Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green has been named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team for the past two seasons and made a strong case to win the Defensive Player of the Year award this season.
He can guard any position on the floor and is often tasked with slowing down the opposing team's best player, allowing teammates like Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson to focus on offense.
During Tuesday's Game 1 Western Conference semifinal victory over the Utah Jazz, Green again took the pressure off his star teammates, making up for a pair of turnovers from the Splash Brothers.
As you can see in the video below, Green was twice caught off guard by quick turnovers from Curry and Thompson after inbounding the ball. Forced to take on two Jazz players in fast-break situations, Green holds his own, recording two impressive blocks to prevent Utah points:
Green finished the Warriors' 106-94 win with 17 points, eight rebounds, six assists, two steals and the two above blocks to help lead Golden State. He also played a game-high 34 minutes for the Warriors in Game 1.
Golden State outscored Utah 29-6 in fast-break points, thanks in large part to Green's defensive efforts. After the game, Curry told ESPN.com that the Warriors' strong defense allowed the offense time to find its rhythm:
"We weren't clicking with making shots early on, but our defense just really gave us an opportunity to kind of find that [running] flow," Curry said. "And that's what you need in the playoffs to really assert yourself and get the momentum on your side."
In five playoff games this year, Green has recorded an incredible 19 blocks, including an impressive six swats in Game 3 of the Warriors' first-round series against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Kevin Durant, who matched Green with 17 points and also added five rebounds and five assists, benefitted from one of Green's blocks by converting it to an easy dunk on the other end of the floor. He said after the game that the Warriors are at their best when their defense creates offensive opportunities:
"It all starts with the defensive side of the ball," said Durant. "You get stops and rebound, you can run out. But if we're taking the ball out every time, it's hard for us to get into a rhythm in a transition game. So just getting stops."
With Game 2 coming up on Thursday night in Oakland, the Jazz will need to capitalize on Golden State turnovers at a higher rate than they did in Game 1. However, with Green patrolling the defensive end of the floor for the Warriors, that will be easier said than done for coach Quin Snyder's crew.