OAKLAND, Calif. -- Before the game, Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers handicapped the Defensive Player of the Year field by saying, "I just believe that [DeAndre Jordan's] No. 1. I don't think there's a No. 2."
When asked specifically about Golden State's candidate, he said, "I mean, Draymond Green's great. I love his energy. He's phenomenal, but DJ's the best defensive player."
What followed wasn't the best showcase for Jordan's DPOY candidacy. It was, however, an excellent showcase for Green's. The Warriors power forward did his typical Swiss Army knife routine of switching onto everyone, but this performance featured another wrinkle: He guarded Jordan too.
He did it despite the 8.5-inch gap in standing reach between the two and despite Jordan's 35-pound advantage. Green ceded a tap-in to Jordan, but nothing more, with Jordan finishing with six points on two shots.
"Stay into his body, stay into his legs," Green said when asked how he prevented the hulking big man from getting to the rim. "There were a few times when there were rebounds just bouncing to the floor. I can't go get them because you can't take a body off him. So my job was just to keep him off the board, and then one of our other guys come get the rebound."
That wasn't the only way Green stymied the feared Jordan's rim-run. Kerr explained why going small counterintuitively thwarted the big man.
"One of the reasons we went small was to take away the lob," Kerr said. "Draymond is able to switch out onto [Chris] Paul, and then we can keep a defender underneath DeAndre and not let him get that rim run."
This is the crux of Draymond's DPOY case: He's versatile enough to apply defensive pressure to point guards and centers alike. The award typically goes to a center who blocks many shots -- one of the few tangible measures of defensive impact. Green might interrupt that tradition as the fulcrum of the season's top-ranked defense and someone who's played more minutes than any player ahead of him in Defensive Real Plus-Minus.
The Warriors strangle opponents with frequent switching, and Green is the player who switches the most. He both symbolizes and fuels the swarm of wing-sized blitzers.
For all his great defensive moments, Green couldn't defend against something that happened after the buzzer. During Green's ABC postgame interview, Clippers guard Dahntay Jones bumped him while walking past. The incident displeased Green but also allowed him to take stock of how far he's come.
"When you don't play, that's probably his role on that team," Green said of Jones. "I've had that role once before, in my career, a couple years ago. But I can't afford to feed into that."
The implication is Green was once on Jones' level, but not anymore -- not as the Warriors prepare to offer him his second contract. He's come a long way, from a second-round pick making the NBA version of peasant wages to the third piece in Golden State's young "Big Three."
It should be noted the other two in Golden State's Big Three were pretty good Sunday as well. Klay Thompson got on line with his shot and missed only four attempts on his way to 21 points. Stephen Curry scored only 12 points, but his influence was far larger than the box score would say. The Clippers decided to constantly double-team Curry after he crossed half court, a tactic that creates a 4-on-3 advantage for the offense. With 40 percent of the defense stuck to Curry, the Warriors were free to casually move the ball for wide open shots. Not since Spike Lee inflamed a Reggie Miller fusillade has a spectator had such a massive impact on a game.
Although removed from much of the action, Curry did deliver a signature moment -- a step-back 3-pointer after a weave through three Clippers defenders. It was a reminder that Curry has the ability to make plays even when surrounded. This just happened to be a game in which passing was usually the most efficient option.
Perhaps the Clippers would have conceded less strategically if they had a power forward who could switch out onto point guards. That particular player suits up for the Warriors, though. With the way he's playing, he's increasingly likely to keep playing in the Bay Area beyond this summer.
Green is too valuable for the Warriors to just let him walk.