OAKLAND -- Walking toward the bench with 5:49 remaining and the Warriors up 13 on the New Orleans Pelicans, Draymond Green received a partial standing ovation, and not because it was his turn to hang 40 points on an opponent.
No, this was for the way he led the defense in locking up Pelicans star Anthony Davis. For the sweat Green dropped on the Oracle Arena floor. For the grit that was on full display throughout what became a 131-121 Warriors victory.
"He was the probably the best player on the floor tonight," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "I know other guys had some big point totals and all that, but this was note a very clean game for us. And when the game gets a little grimy, that seems to be when Draymond is at his best."
Green finished with 15 points, including a couple 3-pointers, 14 rebounds and eight assists. But his offensive output, as usual, provided only fraction of his impact.
He wouldn't mind at all if those numbers and that facet were dismissed. He has something else in mind: the Defensive Player the Year award.
"I need that," Green said rather emphatically.
"I need that bad, real bad," he added. "I made second-team All-Defense last year. I'm pissed about that, still. And I'll be pissed until I right that. So, that's a serious goal of mine this year. And I'm on it every night.
"Absolutely. I'm pissed. Second-team All-Defense. That's disrespectful."
This borders on obsession, eh? But the coaching staff doesn't mind. Nor do Green's teammates. When Green is at his best on defense, the Warriors win games. His contribution to the defense is much like the contributions of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson -- all three -- to the offense.
Curry poured in 37 points, Durant 24 and Thompson 18. They combined for 53.7-percent shooting. They held up their end.
But Green was the primary reason Davis wasn't up to his usual production and, therefore, unable to push the Pelicans to a higher level. Other Warriors -- Damian Jones, Kevon Looney and Durant to name three -- took turns on Davis but Green set a tone that left Davis with a season-low 17 points on 6-of-16 shooting.
"We mixed in some (double-teams)," Green said. "Didn't double every time. We kind of kept him off balance. Loon did a great job on him. DJ, when he was on him, did a great job. But AD is a great player. Just as well as he missed those shots, he can make them. You've got to give those guys some credit. They stepped up to the challenge."
But the late-game reception was indicative of the sellout crowd recognizing Green's impact on Davis and, moreover, the game.
The Warriors were uneven on offense, shooting well but committing roughly a turnover every other minute in the first half. Their defense, though, was solid in the second and third quarters, when they built leads.
That's on Green, always the driving influence on that end.
"You never worry about him finding a way to impact the game," Curry said. "Whether he's making or missing shots, whatever, he always gets timely stops."
Curry and his sweet-shooting colleagues can have the scoring. Green embraces the underside of the game, the part that so delights purists. He makes good things happen on both ends, but his combination of intensity and intellect make particularly valuable.
"I love playing like that; I grew up playing that way," Green said. "Also, this team, it goes off rhythm and flow. And that's important for us.
"But when that flow isn't there and that rhythm isn't there, somebody's got to step in and do the dirty work. And that is what I bring to this team. I do the dirty work. I do the little things."