CLEVELAND — The Golden State Warriors’ chance to make history slipped through their fingers Friday night. Rather than completing a perfect 16-0 postseason and winning a second NBA title in three years, the Warriors instead saw the Cleveland Cavaliers shoot the lights out in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, winning 137-116 to send the series back to Oakland for Game 5 on Monday night.
It would’ve been understandable if such circumstances would’ve left Warriors star Draymond Green in a foul mood afterward. But they didn’t.
“Nah, not at all,” Green said when asked if he was disappointed about failing to finish off the perfect postseason. “We want to win four games. We got a golden opportunity going home on Monday to close one out.
“I’ve won one on the road. I want to see how it feels to win one at home. Got to come out with some fire and try to get it done.”
Green’s remarks were part of a roughly nine-minute media session that allowed the all-star power forward to riff on everything that happened during Friday’s wild game – the unusual actions of the referees, Cleveland’s insanely hot shooting, his own interactions with the crowd.
The moment allowed Green to morph into his favorite role (away from the court): becoming basketball’s version of a wrestling heel.
“I love this game, and I love y’all,” Green said with a smile. “I appreciate y’all.
“I’m having a great time right now.”
Throughout, that smile never left his face. He knew, with every answer he gave, he was stirring the pot, and he was perfectly fine with it.
This is the way Green approaches the game. When he’s on the court, he never stops chirping at opposing players, an endless stream of trash talk.
“He’s one of the best in the game at being a trash-talker,” Kevin Love, his counterpart for the Cavaliers, said earlier in this series. “He’s a guy that sets the tone for them. And this is the NBA Finals. . . . Everybody expects that and hopes for that.”
He also has no problem taking on opposing fans, happily embracing the role of the player everyone loves to hate — so long as they aren’t fans of the Warriors. In the brief, confusing moments when it seemed like Green might have been tossed from Friday night’s game midway through the third quarter after referee Marc Davis hit Green with what, at the time, appeared to be a second technical foul, as the public address system blared the Ray Charles classic, “Hit The Road Jack” and the crowd here exploded in ecstasy, Green held his arms aloft and asked the crowd for more.
“They make me feel good,” Green said of the Cleveland fans. “They show me how important I am to them. They are at home thinking about me.
“If you come into the game chanting my name, you be at home thinking about me. So shoutout to them for the love.”
Then, after chastising Davis for the technical postgame, he took on the people of Cleveland again.
“Nah, I really don’t pay much attention to anyone in Cleveland, honestly,” Green said. “They don’t seem to be the sharpest people around.”
In some ways, Green’s postgame banter was a way to deflect from everything that happened in the game itself. Green had 16 points and 14 rebounds in 39 minutes for the Warriors, but went just 6-for-16 from the field — shooting more than both Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson — and going 1-for-6 from three-point range. The Cavaliers would be perfectly happy to replicate those numbers in Game 5.
The parallels between this Game 4 – with the Warriors losing their composure and picking up several technicals as a team, not to mention Green’s bizarre moment where he briefly expected to be ejected – and the one these teams played a year ago were unmistakable. In that game, Green wound up getting himself suspended for Game 5 after taking a swipe at LeBron James’s midsection when he stepped over Green in the final minutes.
After both, the Warriors returned home with a 3-1 lead in this best-of-seven series.
There is one very notable difference this time, however: Green will be on the Oracle Arena court for Game 5, instead of watching.
“Yeah, thank God I get to play on Monday,” Green said.
Then he added, with an impish grin, “Hopefully.”
That attitude is one reason Green has gone from a player who was an undersized power forward at Michigan State, a four-year player who was a second round pick by the Golden State Warriors in 2012, to becoming one of the most versatile defensive players the league, one that’s made multiple All-NBA and All-Star teams and is the favorite to be named this season’s Defensive Player of the Year later this month.
Someone doesn’t develop into this type of player if they don’t also possess an immense amount of self-confidence, a quality Green has in abundance. It’s why Green had no problem letting everyone know inside Quicken Loans Arena now how he felt during the game, and why he had no problem explaining that to the media afterward.
It’s also why, despite all of the inevitable talk about how Golden State collapsed and lost the title last year after going home with a 3-1 lead, Green knows there’s one key difference between then and now.
“We were up 3-0. We weren’t up 3-0 last year. It’s a little different.
“At the end of the day, the series is a little different. Thank God I get to play.”
Green will once again be at the center of everything Monday night – just like he always is. And, win or lose, he’ll approach things the same way. It’s the approach that’s gotten him this far. He isn’t about to abandon it now.