OAKLAND — Draymond Green has been suspended for Game 5 of The Finals, having accumulated four flagrant foul points over course of the postseason. This is a major blow to the Golden State Warriors’ hopes of closing out the series on Monday.
Green has been one of the league’s best defenders for a few years now. And he has also developed into one of the best pick-and-roll playmakers at power forward. He’s a huge part of what the Warriors do both offensively and defensively.
“You see every game what he brings,” Stephen Curry said Sunday, “the energy, the defensive presence. He’s a playmaker with the ball in his hands, and he’s a proven All-Star that’s done a lot for our team this year. So we’ll obviously miss his impact and the intangibles that he brings to the game.”
Here are some numbers to consider in anticipation of Game 5, which will certainly include some experimentation on the Warriors’ part.
The key to small ball
For the second straight year, Andre Iguodala has the best plus-minus in The Finals by a wide margin. Nobody is even close to Iguodala’s plus-116 over the two series.
But Iguodala benefits from most of his minutes coming in small-ball lineups, which have been much more effective for the Warriors. In this series, Iguodala has played only 43 (33 percent) of his 130 minutes with one of the Warriors’ four centers. He’s a plus-0 in those minutes and a plus-54 in his 87 minutes with small-ball lineups.
Green has played 67 (44 percent) of his 152 minutes with a center on the floor. He’s a minus-18 in those minutes and a plus-54 in 85 minutes with small-ball lineups. So, the plus-minus differential between the Warriors’ versatile forwards is simply about small ball vs. traditional lineups.
And while Iguodala is obviously taking on the biggest defensive load and making plays on offense, Green is absolutely essential to the Death Lineup and all its derivatives.
“He allows us to still have protection at the rim playing small,” Shaun Livingston said.
While the Warriors’ are a plus-54 with Green playing center in The Finals, they’ve been outscored by the Cavs in every other scenario.
In Game 5 on Monday, we’ll certainly see more minutes for the Warriors’ centers and more minutes of small-ball with either Harrison Barnes or James Michael McAdoo at center.
More needed from the centers
Andrew Bogut scored 10 points in Game 1 and had four early blocks in Game 2, but has the Warriors’ worst plus-minus in The Finals for the second straight year (minus-19 both times). He played just 10 minutes (his second lowest number in the postseason) in Game 4 on Friday.
Festus Ezeli, Anderson Varejao and Marreese Speights, meanwhile, have all rarely played that much.
If the Warriors are going to play more minutes with a center on the floor, they’re going to have to get something (from one or more of those four guys) that they haven’t been getting very often in this series.
“I need to step up,” Bogut said. “I didn’t play great last game but we got the win.”
Does small ball still apply?
If Steve Kerr is going to put his best five players (of this series) on the floor, it’s probably a lineup of Curry, Klay Thompson, Livingston, Iguodala and Barnes. But that’s an awfully small lineup that would struggle to rebound and those five guys have played less than three minutes together over the last two seasons. They last saw action together (16 seconds) in Game 5 against Portland.
McAdoo offers some of the versatility of Green in a long, athletic body. And maybe Kerr looks like a genius for getting the second-year player some Finals exposure in Game 4. But his lack of experience could be an issue in a larger role.
“We’re going to play a lot of people,” Kerr said on Sunday, “and we’ll give a lot of different looks and we’ll compete like crazy. And I think we’ll give ourselves a great chance to win.”