Published On: Fri, Jun 1st, 2018

Green provides stats – and sandpaper – for Warriors in Game 1

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OAKLAND, Calif – Despite having the otherworldly talents of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant, it’s Draymond Green who embodies the identity of the Golden State Warriors.

Green is the team’s heartbeat. He does a little bit of everything on the court for this championship squad, and occasionally crosses the line doing it; he’s the stat-sheet stuffer and the sandpaper all in one. Gaining an emotional edge is an important part of Green’s identity on the court – and it’s vital to Golden State’s success.

“It’s empowering all the way around,” Curry said. “I’m glad he’s on my team.”

Game 1 of the NBA Finals required the Warriors to escape another potential defeat, as they did in Game 6 and 7 against the Houston Rockets. In a ragged game that required overtime, it was Green who once again shone in the most important moments.

The Warriors forward racked up 13 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists, adding five steals and two blocks in 47 frenetic minutes. He made two 3-pointers – one late in the fourth quarter to give Golden State the lead, and another in the closing minute of overtime to put the game away.

Green not only contributed on the stat sheet, he also helped the Warriors find their emotional edge, scuffling with Tristan Thompson in the final moments of overtime. Tristan was upset that Shaun Livingston hoisted a jump shot with the shot clock expiring, even though the game’s outcome was no longer in doubt.

After a physical altercation with the Cavaliers big man, who threw a fist and a ball at Green’s face, the Warriors forward retreated toward his bench and celebrated with his teammates and the Oracle Arena crowd. In all the commotion, he still found time to mock Kendrick Perkins, who was trying to jaw at Green from the Cavs’ bench, by pretending to shake pom-poms.

That game-ending sequence illustrated exactly what makes Green so important to the Warriors. He can reach a higher energy level and irritate the opposition to a greater degree than any of his All-Star teammates. The Warriors are almost impossible to beat based on talent alone. When Green gives them a mental edge too, they become an even more challenging foe.

In some respects, it’s been a tough postseason for Green, who is shooting just 28.6 percent from three – down from 41.0 percent during last year’s playoff run. Every time he took a shot from beyond the arc Thursday, there was an audible groan from the home crowd, though Green isn’t discouraged.

“I know how much time I put in my shot,” he said. “I put a ton of time in. Just trying to stay confident. I’ve got guys like Steph who, after I missed the first one, he’s like, ‘Listen, you’re going to get that shot all night, take it with confidence.'”

As for the late-game tussle, Green didn’t want to talk much about it.

“It wasn’t really a verbal altercation,” the Warriors forward said. “It wasn’t much verbal … It is what it is. Life goes on. He got a flagrant 2 for the foul, we move forward and get ready for the next game.”

However, he couldn’t resist getting in a dig at the Cavaliers – and specifically J.R. Smith, who seemed to forget the score at the end of regulation.

“Sometimes you need a little luck,” Green said. “It’s good to be lucky sometimes. So I’ll take it. I think when he got the rebound, he probably could have laid it up. But nonetheless, that’s part of the game, being locked in. I mean, you got to know the score. That’s kind of basketball.”

It won’t be the last we hear from Green in this series – and if things remain tense, expect the heartbeat of this Golden State roster to be at the center of a few more scuffles.

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