From 2015 through 2019, the Golden State Warriors dominated the league with five NBA Finals appearances and three titles. With a future Hall of Fame core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and eventually Kevin Durant, the Warriors were a force to be reckoned with.
Just ask the Houston Rockets.
While many associate the Cleveland Cavaliers as Golden State’s most-notable rival in that five-year period, the Rockets matched up against the Warriors four times of their own. And for a brief window, it looked as if general manager Daryl Morey assembled a club capable of toppling the Warriors. However, Green recently explained how Morey’s constant talking provided Golden State all the motivation it needed to maintain its throne.
The Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets went head-to-head four times in five years
Before the Warriors battled for the Larry O’Brien Trophy, they had to go through an impressive gauntlet in the Western Conference. Often, that meant facing James Harden and the Rockets.
In 2015, the one-seed Warriors and two-seed Rockets met in the Western Conference Finals. Harden and company put up a fight, losing the first two games by a combined five points. But ultimately, Draymond and the rest of the elite Golden State squad advanced in five to play in its first NBA Finals since 1975. The following year, the 73-9 Warriors stormed past the eight-seed Rockets in a five-game opening-round series.
However, the Rockets were a different team in 2018. With Chris Paul now sharing a backcourt with Harden, Houston went 65-17 to secure the one-seed over Golden State. When the two foes met in the conference finals, the Rockets went up three games to two. But the Warriors came back to win in seven after CP3 suffered a hamstring injury in the final minute of Game 5.
A year after squandering their best chance to win, the four-seed Rockets took one last crack at the top-seeded Warriors. As expected, Golden State managed to eliminate Houston in six games. However, every game was decided by six or fewer points. Not to mention, Durant missed the series-clinching Game 6 after straining his calf the game prior.
Draymond Green blasts Daryl Morey for talking about the Warriors
After Houston’s first two playoff losses, Morey made it his mission to defeat the Warriors once and for all. In Dec. 2017, just a few months after acquiring Paul, Houston’s former GM told ESPN that beating Golden State was “the only thing we think about.”
On a recent episode of The Old Man and the Three, Green gave a tremendous amount of respect to Houston, particularly the team that came within one win of eliminating them in 2018. However, the former Defensive Player of the Year also said how Morey’s public obsession with Golden State ultimately did the Rockets in.
“I don’t think there was another team in the NBA that could’ve beaten [the Rockets]. … Where they made their biggest mistake was Daryl Morey coming out and saying, ‘This team is built to beat the Warriors.’ … What I would say, Daryl Morey, is that ‘Real G’s move in silence.’ They just kind of do what they do and they move in silence, Daryl.”Draymond Green
This isn’t the first time Draymond clapped back at Morey. Days after Golden State hoisted the trophy in 2017, Morey told Zach Lowe of ESPN, “They are not unbeatable. There have been bigger upsets in sports history.” Of course, that drew a response from the outspoken Green.
“What the f*** are you talking about?” Green said in a profile for GQ. “They are really trying to rethink their whole strategy because teams know they don’t have a f****** clue.”
Draymond also explained the Warriors’ on-court strategy for beating the Rockets
Morey has always seemed to motivate Draymond and the rest of the Warriors to a degree. But at the end of the day, they were going to have to still go out on the court and beat a Rockets team hungry for vengeance.
Green told Redick how Golden State handled the talented Rockets.
“If you go watch some games, they were up 15,20 in each game. But our game plan was to let James Harden do everything he’s going to do. We’re probably not going to stop him, but we’re going to stop everyone else,” the 10-year vet explained. “And then James is going to get tired because he’s dribbling the ball 32 times per possession. I don’t care how good of shape you’re in or who you are, that is taxing.”
“So our game plan was to let James do his thing. Even if we get down 15 points, we’ll be fine. Just gotta stay the course and we’ll come back and win. And every game that we won, they were up 15, 20 points. And we came back, walked ’em down. … We knew going into those games they couldn’t beat us.”
As it turns out, the Warriors’ assessment of their foe was spot on. Today, Green is a part of another championship-contending Golden State club while Morey is running the Philadelphia 76ers. Should those two teams meet in this year’s NBA Finals, don’t expect Draymond and Morey to exchange pleasantries.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.