SAN FRANCISCO — Draymond Green faced the spinal dread of losing two games to nil in the NBA Finals arriving for Game 2 on Sunday determined to be boring as hell for as long as he will have to. During the 48 minutes of the contest, he argued with the officials — and nearly every Boston Celtics player — and threw his body around the field with barely controlled fury.
In other words: the man was handed a well-deserved technical foul midway through the first quarter on a play in which the call went his way. Yes, Green set the tone for the Golden State Warriors’ blowout 107-88 series-tying victory at Chase Center, and that tone was a roar.
Green promised after Game 1 that everything would be different. He said the Celtics needed to “feel” him more, and he came out and triggered a sensory experience comparable to standing under a waterfall. Jaylen Brown was his main defensive mission, and Brown went 5 for 17 from the field, but that was just the start. There were countless possessions in which Green, perhaps the smartest defender in league history, ended up guarding three or four different Celtics. He seemed to show up wherever he was needed.
When asked when he knew the Warriors would be getting the extra-spicy version of Green for Game 2, Stephen Curry replied: “About five minutes after Game 1.”
Green was so involved in the game that there was a very real chance he would be kicked out of it. After the technical foul at the start, nothing has changed. He kept talking non-stop to anyone who wanted to listen to him and to many who would have preferred not to but had no choice. He continued to hold every tangle with Celtics players – there were plenty of them – just a second or two longer than recommended. There was one with Brown that caused the referees to put on the helmets and take a closer look to see if Green’s night was perhaps over. It wasn’t, for reasons the Celtics didn’t understand, but Green seemed indifferent.
“For me to sit and say, ‘Oh, I’m going to push it to this edge and try to pull myself out,’ that doesn’t work,” Green said. “I have to be me. So the first technology – it is what it is. It won’t stop me from being aggressive or doing what I do on the basketball court. I just have to live with the results.”
And he seemed to know exactly where the line was, perhaps because – as the Celtics would say – he was the one who drew it.
At some point in the third quarter, Marcus Smart – Boston’s Draymond Lite – spoke to referee Zach Zarba about a matter that had nothing to do with Green; but there was Green, chest to chest with both of them. Green wasn’t going to let anything go, not that night, and he remained steadfast in his determination to keep the waters choppy.
Green was nothing if not active. When Jordan Poole received a technical foul for tripping Derrick White – a call that was quickly overturned – Green leaned on the scorer’s table and watched the officials watch the replay while providing referee Tony Brothers a current comment. Green is the public defender for the Warriors, obligated to take any business that comes his way.
“We knew we had to keep our foot on the gas and not let go,” Green said. “We did that.”
Green’s stat line was pedestrian — nine points, five rebounds, seven assists — but he chewed up the scenery all night. He stalked and engulfed Brown into submission. He stripped Al Horford of the ball in the first quarter on a drive to the lane with such force that it seemed to break Horford’s spirit.
“Some of these things don’t always show up on the stat sheet,” Curry said. “But you feel it in his presence, and the other team feels his presence and his intensity, and it’s contagious for all of us.”
Describing Horford as passive would be a compliment. After his eye-opening 26-point performance in Game 1 – on 9 of 12 shots, including 6 of 8 of 3 – he went no shot in the first half and hit just one shot, a setback to halfway through the third trimester. His play was emblematic of the Celtics’ lackluster performance. Horford went into the corner after an offensive rebound found him just under the basket. He was a step or three slow on defense, as the Warriors eagerly engaged him in pick-and-roll situations. In general, Horford walked around the yard as if he had just spent the night at the airport.
Horford understandably dismissed the idea that Green’s antics could have infiltrated his psyche and those of his teammates: “No impact. I mean, he’s going to do what he does. We’re not worried about him.”
Green offered his take.
“I think everyone played harder,” Green said. “It wasn’t just me. It was on every level. If I just take my strength and nobody else does, it doesn’t work.”
Green sat in the interview room after Game 1 and ran through the Celtics’ shooting stats. Horford, White and Smart all put up games that Green clearly didn’t see as sustainable. Green repeatedly waved the stat sheet and shook his head. He could live with that, and it wouldn’t happen again. He would see to it.
“That’s my job,” Green said after his prediction came true in Game 2. “Just like Steph Curry sets the tone on the attacking side of the ball, it’s my job to set the tone on the defensive side of the ball. ball.
“I have to keep doing that in this series. It’s only going to get harder. I have to step it up a few more notches.”
It’s hard to say if it was a promise, a threat, or an absolute impossibility. Ultimately, it’s up to the Celtics to decide. Starting with less than five minutes left in the third quarter, during a streak that saw the Celtics drop from six points to under 29, Boston seemed content to go home with the series tied. Coach Ime Udoka cleared his bench with 10 minutes to go.
The Celtics were ready to leave San Francisco — and, for now, Draymond Green — behind.