When a team erases a 31-point deficit (on the road, against the two-time defending champs, in the playoffs — seriously, this isn’t going to get old for awhile), it takes a combined effort, and the Clippers got contributions from up and down the roster to defeat the Golden State Warriors in Game 2 of their first-round series.
Robert went over the broad strokes of how LA got back into the game, and there’s plenty of credit to go around. Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell got LA’s offense back on track with an unending dose of pick-and-roll that the Warriors proved powerless to stop. Patrick Beverley goaded Kevin Durant into nine turnovers compared to eight field-goal attempts with his trademark brand of irritant defense, while Danilo Gallinari broke out of his offensive funk to drop 24 points. And rookies Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Landry Shamet filled in the gaps on both ends of the floor before combining for one of the biggest shots in Clippers history.
Even though he wasn’t in the closing lineup and only played 15 minutes due to foul trouble, JaMychal Green was instrumental in helping LA come back against Golden State. Green scored 12 points, grabbed 7 rebounds, and acted as a spark plug at the moment the Clippers faced their largest deficit.
With LA down 31 points, Green made a running dunk to get the comeback started. He then stole the ball on the ensuing possession, aided by Beverley stone-walling Durant. Williams was blocked on the jumper on the break, but Green got the rebound and fed the ball back to Lou, trimming the lead to 27 and forcing a Warriors timeout.
Green added seven more points in the period, running a high screen-and-roll with Williams throughout, and left the court with the deficit at 20 points. He tried to spell Harrell in the fourth quarter, but only managed another 48 seconds before fouling out. But he was able to demonstrate his primary value in this series.
When Green came over from the Memphis Grizzlies with Garrett Temple at the trade deadline, he slotted in as the backup power forward. He had only played 45 possessions at center in Memphis, per Cleaning the Glass, and added 56 more possessions at the five in Los Angeles. The Clippers have been really good in that limited sample, outscoring their opponents by 14 points per 100 possessions, but with Ivica Zubac and Harrell in tow, there hasn’t been much reason to play Green extensively at center.
In this series, though, Zubac hasn’t yet found a rhythm. He has been out of sorts on defense, and his recurring hand injuries have limited his effectiveness on offense. Unfortunately, there isn’t much time for Zubac to work his way into form, which means LA needs to find other options at center, and that has entailed going slightly smaller than normal with Green at the five.
Green doesn’t have the same rolling ability as Zubac or Harrell, and he definitely doesn’t power through defenders the way Trez does. However, he adds a different element as a floor spacer. When he sets a high screen for Williams, or whoever the ball-handler is, he’s more likely to pop, and Green has shot 42 percent from 3-point range as a Clipper. He hit four jumpers Monday, and the threat of his shot clears up the paint for Williams and the other guards to drive to the bucket. It’s not a coincidence that Lou had 17 points in the third quarter playing primarily alongside Green.
The former Grizzly is also skilled enough to operate out of the paint from the dunker spot, as he did on a couple of occasions in the second half, and he brought some needed energy on the glass. He may not have the flash of some of his more-heralded teammates, but Green is the type of player LA didn’t have on its roster prior to the trade deadline, and one who the Clippers need to match up against the Warriors. Playing him at the five will help LA get its best lineups on the floor as it looks to turn a historical comeback into a series-changing performance.