TORONTO (CBS SF) — It’s been months since the Toronto Raptors have squared off against the Golden State Warriors. So you can toss those game films out the window.
Kevin Durant scored 51 points against Toronto in a November overtime loss and then followed up with a 30-point performance in a December defeat. Durant will not be on the court Thursday night as he continues his recovery from an injured calf.
Steph Curry didn’t play in the November game and scored a season-low 10 points in the December defeat. He comes into Thursday night’s game playing some of the best basketball of the season, averaging 36.5 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists a game in the Western Conference Finals.
But the biggest change the Raptors face will be the play of Draymond Green. Green has shed 25 pounds and the burning anger that drove him to lash out at referees on every call leveled against him has disappeared.
“He’s been great, on and off the floor,” said head coach Steve Kerr of the post-season version of Green. “His leadership has been great. Yes, he lost some weight and got himself in much better condition over the last couple months. You can just see it, watching the two Toronto games on tape…He’s a different guy. He looks different. He’s slimmer and sleeker, faster.”
“I think that confidence has allowed him to be more poised on the floor,” Kerr continued. “When you are playing well and you are feeling good about yourself, it’s easier to maintain your emotions. So I think there was some frustration earlier in the year when he wasn’t playing as well. He’s such a compassionate, competitive guy.”
“Your seeing the best of Draymond right now. Great conditioning, unbelievably high level of play and very poised. To me, it all ties together.”
A few days ago, Green told reporters he’s the best defensive player ever to play in the NBA. The comment was a reflection of Green’s current attitude.
“As a competitor, if you are trying to do something meaningful, if you don’t have the mindset that you are the best ever, you have failed already,” said Green in defense of his comment. “That’s been my mindset since I can remember. That will be my mindset as long as I can remember anything — I am the best ever at what I do. Every day, I step onto a basketball court I will strive to get that…You don’t just mistakenly become great at something.”
Green has been called the emotional leader of the Warriors, it’s a label he wears with pride.
“With that title comes great responsibility,” he said. “When you are the emotional leader, the team feeds off that. If you don’t bring that, your team usually lacks in that area…We play, Steph’s got to score. Klay’s got to score. That’s their job. That’s the reality of it. I have to bring that emotion to the table. That’s my job…It’s a role where you don’t get nights off.”
When a reporter asked Green if he was peaking right now, it brought a chuckle to his face.
“I don’t know what that word means,” he said. “Peaking. I hope not. I hope I continue to play better and show signs of peaking.”