Draymond Green better be ready to redeem himself for Warriors
The Warriors missed their heart and soul badly in Game 5.
The Warriors lost an opportunity to celebrate a championship because Draymond Green was unavailable for Game 5, and Green has no one to blame but himself.
Green spent Monday night at the Oakland Coliseum, watching the A's beat up the Texas Rangers 14-4, so at least he got to see one Bay Area team win. Green was suspended for Game 5 after his swipe/hit/tap to the groin of LeBron James that sparked a war of words between the Cavaliers and Warriors leading into the game. Without him, the Warriors' defense wasn't the same. That led to better offense from the Cavaliers, which allowed their defense to get back, which boosted their offense. It's cyclical, and the effect was subtle, if apparent.
The Cavaliers' offense at the rim wasn't noticeably better. It has actually been good throughout the Finals. The bigger issue was that without Green behind them, the Warriors couldn't play as aggressively. LeBron James sought out switches onto Festus Ezeli and Anderson Varejao and attacked the slower Golden State bigs. Andre Iguodala couldn't press James all the way up without confidence Green would recover. James found more room overall, had space to breathe, and most notably, turned the ball over just twice.
This wasn't all Green's doing, and neither was the lack of oxygen in the Warriors' basketball spirit entirely due to their "emotional engine" sitting at a baseball game. Green wasn't responsible for the Warriors shooting 3 for 21 in the second half, or for Kyrie Irving dominating through an isolation supernova, or for Steph Curry shooting 4 for 13 from deep in the second half with a minus-13, or Harrison Barnes going 0 for 5 in that same span.
But his absence didn't help.
Green knew his flagrant situation going into Game 4. He knew early on in this postseason he had to watch himself, he made a public note of his issues with technicals. Maybe his flagrant foul for the crotch tap was the wrong call, maybe it wasn't, but Green could have prevented it from mattering by avoiding any of the other flagrants that contributed to his point situation which triggered the suspension. Green put himself in this predicament, and by extension put his team into their position Monday night. They still could have won, but they only needed to win without Green because of his decision making.
Had the Warriors done what they always seem to -- made all their shots -- in Game 5, Green's suspension would have been a funny bit of trivia. Now it shifts the pressure back on the Warriors, ever so slightly. The Warriors will still likely win Game 6. They've lost back-to-back games only once in the past two postseasons, have established themselves as better than the Cavaliers and have no fear of winning a game in Ohio. But it's tougher now, and if for any reason the Warriors don't win Game 6 -- Andrew Bogut's injury, another off-game from Curry in a flurry of them (but all easily explained by injury of course), another superhuman game from James or Irving catching lightning in a bottle -- then there will be a slight edge of panic, all caused because Green couldn't keep it together to stay out of trouble.
Green, oddly, has an opportunity, though. Come back with a monster defensive performance while knocking down 3-pointers in Game 6 and he could steal Finals MVP from Andre Iguodala. He gets to be the returning hero, freed from the clutches of the mean NBA that listened to LeBron James' complaints, helping his team to a road victory and proving once and for all how important he is to this Warriors team.
Thursday will mark an opportunity for Green, and for the Warriors, to make good on their constant chirping and celebrating, to show that they can say what they want, do what they want, because they're just that much better. If the aftermath of Game 5 was a moment of relief for the Cavaliers, it was one of regret for the Warriors. They won't get to celebrate a title in Oracle unless it's in the pressure-packed environment of a Game 7 after relinquishing a 3-1 lead. They let the Cavaliers, and James in particular, off the mat. They spent two days talking about James with comments in the media and emojis on Twitter, while he let his game do the talking Monday.
Thursday will be a chance to turn that regret into satisfaction, their frustration into exultation. This series will still be decided by the Warriors -- it remains in their hands. That starts with Draymond Green, who has no one to blame but himself for having to watch the Warriors let the title slip through their fingers. Game 6 offers the chance for Green and his team to show that there's no one but the Warriors to credit for their greatness.
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