SAN FRANCISCO — The dust had barely settled after Golden State’s fourth-quarter collapse in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, but Warriors point guard Steph Curry could sense which version of forward Draymond Green was going to show up in Game 2. Curry estimated that only five or so minutes had passed after the final buzzer, but he could already tell that Green, his teammate of 10 years, was about to ramp things up a notch in a way that only he can.
“That was all I needed to see and hear from him, just in terms of what he knew he needed to do,” Curry said.
Curry was right. The version of Green that showed up to the Chase Center Sunday evening was exactly what the Warriors needed en route to a 107-88 blowout victory. After a poor individual performance in Game 1, full of bad shots and missed defensive assignments, Green made it a point to increase his intensity and physicality in Game 2.
Everybody, from coach Steve Kerr to the Warriors bench to the sellout crowd, could tell.
“What Boston did in the second half, the fourth quarter the other night, we knew we had to come with a much better focus and sense of aggression,” Kerr said. “I thought that started right from the beginning. Draymond played a huge role in that.”
Added guard Gary Payton II: “We knew our backs were against the wall. We couldn’t go into Boston being down 2-0. He lit the fire under us, as he has this whole season. He lights it and everybody else follows.”
In the first quarter, Green took some extra time to flex after he drove to the hoop and drew a foul on his first bucket of the game. Although he missed the free throw, Green was clearly ready to make a statement.
The basket was just one of two field goals for Green, who finished with 9 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds, and a steal. His numbers, however, are hardly reflective of his impact.
Throughout the game, Green pestered the Celtics, helping force turnovers and occasionally getting tangled up because of his physicality. In the first quarter, after officials called a foul on Celtics forward Grant Williams, Green and Williams continued to go at it after the whistle, leading Green to pick up a technical foul.
Then, in the final minute of the second, Green had to be separated from Jaylen Brown after he fouled Brown on a 3-point attempt. Both players ended up on the floor, with Green’s feet resting on Brown’s upper body. Brown forcefully pushed them off as he got up, but before he could walk away, Green must’ve said something that bothered him because he immediately turned around.
Jayson Tatum held Brown back while Marcus Smart contained Green, preventing the sequence from escalating.
Officials reviewed the play and assessed no further penalties.
“That’s what Draymond Green does,” Brown said. “He’ll do whatever it takes to win. He’ll pull you, he’ll grab you, he’ll try to muck the game up because that’s what he does for their team. It’s nothing to be surprised about. Nothing I’m surprised about.
“He raised his physicality to try to stop us, and we’ve got to raise ours. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Even though he already had a technical foul, Green didn’t care. There’s no line that he’s trying to stay behind. There’s nothing that will make him turn it down a notch. Not even the risk of an ejection.
“For me to sit back and say, ‘Oh, I’m going to push it to this edge and try to pull back,’ that doesn’t work,” Green said. “I got to be me. With the first tech, it is what it is. That’s not going to stop me from being aggressive or doing what I do on the basketball court.”
Green also backed up his intensity with better play on both ends of the floor.
Save for an ill-advised 3-point attempt that he missed badly in the third quarter, Green’s shot selection improved tremendously from his abysmal Game 1, when he connected on just 2 of his 12 attempts. Green is not a reliable 3-point shooter — 29.6 percent during the regular season and just 21.4 percent this postseason — yet he took four 3-point attempts in Game 1 and missed them all.
In the first quarter of Game 2, Green had an open look from range and almost went for the shot. But he ultimately passed to Curry. He attempted just three shots from the field Sunday.
On the other end, Green set the tone. After sagging off the Celtics in Game 1, he was much more active. According to Second Spectrum data, Green’s average distance to the ballhandler as the closest defender was 6.1 feet, over a foot closer than his average of 7.5 feet in Game 1. According to the NBA’s tracking data, the Celtics shot 3 of 14 (21.4 percent) when Green was the primary defender.
He accomplished exactly what he wanted with his aggressiveness.
“For me, you have to send a message,” he said. “Guys follow me on that side of the ball. If I’m not sending a message, who is sending that message?”
Curry made sure to point out that stats still don’t tell the full story with Green.
“You feel him and his presence,” Curry said. “The other team feels him and his presence and his intensity. That’s contagious for all of us. It was great to see.”
Even after Green subbed out for the night in the fourth quarter, he stayed engaged. When Warriors forward Klay Thompson fell to the floor after getting fouled on a layup, Green, with his sweatshirt on, ran out from the bench to help Thompson up. Green’s presence was noticeable from start to finish — and he’s going to ensure it stays that way.
“I have to continue to do that in this series,” he said. “It’s not going to get any easier. It’s only going to get tougher. I have to take that up another couple notches.”
More Celtics stories
- The Celtics ran into the world-beating Warriors in Game 2, and couldn’t pick up the pieces as they crumbled
- Tara Sullivan: The Celtics should have expected the Warriors to respond, and they should be happy with a split on the road
- On Basketball: Make no mistake, Game 2 was a harsh lesson. Now the Celtics need to learn from it.
- Instant analysis: Another awful third quarter does Celtics in, and other observations as Warriors even up NBA Finals
- Watch: Ime Udoka said he wanted to get called for a technical foul during Celtics’ Game 2 loss
- How it happened: Celtics collapse in third quarter, lose Game 2 of NBA Finals to Warriors, 107-88
Nicole Yang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Follow her on Twitter @nicolecyang.