Battles between Washington Huskies point guard Isaiah Thomas and Stanford leading scorer Jeremy Green are more involved than just the height disparity.
Thomas went on a 3-point rampage to close the half. He made two before Green provided Thomas with a cardiac stimulant.
The forearm from Stanfords leading scorer landed in the middle of Thomas’ back while Green stormed to the offensive glass. Thomas — at least nine inches shorter than Green depending on who does the measuring — tried to impede Green.
The thrust jolted Thomas two steps forward. Stanford rebounded the miss, then missed again. Four hands, two each from Thomas and Green, landed on the airborne ball. Thomas ripped it away. Then he glared at Green.
He was crashing and I had to make the right play, Thomas said. I took it from him and thats what kind of started it.
Thomas scored 14 points in the final 2:38 of the half. Eight came after the rip and stare. The last six came on consecutive 3-pointers.
The first when Green sagged a tad. Thomas jab-stepped at Green and he just stared at Thomas. This is a clear double-dog dare from a defender to shoot. Thomas did so and hit it.
The second was also predicated in disrespect. Except this time Thomas expressed it when he pulled up six feet from behind the 3-point line for another made three.
Raise the roof, run the yap.
The earlier tussle was a momentary freeze for these two who have been locked up for two years in one of the conferences oddest matchups.
When deciphering what to do against one of the Pac-10s best shooters, Washington coach Lorenzo Romar opted for Thomas. Height disparity be damned.
The reason is Thomas ability to not stick to picks. He bounces off and circumvents them well, one of the few benefits of lack of height.
Also, his foot speed against the slower Green allows constant close contact.
Saturday was Greens best game in three years against Washington. He finished with 24 points on 8-for-17 shooting.
Thomas has been the primary defender on Green the past two seasons. Greens efficient work Saturday boosted the pittance of success he usually has against Washington.
Green, who shoots 41.9 percent from behind the 3-point line in his career, is 7-or-32 (21.8 percent) the last two seasons against Washington. Hes little better from closer, just 23-for-70 (32.8 percent.)
Isaiah is a competitor, Green said. Weve basically had a battle since Ive been here.
Thomas takes two primary steps to make Green uncomfortable: be in contact with him at all times and also under him, belly to belly, when he rises for a jump shot.
Green tries to mix it up against Thomas, a pursuit that by itself often disrupts players. The height difference is a discipline challenger. Green tries to high post Thomas so he can turn and fade a bit for a midrange jump shot. He wants to drag him as close to the basket as possible so he can catch then rise for a clean look. Knowing this, Thomas hugged and played Green on the high side, baiting him toward looming help in the post.
Two hard dribbles followed by a pull-up is also a preferred Green scoring mechanism. But that causes him to shift the advantage to the swifter Thomas. Little separation can be gained and help defense can pop into Greens periphery.
Just make it tough on him, Thomas said. Make him become a creator.
Thats not what Green does well. He had zero assists Saturday.
Washingtons versatility at other spots allows Romar such paper-challenged matchups.
This is probably his best game against me. He made some tough shots, thats what good players are going to do, Thomas said. Hes a great shooter and I just tried to do what I could to limit him.
Thomas had one pertinent addendum to the matchup talk.