Draymond Green has had a few selfish moments this season, and he had another one on Saturday night in Memphis.
Green more than anyone else on the team has expressed his personal desire to vigorously pursue the single-season wins record, and that objective was in serious jeopardy as the Warriors entered the fourth quarter trailing the Grizzlies 78-70.
So Green gathered his teammates and had a few words, basically imposing upon them his personal ambition – which just so happens be in sync with the majority of the team. Following Green’s lead, the Warriors came back for a 100-99 victory that keeps alive their quest for 73 wins.
Green’s message amounted a plea to follow his example.
“Just play hard. Just compete,” he told reporters at FedEx Forum. “Playing with an edge, it’s not necessarily about the record. It’s about having pride in yourself. Don’t go out just moseying around and they are out here manhandling us.
“It’s about going out there with heart and having pride and taking pride in who you are. It’s a blessing and an honor to step on this court every game so don’t come out here and take it for granted. I don’t believe in taking this game for granted.”
Green was good all night but he found another level in the fourth quarter. He entered with 6:20 remaining and used that time to deliver seven points (on 3-of-3 shooting), three rebounds and one assist. That he was plus-11 for the quarter was no more his offense than his stellar defense on Zach Randolph.
All that – and a tip-in off a Steph Curry miss with one minute that provided the winning points. The tip initially was ruled basket interference before being overturned on video replay.
Yeah, Green was willing to leave a bit of himself on the floor to get this win, which puts the Warriors at 71-9. One more win ties the all-time best of 72 wins, set 20 seasons ago by the Chicago Bulls.
Two more wins will break the record and allows the Warriors to plant another flag on the landscape of NBA history.
“He’s been more outspoken about this record than anybody,” coach Steve Kerr said. “He wants it more than anybody, I think . . . he gathered the troops there at the beginning of the fourth and we competed a lot harder.”
Green played 35 minutes, finishing with team-highs in points (23), rebounds (11) and blocked shots (three). He added four assists. He was, more than any other individual, the reason why the Warriors overcome 10-of-36 3-point shooting, including 5-of-24 from Klay Thompson and Curry.
“He’s a big reason why we play with such great intensity,” Thompson said of Green. “He’s the heart and soul of this team. If he were quiet and reserved, he wouldn’t be the player that he is. That’s what makes him go and that’s what gives him his edge. So, it’s great to have him on your team. I would hate to play against him.”
Green’s energy not only inspired his teammates but also validated Kerr’s decision to send him and Curry back into a game in which the Warriors were trailing by 10 (90-80) halfway through the final quarter.
Although Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes and Curry all hit key 3-pointers inside the final minutes, Green excelled in the role of catalyst on both ends of the floor.
“Draymond’s defense on Zach was tremendous down the stretch,” Kerr said. “We didn’t move the ball like we normally do. We didn’t make a lot of threes. We took a lot of them. We made some big plays down the stretch. Harrison hit a huge one and Andre as well. All in all, a good night, even though we didn’t play particularly well.”
To be sure, the Grizzlies had no business keeping up with the Warriors, much less going up 10 in the fourth. An awful spate of injuries has Memphis (42-37) surrounding Randolph with ageless Vince Carter (he’s 39) and misfit puzzle pieces collected from various dustbins in the NBA and the D-League.
And they had the upper hand, until intruded upon by Green and his lust for history.
“I love basketball and I’ve always said from day one, when people ask me when you’re done or when you’re gone what do you want people to remember you as, “Green said, “I want people to remember me as a winner. I’ve always said that. To have an all-time wins record, that speaks for itself.”
It’s still available, thanks largely to the man for whom it means so much.