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NBA Finals

Draymond Green was ‘livid’ over being benched in the fourth quarter of Game 4, but Steve Kerr’s decision paid off

Draymond Green scored 2 points, but had 9 rebounds, 8 assists, and 4 steals in Game 4.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Midway through the fourth quarter of Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Friday night, Warriors coach Steve Kerr called a timeout and decided to make two substitutions: Kevon Looney for Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins for Nemanja Bjelica.

Celtics forward Jaylen Brown had just made impressive back-to-back layups to give his team a 4-point lead, so with 7:32 remaining in a pivotal game, Kerr opted to roll with the lineup of Stephen Curry, Jordan Poole, Klay Thompson, Wiggins, and Looney.

Green, who started the game as a small-ball center, begrudgingly took a seat on the bench.

“I’m definitely never thrilled coming out of the game with seven minutes to go in the fourth quarter in a must-win game,” Green said after Golden State’s 107-97 win. “I’m not going to sit here and act like I was thrilled. I’m a competitor. But at the end of the day, if that’s what Coach decides, then you roll with it.”

Kerr’s decision to stick with Looney and Poole down the stretch paid off. With Green off the floor, the Warriors proceeded to outscore the Celtics, 11-4, taking control of the game and forcing Celtics coach Ime Udoka to call a timeout.


Coming out of that timeout, with 3:41 remaining and the Warriors up, 97-94, Kerr decided to put Green back into the game over Poole. The two then switched off on offense and defense down the stretch, subbing in and out to play to each of their strengths.

That decision paid off, too. Green grabbed a key offensive rebound with 1:14 to go and made a smart pass to Looney, who finished with an easy bucket at the rim to put the Warriors up, 102-97. The Celtics didn’t score again.

Because the Warriors came away with the win, evening the series at 2-2, Green was able to stomach his benching, even though he was displeased with the decision.


“The fact that Steve went away from me for a little while, was I pissed off and frustrated? Absolutely,” Green said on the latest episode of his podcast that aired Saturday morning. “Seven minutes to go in an extremely important game — we can’t go down, 3-1; you don’t want to go down, 3-1 — and I’m coming out of the game. I was livid.”

Still, Green seemed OK with the decision. He noted that he’s seen other teams lose in the playoffs because coaches elected to ride with players out of obligation. He also said he was fine with the fact that Kerr did not have an extended discussion with him about the decision.

“This is the playoffs, man,” he said. “As long as we win the game, whether I’m playing or Wiggs is playing or Loon is playing or whoever is playing — you could throw whoever out there — as long as we win, I don’t care. The whole notion of, ‘Oh man, you have to check in with certain guys if you’re going to take them out of the game, if you think that’s better for the team,’ I think that’s ridiculous.”

Green credited Warriors forward Juan Toscano-Anderson, and a couple of the other reserves, for staying in his ear and helping him stay positive before checking back in.

“I had to keep my head in the game,” Green said. “That was just my mind-set. You know, don’t make too much of it. I’ve always been on the bandwagon of if you’ve got something and it’s rolling, you stick with it. So it is what it is.”


The Finals have been an up-and-down series for Green. He finished with a respectable stat line Friday, highlighted by 9 rebounds, 8 assists, and 4 steals, but still struggled offensively, making just 1 of his 7 shots for 2 points. His lone basket was a putback dunk to clean up a miss by Wiggins. Green couldn’t connect on multiple attempts at the rim and appeared so spooked by his misses that he started to pass up good looks.

“Look, this is a tough series for him to score because of Boston’s size and athleticism, but he’s still impacting the game at a huge level,” Kerr said. “He knows we’re just going to do whatever it takes to win. We’ve got a lot of guys who can contribute.”

It’s unlikely that Kerr would take Green out of the starting lineup, but he showed in Game 4 that he’s not afraid to sideline the veteran during important stretches.

“Whatever it takes in Game 5, that’s what we’ll do, too,” Kerr said.

Nicole Yang can be reached at nicole.yang@globe.com.Follow her on Twitter @nicolecyang.