The Warriors have looked noticeably different without injured star forward Kevin Durant, and one reason for that could be the role that Draymond Green has taken on.
During an interview with ESPN, which will air Thursday, Green explained that his position “completely changes” when Durant isn’t on the court. Durant has been out of the lineup since straining his calf in Golden State’s Game 5 win over the Rockets in the second round. The Warriors went on to close out Houston in six games before sweeping the Trail Blazers in the Western Conference finals.
But how exactly has Green’s role changed? Green believes he has to become more of a “scoring threat” when Durant isn’t on the court.
“I really try to push the pace more when he’s not out there,” Green said. When Kevin’s out there, we all have the luxury of just saying, ‘OK, that set didn’t work, we still got this guy to just throw a ball into it and get out of the way.’ That luxury isn’t there anymore, and also I think with Kevin being out, we’re trying to make up 37 points again.
“We’re not going to make those 37 points again up just by walking the ball up the floor and thinking we’re going to have the same trust running the set as if Kevin is on the floor. So how do you make up those points? Get extra possessions, get the pace to where you want it to be, get some easy buckets. That’s how you make it up.”
Green has had one of his strongest playoff runs yet, averaging 13.6 points with 9.9 rebounds and 8.2 assists through 16 postseason games this year. The Warriors have won five consecutive games without Durant, but Green isn’t willing to admit Golden State is having more fun without Durant.
20 PTS | 13 REB | 12 AST
18 PTS | 14 REB | 11 AST
— NBA (@NBA) May 21, 2019
“I wouldn’t necessarily say more fun, but it’s just like anything in life,” Green said. “If you go into something with a little more uncertainty, when you come out of it, it feels a little better. Because you got over the doubt. Whatever doubt it was that you was facing, you got over that.
“When Kevin’s with us, I walk into the arena and I know how this game is gonna go. I know we’re gonna win and whatever else you wanna add in to that, I know already. When he’s not, I’m still extremely confident that we’re gonna win, I’m still extremely confident that we’re the best team walking in. But you gotta figure a little more out in order to win as opposed to when he out there. And so I think it gives you a little more joy initially when you finish that game.”
Entering Thursday’s Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Durant’s status for the series remains in question while he continues to recover from the injury. Coach Steve Kerr told reporters Wednesday that Durant hasn’t returned to practice yet and that his next step will be to start individual court work before he can practice with the team.
Game 1 of the NBA Finals between the Warriors and Raptors will tip off Thursday at 9 p.m. ET in Toronto.