Draymond Green's on-court production, antics leave early imprint on NBA Finals

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OAKLAND — Draymond Green was just answering a question, as he so entertainingly does for the national media at this time of year, and in just a matter of seconds, made the entirety of Game 2 all about a matchup that was mostly an afterthought heading into this fourth edition of the Cavaliers-Warriors annual Finals extravaganza.

Green managed to turn Sunday’s game into a personal showdown with Cavs center Tristan Thompson, who was ejected from Game 1 on Thursday after a shove to the face of Green with 2.6

seconds to play, though the flagrant-2 foul on Thompson was later downgraded. When Thompson was walking off the floor, he appeared to point to Green and challenge him to further fisticuffs out in the Oracle Arena tunnel.    

Green was asked what might happen if Thompson issues a “meet me outside” type of threat here in these Finals (we only really ask questions like this during the last series of the season).

“I can’t meet him here, because I’d get fined,” Green said. “But I can meet him in the streets any day. You can say, ‘I’ll meet you at the bus,’ but I’m gonna keep taking care of my family, man. I ain’t gonna meet you at the bus. But, summers, you can meet anybody anywhere. But, meet me outside, meet me at the bus?

“I’m not gonna give up my money for that. If you want to see me somewhere else, that’s fine.”

It’s surely fine, too, from Green’s perspective that most NBA observers are focused now on his badinage and not on his basketball. Because lost in the shuffle of the scuffles was the fact that Green had one of the best Finals games of his career and was an anchor of the Warriors’ fortunate Game 1 win.

In all, Green logged 13 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists, adding five steals and two blocked shots. He played 47 minutes, most of any Warrior. He was 5-for-9 from the field and 2-for-5 from the 3-point line. Both of his 3s were important. The first came with 5:06 to play in the fourth quarter and the Cavaliers on a 12-5 run that erased a seven-point Warriors lead and had the game tied at 94. The second fell with 1:36 to play in overtime, a dagger of a deep ball that pushed the Warriors’ lead from seven points to 10 and effectively ended the game.

Green said that Warriors coach Steve Kerr had been on his case previously, trying to get him to keep shooting despite entering the Finals having made just three of his previous 22 3-point attempts.

“I know how much time I put in on my shot,” Green said. “I put a ton of time in. Just trying to stay confident. I've got guys like Steph [Curry] who after I missed the first one, he's like, 'listen, you're going to get that shot all night, take it with confidence...' You know, the big moment helps. You like to be in that moment, so I think that helps as well.”

In his 18-game Finals career, Green has only rarely risen to the big moment. Overall, he averaged 13.6 points on 40.9 percent shooting in the Finals before Game 1, with 9.3 rebounds and 5.4 assists. He had made just 25 of his 76 3-point attempts (32.6 percent). The Warriors thrive off his defense and hard-nosed approach, but his actual production in the Finals has been lacking.

Only once in the previous 17 Finals games he’s played has Green recorded a double-double while also shooting better than 50 percent from the field — and that was Game 7 of the 2016 series against Cleveland, the one that ended in disaster, in part, because Green was suspended for Game 5.

The opener was a Draymond-style game, however. He stamped this series in his image early on. Green stuffed the box score, made big shots and, yeah, helped ensure that the rest of this young series is played with the kind of sharp edge for which he is known.

He expects that to carry into Game 2.

“It should,” Green said. “Like I said before, you're trying to win championships, so there should be emotions involved. If not, then whoever's emotions aren't involved should go sit down somewhere. This is what you work your whole life for, so it should carry over.

“Will it be more controlled? Probably. But the intensity should carry over when you're trying to win in the NBA Finals.”

And if folks keep their attention on his non-game shenanigans, on chatter about back-alley brawls this summer, that’s fine with him. Because of his struggles in this postseason, and in the Finals against the Cavaliers in previous years, he’s getting more and more open shots, the Cleveland defense willing to concede open looks to him.

He certainly hopes the Cavs carry that over to Game 2.

“You do whatever best suits you to win the game,” Green said. “Then I'll just make two big 3s and call it a day.”

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