On any night, a different player is capable of altering the entire defensive philosiphy of their opponent.
And with Golden State’s exceptional ball movement, as the team dished out 28.9 assists per game — the highest any team has totaled in the past 20 years — someone is going to be the beneficiary of open shots.
During a 110-77 thrashing of Cleveland in Game 2, Draymond Green became the player the Cavaliers dared to beat them from beyond the arc.
The All-Star forward responded by connecting on 5-of-8 attempts from 3-point range, his second highest mark of the 2016 playoffs, as part of a 28 point, seven rebound, five assist, one steal performance.
Just as his teammates Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry have all season, with Golden State connecting over 13 times a night from 3-point range, Green was uninhibited with his attempts, with distance not serving as an obstacle.
Each of his five conversions came from at least 25 feet away from the rim, including a shot from 27 feet out in the second quarter, when Golden State began to take control of the contest.
“It’s just a matter of whether I’m going to knock the shot or make or miss the shot. It’s a rhythm shot,” Green said. “My teammates trust me to take those shots. They find me, and, like I said, it’s up to me to knock them down.”
For the second consecutive season, Curry set the record for most conversions from 3-point range in a single year, as he sank 402 shots from beyond the arc.
Golden State became the first team to ever bury more than 1,000 shots from 3-point range in a single season, hitting 1,077. Curry and Thompson accounted for 62.9 percent of the total made shots from downtown by the team.
Through two games of the 2016 NBA Finals, Green has been the most reliable long range shooter on the team, matching Curry’s team-high output with seven made 3-pointers, but connecting on 50 percent of his attempts.
Curry has shot 44 percent from beyond the arc.
The Cavaliers continuously rotated defenders towards Curry and Thompson any time they had the ball on the perimeter, allowing Green to step back and receive numerous uncontested looks.
“The way they’re playing defense against our guards, Draymond’s going to be open all day,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “So he’s a good 3-point shooter. We like it when he gets that shot in rhythm, and he knocked them down tonight.”
A year ago, when the Warriors defeated Cleveland 4-2 in the NBA Finals, the team had no solution for Green as he averaged 13 points, 8.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 2.2 steals and 1.2 blocks per game.
This season, his impact has extended even further, as he has tallied 22 points, 9.0 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 2.5 steals per game.
There is little question he has emerged as the spark for Golden State on both ends of the floor and the Cavaliers are going to have an even more difficult time trying to slow him down, as the status of Kevin Love for Wednesday’s Game 3, and for the rest of the series, is uncertain.
Midway through the second quarter, Love was inadvertently elbowed in the head by Harrison Barnes as the two battled for a rebound.
Love was attended to by the Cavaliers medical staff and cleared to return to the floor.
The three-time All-Star spent a majority of the remainder of the first half on the floor, even connecting on a 3-pointer from the corner preventing the game from turning into a route prior to halftime.
Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue indicated Love showed no ill effects from the collision with Barnes and began the third quarter with him in the lineup.
Only Love didn’t last too long, Love appeared dazed during a defensive possession and took himself out of the game just two minutes and six seconds into the frame.
Love was cleared to travel with the team back to Cleveland, but there is no guarantee he will play Wednesday night.
If he is unable to join the team on the court, it would be a huge blow for a team struggling to score the ball.
The Warriors defense has been simply overwhelming during the first two games of the series, limiting Cleveland to just 83 points on 36.8 percent shooting from the field.
Even though the defensive effort has been exceptional, Green feels the team has yet to accomplish anything in the series.
“Only thing we did tonight was defend home-court. We didn’t do anything special,” Green said. “To hold this team to 77 points, that’s a very good ball club, that’s not something that’s easy to do. But we really locked in.”