CLEVELAND – Draymond Green stood in a quiet corner of the locker room, the debris of the referee calls and player altercations leading his coach, Steve Kerr, to stress the physicality in these NBA Finals. One win away from a championship and a record-setting undefeated postseason run, and the Golden State Warriors were blitzed with foul calls, misplaced technical fouls and the Cleveland Cavaliers’ two co-stars on Friday night.
“When we’re tied up, what can we do?” Green told The Vertical. “When we’ve got guys – like Steph [Curry], Klay [Thompson], me, [Kevin Durant] – picking up two, three fouls in a hurry, it’s tough to bring the physicality. How can we play physical with some of the stuff going on out there tonight?
“Give credit to Kyrie [Irving] and [LeBron James], they played like the stars that they are. Those guys wanted it. There was more going on out there. If we wanted to play more physical, how could we?”
All over the floor, bodies were flying, with Green’s offensive foul on Iman Shumpert in the first quarter and apparent ejection in the third quarter due to a communication breakdown on a first-half technical on Kerr. Durant absorbing a blow to the head from Kevin Love in the third quarter, then exchanging words with James. Zaza Pachulia’s apparent blow to the groin of Shumpert late in the third quarter. And, in the end, James and Irving delivered elite Finals performances – delivered this series back to Oakland with a 137-116 victory in Game 4.
Green leads these Warriors on the floor and in the locker room, and his mindset matters tremendously to teammates. They badly wanted to end this series, badly wanted to celebrate a sweep inside Quicken Loans Arena, spend the night in the city and fly to the Bay on Saturday morning. No celebration yet, only Green serving as the foremost authority to wonder the motives of some officiating calls.
Afterward, the officials told a pool reporter that they take “full responsibility” for the apparent ejection of Green, which came with chants of “Draymond sucks” and “Hit the road.” Green elevated his arms to the crowd when the Warriors received notice of his supposed second technical foul, as if to tell fans, “Bring it on.”
“You guys win one game and want to start talking crazy,” Green said to no one in particular on his walk out of the arena.
Still, the Warriors are in command of this series, a potential clincher awaiting them in Game 5 on Monday. James and Irving combined for 71 points, 17 rebounds and 15 assists in Game 4 – two consecutive dominant performances to keep alive the Cavaliers’ season. What both James and Irving lacked in Game 3 came on Friday night: Love, J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson producing in key ways in the starting lineup, and Shumpert and Richard Jefferson serving as spark plugs off the bench.
Behind LeBron and Irving, these Cavaliers have set the standard: Aid their two leaders with contributing performances, and significant challenges can be made to topple Golden State. Give James and Irving support, and anything is possible.
The Warriors “got us where they want us,” James said. “Listen, at the end of the day, we want to just try to put ourselves in position to play another game, and we did that.
“Hopefully we can come back here.”
Cleveland survived another day, and created the discussion over the Warriors’ 3-1 lead all over again. Yes, these Warriors will hear it again. One victory away, and no matter any NBA inspection of Friday night’s altercations, the Warriors will have Green and an opportunity for a second championship in this Finals Trilogy.
“Nobody cares about that 3-1 [expletive],” Green told The Vertical. “It was 3-0 this year. People can talk about 3-1 but nobody really cares. We’ll be ready.”
All over the court, Draymond Green witnessed errantly blown whistles and the physicality sapped from one team onto the opponent. He’s a defensive wizard, a multitool offensive talent and, most of all, a vigilant observer. These Warriors must strap and toughen up, must ready their bodies for those Cavaliers on Monday night. James and the Cavaliers are coming, and they have set a new physicality to this series. It’s on now.
More NBA Finals coverage from Yahoo Sports:
• Cavs score NBA Finals-record 49 in a quarter
• LeBron pulls off ridiculous alley-oop to himself
• Referee error leads to confusing Draymond Green non-ejection
• Did Zaza Pachulia punch Iman Shumpert in the groin during Game 4?