The Golden State Warriors were effectively playing for their lives on Friday night. Going into Game 4 in Boston down 2-1 to the Celtics, Golden State needed a victory or they risked needing to win three games in a row against a team that has not yet lost even twice in a row during this postseason. For the first three and a half quarters, Stephen Curry was electric but wasn't getting much help from his compatriots and it looked like the Dubs would go back home in a huge hole.
Then Steve Kerr did something brilliant and reminded everybody he's not just benefitted from coaching the greatest shooter ever. He's a great coach in his own right, too. And he showed it by benching Draymond Green when it mattered most.
In the fourth quarter, the Warriors were down by four with seven and a half minutes to play. The season was on the line. Benching Green seemed unconscionable. Yes, he continued to struggle offensively and his lack of verticality was an issue on the boards, but it's still Draymond Green we're talking about here. His otherworldly basketball IQ changes the game defensively and he's used as the hub of the Warriors' motion offense. When everything mattered most, wouldn't Kerr lean on all of his championship-tested veterans as much as he possibly could?
Well, he didn't. He benched Green in favor of Kevon Looney and had Curry surrounded by Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, and Jordan Poole. Kerr made the bet that Curry would be able to get whatever he wanted offensively since the Celtics couldn't help off anybody other than Looney and that Looney's presence around the rim would make up for the relative lack of perimeter defense featured in that lineup. It was a good bet because it worked. From that point, the Warriors went on a 21-7 run to win the game and tie up the Finals.
Green admittedly didn't disappear throughout that stretch. Kerr put him back in for key defensive possessions and the timeouts he had remaining coupled with a few timely fouls allowed him to pull Green for offensive possessions. And the Celtics certainly didn't do themselves any favors, refusing to penetrate with Green not on the floor and instead chucking from deep. If Boston put their heads down and got into the paint, there is a very real chance this conversation has a much different tone.
But they didn't. Fortune favors the bold and every championship team needs a bit of luck to emerge victorious. With the Finals hanging in the balance, Kerr put all his chips on the table and told Curry to go win the game without the crucial third wheel of their three previous titles. He did it, and Kerr looks like a genius 12 hours later.