2022 NBA Finals: In Boston, Warriors’ Draymond Green gets his fourth ring and the last laugh
Draymond Green, four-time NBA champion, Golden State Warriors living legend, TNT analyst, increasingly popular podcaster, and future Hall of Famer, had the last laugh at TD Garden. In the same building where he was greeted with boos and F-Yous, where six days earlier he watched much of the fourth quarter down the stretch from the bench, Green put his fingerprints all over Game 6 — 12 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists, two blocks, two steals, only one foul — and the villain emerged victorious.
Green took the blame when he missed 10 of his 12 shots and Boston Celtics stole home-court advantage in the Finals opener. He took the heat when he fouled out in Game 3 and the crowd “caught me off guard,” as he put it. And when the Warriors needed to win a close-out game in a hostile environment to clinch their fourth championship in eight years, Green was indispensable. He logged 42 minutes, the most he has played in a non-overtime game since June 13, 2019, the last time they were playing in a Game 6 in the Finals.
“If you know basketball, and you watch Game 1, I did not have a bad Game 1,” Green said. “And I had an incredible Game 2. And Game 3 was kind of like, terrible, awful. And Game 4 was not my best effort but not totally special. And Game 5, Game 5, I was pretty solid. Came out with great energy.
“Game 6, I dominated.”
Stephen Curry finally, rightfully hoisted the Finals MVP trophy after the 103-90 win, but would you look at that final score? This, like the rest of Golden State’s wins in this series, was a grimy one, a credit to the defense that ranked second only to Boston’s, a reflection of Green more than anybody else. The Celtics scored an abysmal 96.8 points per 100 possessions in Game 6, and according to Cleaning The Glass, only 81.8 per 100 in the halfcourt.
“Our defense was spectacular in this series, especially the last three games,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “And the Celtics had the best defense in the league, but we were right behind them. I think what made this group really special, besides the obvious with Steph, was the defensive intensity and versatility. And for that, Draymond is the guy to point to, the leader of it all.”
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After both of Golden State’s losses, Green said that he and the team needed to play with more force and that Boston was too comfortable. The Warriors were up against an offense that can reach great heights, but can get off-kilter when pressured and pushed around. They struggled against the Celtics’ half-court defense, but they knew they’d feast on transition opportunities if they could create them. In the clincher, Boston turned the ball over 22 times, 13 of which were steals. And whether the Celtics coughed it up or missed a shot, Green was usually the guy pushing the ball down the court, getting them on their heels.
Green was also one of the numerous guys crashing the boards. Early in the second quarter, he shoved Jayson Tatum out of the way and tapped the ball directly to Jordan Poole for a 3. About a minute later, he chased down another miss and immediately found Poole for another one. The Warriors rebounded 40.7 percent of their misses on Thursday, and they scored 21 second-chance points.
“He’s our leader, and we need him to be on edge,” Golden State big man Kevon Looney said. “Him and Steph have really different leadership styles, and they balance each other out. When you have Draymond out there putting his body on the line, he can be the villain, whatever you need him to do. He’s going to go out there and do it for the team. We can’t give him enough credit for what he does for us.”
Looney said that the Warriors “kind of play with that same energy that he brings on the defensive end,” adding that “we always talk about Stephen on offense, and we kind of compare Draymond on defense the same type of way.” In other words, you expect him to set the tone for the defense, tell everybody where to be and to make plays like these:
You do not, however, necessarily expect him to make a floater on Golden State’s first offensive possession, or to make two corner 3s, one of them right in front of Boston’s bench, or to make a long 2 over Robert Williams III as the Celtics are making a run:
“He always says, ‘I’m 90 percent in clutch,'” Looney said. “We always say, when it’s a close game, he’s going to be in the action and make something happen. When you have somebody you can rely on like that and count on, it gives everybody a confidence boost.”
“He’s brash and he is who he is, but when you need him, he shows up,” Andre Iguodala said.
Green said that he knew he hadn’t quite put together a great, complete game in the series. To him, it was all about staying the course.
“I said, ‘What better time than to put it together tonight,'” Green said. “I don’t think I heard ‘F-you, Draymond” all night. They couldn’t. So, you know, it’s easy to chant “F-you” when somebody is having a bad game, but can’t you do that when they’re having a great game? I didn’t hear much of it tonight. Maybe I was just that locked in.”
There was another “F— You, Draymond,” chant on Thursday. This time, Green’s delirious teammates, in a champagne-soaked locker room, were the ones saying it, with well-earned smiles on their faces.
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