MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green made his return Monday from his indefinite suspension but he wasn’t able to lift the Warriors past a depleted Memphis Grizzlies team, falling 116-107.
Green, whose absence spanned 16 games, came off the bench in the hopes of preserving some of the momentum the Warriors starting lineup had built over the past two games without him.
As Green checked in at 6:32 of the first quarter, boos from the Memphis crowd rained down on him. The crowd continued to heckle him each time he touched the ball.
Green finished with seven points on 2-of-4 shooting, including two 3-pointers, seven rebounds, four assists and one steal in 23 minutes.
“It was fun being back on the court,” Green said. “Getting the chance to play basketball, that’s always fun. It was a little weird going out of the tunnel to go shoot and do my pregame, but after that it just settled down.
“I think [the minutes] will go up pretty fast, but until it does I will try to be the best I can be in the minutes I have and bring a spark to this team.”
The Warriors were hopeful that with Green coming back, they would be able to build off the improved defensive habits they picked up during the first two games of their four-game road trip.
But it was the exact opposite. Golden State allowed Memphis to shoot 20-of-54 from 3 — the most 3-pointers the Warriors have given up this season — and go 32-of-40 from the free throw line.
The Warriors, meanwhile, hit just 10 3’s and went 9-of-10 from the stripe. That minus-30 free throw attempt difference is the second-worst in a game for the Warriors under Steve Kerr, according to ESPN’s Stats & Information research.
“[The defensive plan] falls off when it’s about having pride,” Green said. “You have to have pride in yourself as a man, that I’m not going to let a guy score. But our closeouts were too soft, and rotations were too slow, so there’s just no pride. Until every guy takes pride in themself and wants to stop the guy in front of them, we’ll suck.”
Without five of their top six players, the Grizzlies were playing with house money. And the Warriors knew that. It’s what they harped on during their pregame meetings. They knew every player in a Memphis uniform was going to be looking for their shot to stick it to the Warriors, so they needed to be prepared.
But they weren’t.
“Their game plan was pretty simple. Shoot as many 3s as possible and get into transition as often as possible,” Kerr said. “And then for us to foul 25 times to their 21, that’s really the story … they gained belief as they went. All of these guys are in the NBA. We tell them that before every game like this. These guys are in the NBA for a reason. They lit it up from 3. They knew they had to do that and we knew they had to do that. We didn’t play the game that could keep them from doing that.”
The lack of confidence that plagued the Warriors during their eight-game homestand last week crept back in. The team has been harping on how the lack of communication has been the biggest issue. Green doesn’t disagree but says it starts on a more individual level before spreading to a teamwide issue — which includes talking on defense.
“Individuals make up a team. Individually our defense sucks, so in turn our team defense sucks,” Green said. “If we got guys that will take pride in themselves and play defense, one through however many guys we have, then it is solvable. If guys won’t take pride in defense, then it’s not. It’s very simple.”
Wednesday night marks the Warriors’ 41st game, officially hitting the midway point.
No longer able to use the excuse of “it’s early,” the Warriors understand they aren’t in a position to wait their issues out. At the same time, Golden State has a belief that it does have time to work out its problems.
But how to do that remains the question. And as of right now, the Warriors don’t have the answer.