Before Stephen Curry dazzled us with the best overtime performance of all time, the Golden State Warriors were down by 12 points early in the third quarter against the Portland Trail Blazers. They needed a jolt to avoid a tied series.
Luckily for them, Draymond Green, as he is wont to do, ignited the Warriors on both ends of the floor. Green was hard on his own defensive effort after the Warriors were shredded for 120 points in the Game 3 defeat. He even guaranteed a victory in Game 4. Those words seemed to fall on deaf ears in the first half, until Green took it upon himself to turn the tide.
Green finished the game with a crazy stat line of 21 points, nine rebounds, seven blocks, five assists and four steals. The 11 combined blocks and steals is tied for third-most all-time in a playoff game, with only Hakeem Olajuwon and Allen Iverson ever registering more, per StatMuse. Four of those blocks came in the third quarter alone, including two where Green flew into the picture to erase a Blazers highlight.
On the first of the four third-quarter blocks, Green smartly sagged off Mason Plumlee in order to help Andrew Bogut, who was beat off the dribble by Maurice Harkless:
On this next play, Green rotated over and stoned a Damian Lillard dunk attempt at the rim after Lillard split Bogut and Klay Thompson in the pick-and-roll. His effort completely swung a galvanizing highlight from one team to the other:
Moments later, Green again provided strong help when it looked like a Blazer was going to throw down a hammer slam. This block allowed the Warriors to turn defense into offense on the other end:
Green may be undersized, but he's still an effective rim protector thanks to his length, strength and intelligence. He knows where he should be and typically does a good job of contesting shots without fouling, which he did in this third quarter superbly given he had three fouls going into the frame.
Now, Green wasn't the Defensive Player of the Year runner-up for the second year in a row just because he can defend near the basket. He's also adept at stepping out on the perimeter, as evidenced by this sequence against Lillard:
Green sucked the life out of Lillard on that play like an anaconda. He twice cut off driving angles, forcing the point guard to give up the ball. Better yet, Green continued his hounding defense, tracking Lillard all over the court before jumping in Lillard's face on a bricked three-pointer.
In the overtime period, Green flashed his lightning-quick hands as Lillard came around a screen to force a turnover that turned into a Curry layup on the other end:
The Warriors did a nice job making Lillard and C.J. McCollum work for their points. The Blazers' dynamic duo scored 33 points in the first half, but combined for a goose egg in the third quarter. While they hit some huge shots in clutch moments in the fourth quarter, they were usually a result of difficult attempts or broken plays that resulted in a good look out of chaos. All in all, they combined to shoot 18-of-53 from the field.
Along with Green, Thompson and Andre Iguodala deserve the lion's share of the credit for the harassing defense on the Blazers' star backcourt. It's a luxury that the Warriors can throw those two players on elite guards and give Curry a "break" so he can focus more on his amazing offensive exploits.
Indeed, this really was a team effort. Curry made it rain in overtime, but Golden State's Chameleon-like ability to adapt their defense to any enemy also saved them. They have a plethora of wings who can guard a number of positions, two stout defensive centers and a Swiss Army Knife in Green that defies positions and can do whatever's necessary to win.
The Warriors' defense took a slight step back overall this year and has shown a few leaks this series, but when Green has it rolling and they're all engaged, Golden State can shut down anyone. That group played as large a role as Curry himself in securing a Game 4 victory that effectively ended Portland's season.