The Golden State Warriors have struggled to find their footing over the last few weeks, as they went 1-5 out of the All-Star break and let the Memphis Grizzlies jump them in the standings to take over the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. Along the way, Stephen Curry has struggled to find consistency as a shooter.
But in Draymond Green’s long-awaited return to the court on Monday night, Curry exploded for 47 points on his 34th birthday as the Dubs cruised to a 14-point victory against the Washington Wizards.
That’s no coincidence.
Warriors roll in Draymond Green’s return
Green missed the last two and a half months due to calf and back injuries, and his presence was sorely missed in the Bay Area. Since he played his last game, the Warriors have slipped from No. 1 in the NBA in points allowed per game to No. 5, and Curry hasn’t looked like the MVP candidate he was in the first few months of the season.
But it didn’t take long for Green to prove his importance to this team.
In his first game back in the lineup, Green finished with six points, seven rebounds, six assists, and one steal in a 126-112 win over the Wizards. The veteran played just 20 minutes off the bench, but he still finished with the best plus-minus in the game at +24.
The raw stats have never told the full story of Green’s impact on the court, though. Just ask Steph Curry.
The perfect birthday present for Stephen Curry
Curry has put up some clunkers over the last few months without his Green beside him on the floor, and he couldn’t have been happier to have his running mate finally back in action.
Thanks in large part to Green’s presence on the offensive end, Curry drained seven threes in a 47-point explosion on his 34th birthday. He scored 41 of those points and shot 13-of-16 from the field (7-of-9 from three) in the 15 minutes he played with Green. He only scored six points on 2-of-9 shooting in 20 non-Green minutes.
“It changed for Steph right away, as soon as Draymond got out there,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said after the game. “The chessboard changes with Draymond out there. With Steph, everything looks and feels a little bit different.”
No one knows how to optimize Curry’s game better than Green. It’s not just his passing, either. Green expertly patrols the offense to create open looks and executes screens better than maybe anyone in the NBA. If you ask Curry, no one has been more integral in his journey to become the greatest three-point shooter in NBA history than Green.
And now that the two are finally back on the court together, Golden State is a title contender once again.
Happy birthday, indeed.
Warriors back in the championship conversation
Without Green, the Warriors probably don’t stand a chance at making a run to the NBA Finals. He’s just too important to their success on both ends of the court.
But now that the gang’s back together, this is a team that simply cannot be overlooked. They’ve done it before (three times, in fact), and the last time Curry, Green, and Klay Thompson were all healthy at the same time, the Warriors were in the NBA Finals.
With Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody getting some much-needed reps over the last few months and the bench shaping up to be one of the deepest in the NBA, watch out for Golden State.
The Warriors have slipped to the No. 3 seed in the West recently, but Green doesn’t care about any of that. He saw enough last night to make this bold proclamation:
“Obviously, the 2 seed would be great, but we’re not chasing it,” he said after the game. “…Whether we’re the 2 seed or 3 seed, we’re gonna win a championship.”