, Minnesota scored 12 fourth-quarter points and shot a combined 5-of-23 from the field and 1-of-11 from beyond the arc.
Most of those numbers traced back to Green, whom Kerr lauded for having “a brilliant basketball mind, defensively.” Green led the Warriors in denying Minnesota the open back-door cuts and open shots it had earlier in the game.
“Just the decision-making and poise and ability to play through adversity,” Kerr said. “He knows how much we need him. He’s lifting everybody else up. It’s been really fun to watch him play.”
It was also fun for Green to hear Kerr’s compliments.
“It means a lot,” Green said. “That’s obviously something I pride myself on, in trying to be a guy that brings a lot to this team in different facets of the game.”
Green has brought those different facets lately, sharing anytime he can that he wants to win the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year award. He dropped to the NBA’s All-Defensive Second Team last year because of inconsistent performances and overlapping injuries to his right shoulder, knees and right elbow. Against Minnesota? Different story.
“These days you have to cover so much court with all the 3-point shooting,” Kerr said. “Draymond has the ability to run out and challenge a 3, and also guard the post and scramble for everything in between. He’s just got a great mind for it and the athleticism and strength to match it.”