CLEVELAND – For all the criticism of Golden State’s Draymond Green and his penchant for committing flagrant fouls during these playoffs, Wednesday may have brought the harshest words yet.
The critic: Green himself.
Saying he let the Warriors down and that he was a “terrible teammate,” Green spoke on how it pained him to be suspended for Game 5 of the NBA Finals — and how he will make amends Thursday night in Game 6, when the Warriors visit the Cleveland Cavaliers and get a second shot at winning what would be their second straight championship.
“I owe to my teammates to come back and give all that I have, all that I can do to better this situation,” Green said. “I have strong belief that if I play Game 5, we win. But I didn’t because I put myself in a situation where I wasn’t able to play.”
Golden State leads the series 3-2, but now knows it will play the rest of the series without starting center Andrew Bogut because of a left knee injury. Green — who missed Game 5 because of how many flagrants he has accrued during the playoffs — will be called upon to play some center in Game 6, as he has plenty of times in this postseason already.
“Draymond is the spirit of what we do,” said Warriors guard Stephen Curry, the NBA’s two-time reigning MVP. “You see it out on the floor.”
This series is back in Cleveland largely because LeBron James and Kyrie Irving could not be stopped in Game 5, when the Warriors’ best defender was watching the Cavaliers’ star duo score 41 points apiece from a suite at the adjacent baseball stadium that the Oakland Athletics call home. Green alone could not have stopped their onslaught, but it surely stands to reason that life would have been more difficult for Cleveland if he was in uniform.
With Green watching, the A’s won by nine.
Without Green playing, the Warriors lost by 15. He’s already spoken to his teammates about his mistakes, and made clear that watching Game 5 from next door left him hurting.
“Everybody’s helped with Draymond being on the floor,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “So that will be nice to have him back. We missed him the other night. We were disappointed in our performance without him. We thought we could still get it done, but we didn’t. So now it’s time to recharge the batteries and get ready.”
The straw that got Green suspended was when he took a swipe at James’ groin area in Game 4. But when asked what he expected when he sees Green in Game 6, James showed he’s only focused on bigger pictures and no mano-a-mano battle.
“My only job is to get this win, man,” James said.