Draymond Green  [600x400]
Draymond Green [600x400] (Credit: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Embiid Sixers in 2-0 hole are going to win this

SAN FRANCISCO -- Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green started to move toward Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving as he began to dance his way to the hoop. But Green knew not to commit to Irving.

Green wanted to keep himself in position if Irving gave the ball to a teammate. As soon as Irving passed to Daniel Gafford just below the hoop, Green changed his positioning to face Gafford.

"You just want to keep the passer guessing," Green said of the play. "If I can keep the passer guessing, it allows you to cover up a mistake. You can guard both of them ... if you can successfully guard a two-on-one more often than not, it's great for your defense."

As Gafford went up, so did Green, blocking his shot and all but sealing the Warriors' 104-100 win over the Mavericks on Tuesday night.

"Draymond is just special," teammate Andrew Wiggins said. "A defensive mastermind. He's everywhere."

The Warriors' defense has been a constant bright spot during their five-game winning streak. Last week, the Warriors held three opponents under 100 points in three consecutive games on the road. The 99 points per game they have allowed are their fewest over a five-game span since January 2022.

"We know everything stops and starts with our defense," Green said. "On the defensive end, we have to make sure teams feel us and let us dictate what we want the offense to do, as opposed to letting them dictate to us. ... I think our defense throughout the last six, seven games [has] been constant. In order to continue to get the season where we want it to get -- to the playoffs and to try and make a run -- that has to be that way."

Against Dallas, Golden State's defense -- particularly late in the third and fourth quarters -- is what allowed it to withstand the Mavericks' pushes. Dallas' 100 points were its fewest in a game since Jan. 31, and its third lowest output when Luka Doncic played this season.

Doncic finished with 30 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists.

On paper, the Warriors' third-quarter push -- led by Chris Paul, Brandin Podziemski and Wiggins -- appeared to be led by their scoring, going plus-12 in the Stephen Curry-less minutes to close the period. Paul hit a fadeaway shot and Podziemski hit a 3-pointer to make it a 9-0 run.

To start the fourth, Paul made a baseline jumper, Podziemski nailed another 3 and Wiggins hit a tough shot.

But Paul said all of that stemmed from what they did on the defensive end -- something they "have to be able to hang [their] hat on." The Warriors have said time and again this season: If you make a stop and don't have to face a set defense every time down the court, the offense will come quicker.

"It goes back to our defense," Paul said. "We can play at such a quicker pace ... we play so many different lineups on any given night. You're not sure what group you're going to be playing with so you just figure it out. But one thing that's got to be a constant is the defense."

Tuesday night's game was one of runs. First, the Warriors put together a 14-0 surge in the middle of the second quarter. Then, the Mavericks made a 13-0 rush at the end of the half to make to tie the score. Dallas extended its run to start the third before Golden State closed it. All of the back and forth led to Green's block on Gafford to keep it a six-point game with 92 seconds to go.

Paul, speaking to TNT's postgame crew, said it "might be one of the best plays I done ever seen in my career."

But Paul's reasoning goes beyond the impressiveness of Green's play.

"He's a cerebral player, like myself, and Dray thinks of the game defensively, like me too," Paul said. "I appreciate playing with someone who sees the game the way I do. ... I play with the same passion that he does. When he talks or yells, I'm listening to what he says, not how he's saying it. I appreciate that passion. ... That passion is why those blocks and those plays happen at the end of games."