Klay Thompson and Draymond Green put Golden State Warriors’ brains to work

When the Golden State Warriors were playing 'not intelligently enough' in Game 2, Klay Thompson locked down Damian Lillard and started finding his rhythm.

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Throughout the NBA play-offs, The National's resident NBA dudes Jonathan Raymond and Kevin Jeffers will be breaking down the key talking points of the night before, plus looking around the scope of the league. Here are our NBA Play-off takeaways.

Tuesday scores

Golden State Warriors 110, Portland Trail Blazers 99 (Warriors lead 2-0)

Miami Heat 102, Toronto Raptors 96 OT (Heat lead 1-0)

• Related: Space Jam 2, Thunder-Spurs – Listen to the podcast | Full play-offs coverage

Playing intelligently

Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry are compared quite a lot, being that they’re connected through everything from their backcourt pairing to their three-point prowess to marketing slogans (“Splash Brothers”).

But it’s not really all that apt a comparison.

Curry is brilliant on the ball, in his spatial intelligence, in his court vision and in his mastery of movement in ways that Thompson simply is not. In ways he could not reasonably expected to be, that no one is.

But conversely, though not nearly to the same degree, Thompson has the size and length to be the kind of man-defender Curry can’t be. The MVP is a great team defender. He has made huge strides since he first came into the league as a defensive liability in his positioning, his opportunism and even in significantly increasing his strength in recent years. But he still tops out as only a minor net-positive as an individual defender, and in a particularly difficult assignment, Curry can be exposed defensively.

Like, say, against Damian Lillard.

Lillard torched the Warriors for 51 in February, when Portland humiliated Golden State 137-105. Lillard, one of the game’s great feeders on the moment, seemed headed that way for three quarters in Game 2. He had 25 points on almost 50 per cent shooting, including going 6-of-9 from three. He put his team up 11 heading into the fourth with a triple.

The Warriors, looking as rattled as they have these entire play-offs, flipped that margin on its head.

Lillard, a notorious fourth-quarter assassin, did not score again. He finished with 25 points, a limp fourth-quarter 0-for-3 his contribution to a deflating Blazers collapse.

Thompson deserves a lot of credit. He shared duties on Lillard in the fourth in stretches, but it was his ball denial, doggedly going through screens and tailing Lillard as tightly as possible, that effectively took the Portland point guard out of the game early in the frame.

Thompson also hit his stride offensively, scoring 10 points and hitting a couple of composed, clutch threes after three disjointed quarters in which he shot just 5-of-17.

“How have you responded?” coach Steve Kerr was asked as his Warriors began the fourth quarter in a TNT broadcast interview.

“Not intelligently enough.”

It was searing, the way he said it. A cool exterior thinly masking disgust.

Thompson seemed to imply it was in part directed at him in his own post-game interview, saying “that’s on me” and critiquing his shot selection.

He noted the real key component of the Golden State comeback, though.

“I’m just so happy with the way we responded, locked in on the defensive end and made it tough on them for the rest of the fourth quarter.”

There always seems to be a debate coursing around Thompson – how great is he, really? Is he a decent two-way wing who looks better playing next to Curry and Draymond Green, or is he a star in his own right?

With his team up against it in Game 2, in danger of throwing away homecourt advantage against a tough opponent, no Curry to bail them out, Thompson certainly stepped up like a star.

Basketball linebacker

Draymond Green is a bit like the Stephen Curry of defence. So multi-skilled, seemingly everywhere all the time, capable of beating you in so many ways.

The Warriors won on Tuesday night not because they suddenly became offensive juggernauts again (although they did score 34 in the final frame thanks to Thompson hitting his stride and Festus Ezeli hitting some key buckets) but because they completely snuffed out the Blazers’ attack. What had been a clicking, shot-sinking Portland offensive unit devolved into a turnover-committing, indecisive mess under Golden State’s pressure.

While Thompson handled Lillard, it was Green who shouldered the rest of the load.

With Golden State down three, in the space of eight Portland trips on offence he forced a change of possession four times, either through causing a turnover, taking a charge or blocking a shot. By the end of that sequence, which lasted from the seven minute mark to about 3:30 left, the Warriors had swung it to a three-point lead. Portland would only score four more points the rest of the way.

That stretch was the defensive equivalent of Curry going down the court on three or four consecutive trips and hitting a couple threes, driving to the rim for a lay-up and hitting a teammate for an assist. The kind of decisive swing Curry initiates with creativity, Green submits through denial.

So often, Green is the central nervous system of the Warriors’ defence. He’s like a linebacker in that way, captaining things, signalling cues to his teammates, commanding the middle so that extra ground might be covered further from the rim.

If Thompson was the MVP of the night for his late work on Lillard, Green’s all-purpose dominance of the middle ensured no one else on the Blazers burned them.


You storm back in the fourth quarter from down 10. You hit one of the ugliest, most miraculous half-court game-tying threes in basketball history to force overtime.

You win. That’s how the story’s supposed to go.

But these are the Toronto Raptors, so no, the story did not go like that.

The real scary part for the Raps in their Game 1 loss to the Miami Heat is not that they wasted Kyle Lowry's reality-defying buzzer-beater, nor that they blew the series opener at home, but how much worse they looked than the Heat – and now they're 1-0 down and blew a home game.

If not for that late Miami collapse (and, to be fair to Toronto’s chances, Miami do seem pretty inexcusably prone to these sorts of lapses), the Raptors would have deservedly lost. Goran Dragic and Dwyane Wade were better than anyone they had on the floor.

This doesn’t spell the end for Toronto, not by any means, but they desperately need Lowry and DeMar DeRozan – who both had nice moments but bad games – to arrive for the post-season already. Their leading pair on offence slogged through a muddled first round series with Indiana that nearly finished Toronto’s season. Their ineffectiveness in this Game 1 (12-for-35 combined shooting) has the Raptors in another hole.

The Heat are plagued by plenty of their own frustrations, highlighted in their building and blowing of that fourth-quarter lead. They looked (and are) much better than Charlotte in the first round, and they managed to let that reach seven games.

Maybe this will be another race-to-the-bottom kind of series for both these clubs. Or maybe either, both stuffed with talent, will start to finally iron out the kinks.

If Toronto do not get it going, though, Lowry’s game-saver-that-wasn’t will prove grimly poignant.

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