After winning an NBA Championship last season, Draymond Green signed a new contract, and set new goals for himself for the title defense campaign: become even better defensively, develop into even more of a versatile scoring threat for Golden State’s offense, be elected an NBA All Star.
Friday on Christmas day, Green put an exclamation point on his efforts for those who still doubt him, or the success of the Warriors. He scored 22 points, lifted 15 rebounds, and dished out seven assists in Golden State’s NBA Finals rematch with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. It was a welcomed performance from his teammates—MVP Steph Curry had a relatively quiet game, he scored just 19 points and was 1-of-4 from 3-point territory. Curry also had to exit the game briefly to have attention paid to a present calf injury.
”It’s good to have one of those every so often,” Curry said after the game. ”If our defense shows up, we’re in pretty good shape to win games. We just show our versatility and try to win different ways.”
Green was a heavy part of that defense; he recorded two blocks in the game, and the Warriors were a +15 when he was on the court. Golden State held the Cavaliers to 31.6 percent shooting overall, and 16.7 percent from beyond the arc. While the Warriors defensive efforts in the game were of the highest caliber, their offensive play could possibly have been one of the sloppiest we’ve seen all season. Golden State themselves shot 41 percent overall, 27.8 percent from downtown and had 16 turnovers in the game.
It was the first time the Warriors were held under 100 points in a regular season home game in over a year. For many of the Warriors, it was their first time experiencing the NBA Christmas tradition, but not for interim head coach Luke Walton—this was his fifth holiday game, his previous four came as a player.
“It’s good to practice and get experience in that type of game as well where it’s low scoring, getting stops, knocking down free throws and executing in the half court,” Walton said. “It’s great experience for us.”
LeBron James scored 25 points for the Cavaliers, who entered the game winners of their past six. The most significant difference between this game and the series the two teams played last June was available players—Friday, the Cavs sent a healthy squad of James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love to the court.
Love went 5-for-16 on his way to 10 points in the game, while Irving had a performance he’ll certainly soon like to forget, missing 11 of 15 shots in the game, and scoring just 13 points.
“We gave ourselves a chance,” James said. “If we play like that defensively, we’re going to be a very tough team to beat. Offensively, we just didn’t have it. No one had it.”
After the game, center Andrew Bogut, who scored four points but was a +10 on the court, commented after the game how Golden State is just happy to be winning, and how they’d like to keep it that way. He also shared a few words on why the game might have been viewed as a revenge match for Cleveland, but not for Golden State.
“We just want to keep winning,” Bogut said. “That kind of (chatter) is, I think, for their mental psyche more than it is ours. Obviously (the Cavs were) trying to pump themselves up. There are other reasons why a guy like LeBron (James) would come out and say that (sort of thing). It isn’t so much a shot at us, it’s probably trying to instill confidence in his guys.”
The Warriors will enjoy the rest of the holiday weekend, and prepare for a Monday night matchup against the Sacramento Kings on the road.
David Barclay is a Bay Area sports insider for byteclay.com. E-mail: email@example.com Twitter: @DJamesIII