SAN FRANCISCO — Draymond Green and Stephen Curry began their run for a dynasty on Wednesday, and they’re going to keep running until the end of this series, this postseason and this whole thing. Play until someone stops them or until time runs out. Run with frustration. Drive with purpose. Let’s run away and see who can stop them.
The Warriors ran into the Lakers in Game 5. They ran into the Lakers. They ran past the Lakers. They let the Lakers run with them. They’re going to go on a run in Game 6, and if they survive that, they’re going to go on a run some more in Game 7. And whoever stands at the finish line, proud and stunned, will survive this second-round series.
More specifically, Draymond, Curry, Andrew Wiggins, Carey Payton II and Jordan Poole turned Game 5 into a four-quarter sprint to stave off elimination from LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Lakers in a 121-106 win at Chase Center. . Of course, the Lakers still hold a 3-2 lead and can eliminate the Warriors on Friday in Los Angeles, where the Warriors lost Games 3 and 4.
But among the many effective strategic changes in Game 5, the Warriors’ clear and determined efforts to start every rebound and sprint seemed to have the greatest possible big-picture consequences. In fact, it could come down to which team still has a leg up in the later rounds of this title fight. And the Warriors want to give LeBron and Davis (if he’s OK after getting hit in the face and leaving the game early in the fourth quarter Wednesday) as much mileage as possible.
“We want to push their guys,” Steve Kerr told me after his news conference. “I’m sure they feel the same way. Last game they were putting Steph in all those pick and rolls, so they’re trying to wear Steph down. We’re trying to wear down Davis and LeBron. Long streak. So it’s a little scrimmage and we’ve got to keep pushing the tempo.
The official stats say the Warriors scored 13 fast break points. The Lakers scored 15 runs. But the pace of the Warriors’ play exceeded that total. When Draymond flew down the court at high speed, he not only forced Davis and LeBron to run, but also forced the Lakers into emergency defense.
“Push the tempo early because they’re a great defensive team,” Kerr said. “Any time we play a team that’s good in the half-court, you’re not going against a set defense, so you have to get out and run to create advantages. I thought guys set that tone in the first half. Draymond was pushing the ball like crazy, Steph, guys were running lanes. .
“Fast-break points never tell the story. Sometimes you push the ball forward, it creates a scrambling defense with cross-matches, and then you rotate the ball and somebody gets an open look. It might not be a fast-break bucket, but it’s a bucket as a result of speed.”
The Warriors can play faster with their new smaller starting lineup (first used in Game 4), which replaces Gary Payton II for Kevon Looney. Even though Payton isn’t an offensive creator, he adds speed by playing very good defense, which helps the Warriors avoid fouling the Lakers too much and stopping the game too often. And GP2 (an impressive plus-25 in 27 minutes) is an excellent rim-runner, can break the fast break (he scored 13 points) or drag a Laker player with him at top speed. the ground
The Warriors try to increase Davis’ workload in the half-court, pulling him on every Curry pick-and-roll and dragging him to the 3-point line. On Wednesday, that opened up lanes for Draymond drives (20 points Wednesday after combining for 27 points in the first four games of the series), Wiggins’ midrange game (25 points on 10-of-18 shooting) and a resurgent performance by Pit Pool, who made just 5 of his 14 shots. Did, but was in rhythm all game.
Did all that take away from the Lakers’ juice? In the second half, Davis scored just 5 points and was minus-8 in 12 minutes before he left the game. LeBron was great his entire game, but he played 39 more minutes in Game 5 after playing 43 in Game 4. The Warriors’ big guns are also playing heavy minutes, but the numbers are different for the big, brawny Lakers.
Either way, the Warriors are determined to continue their four-quarter streak. The continuation of this era probably depends on it. And four-time champions don’t die easily. That’s when they really start to run.
“Draymond, (Pool) when he’s out there, I think it’s mostly up to me to do it, push it,” Curry said. “But it’s important because they’re a big team, at times, with AD. He puts a lot of pressure on you on the offensive end. So try to create any advantage you can. That’s a big thing. Part of it is trying to keep them off the foul line as much as possible because that plays into the game. Slows down and gives them free points, and they set up their defense.
“So you want to get stops, but even if they score, our advantage in the series is our speed and I can push, Draymond can push, (Pool) can push, we’ve got guys who can run the lane. Transition, space the floor. So it’s hard to do that, But it helps us face what they do best.
The small-ball unit also has another effect: It has taken out the Lakers’ best perimeter defender, Jarrett Vanderbilt (only 11 minutes Wednesday), because the Warriors haven’t guarded him, which has completely baffled him. The Lakers offensive line. That puts Dennis Schroder in a bigger role, and the Warriors’ offense is just fine with it.
Additionally, the Warriors focused on trying to keep Curry out of the pick-and-roll in Game 5, something the Lakers zeroed in on in Game 4 to isolate Curry against LeBron and other scorers. On Wednesday, the Warriors battled screens instead of switching Wiggins, which kept Curry to his own man most of the time.
“We did a good job of that tonight,” Kerr said. “We’re not afraid of Steph changing the pick-and-roll because he’s so strong. He’s different than he was seven, eight years ago. But if we can avoid that, we might as well avoid that and not let them put him in the pick-and-roll over and over again. .
The Warriors certainly can’t pull it all off in LA on Friday. The Lakers will play well. The way Lonnie Walker IV put up 15 fourth-quarter points in Game 4 at Crypto.com Arena is more likely to get a role player to do something surprising at home than on the road. But the Warriors think they have something with GP2 in the starting lineup and have matched D’Angelo Russell. They know they can make a run at the Lakers. They didn’t know if they were going to win Game 6, but like they’ve done in so many playoff series before, the Warriors went for some solutions they wanted.
Hey, Curry and Klay avoided elimination without getting much outside shooting from Thompson. After an off shooting night for both in Game 4, neither got hot in Game 5. Curry was 3 of 11 from 3-point range on Wednesday and just 3 of 12 overall. Can they expect one or both of the Splash brothers to become adults soon?
“We’re still waiting for that game, which is a great sign,” Kerr said. “I thought we played well tonight, but not our best. We can do better. We can be sharper. But what I liked about tonight was that we didn’t make any mistakes. I think they shot 15 free throws, which was even. We shot all 15. And for the most part, we took care of the ball and we rebounded. And those keys were there. If we do those things, we can win whether we break it or not. But if we do those things, if we get a hot shooting night, we’re in a better position.
Warriors aren’t done yet. The result may or may not come soon. But you could see it in their eyes the way they attacked this game: The Warriors’ run wasn’t over because they weren’t. And the faster they go, the harder it will be for the Lakers to beat them for good.
(Photo: Theron W. Henderson/Getty Images)