The Golden State Warriors were able to overcome an 18-point deficit, and Meyers Leonard playing the game of his career, to take Game 3 from the Trail Blazers in Portland, 110-99. The defending champs now hold a historically insurmountable 3-0 series lead thanks to impressive performances from Steph Curry and Draymond Green. While it was already impressive that a guy who was coming off relatively a down year by his standards was able to put together a 20-point triple-double in the postseason, it was even more impressive that Green was able do it without being a complete asshole. In fact, he even became somewhat endearing throughout the night.
The first example of this came after Jordan Bell whiffed on a breakaway dunk attempt halfway through the third quarter. It was an embarrassing moment that was only made worse because it was done in hostile territory. But Green wasn’t going to allow his teammate beat himself up over the mistake and gave some pretty strong words of encouragement with the message that “nobody’s perfect.”
It rules that Draymond’s way of encouraging his teammates includes not-so-subtle digs at opposing players. He could have easily said, “I’ve missed shots, Steph’s missed shots,” or even just included himself, but it was important to Green that Bell and those Portland players knew about those missed shots too.
The biggest bump to his image, however, came after the game while talking to reporters. Someone had noted that Green’s emotions had been relatively subdued (read as: he hasn’t tried to kick anyone) this series to the point where he hasn’t even been given a technical against the Blazers—though the streak extends to Game 1 against the Rockets. In response, Green was surprisingly self-aware.
“I got to a point when I was doing more crying than playing,” he told reporters. “I am sure it was disgusting to watch because I felt disgusting playing that way. I just wanted to lock back in on the game. I understand that officials are not perfect and I still have conversations with them now when they miss a call but it is a completely different conversation.”
Words obviously only mean so much without action, so the fact that this admittance came after he’s established some consistency with keeping harmful emotions in check adds quite a bit of truth to his statement. Plus, it seems like this was an entirely self-imposed change—or, at the very least, wasn’t something that the team mandated. Golden State has repeatedly accepted Draymond for who he is, for better or for worse, which often led to Steve Kerr having to qualify most of his compliments towards the team’s emotional leader with comments his lack of composure. After Saturday’s game, Kerr didn’t need to qualify anything about Green’s 20 points, 13 rebounds, 12 assists, and four steals.
“I don’t even know what to say about Draymond,” Steve Kerr told reporters. “He was like a wrecking ball out there. He was just destroying everything in his path. The pace that he was generating was incredible, and it just seemed like he never got tired. ... It’s one of the best games I’ve ever seen Draymond play.”
(Kerr did eventually talk about Green’s past problems with getting too many techs while meeting with reporters on Sunday.)
And it’s that energy and pace that has turned the Warriors back into the fresh-faced king slayers they were known to be in 2015. In Durant’s absence, Green has felt the need to step up and return to the All-Pro level he was playing at during the early stages of this team’s dominance, and the results have been rather electrifying. When Green is no longer taking cheap shots at other players, and is instead causing (legal) disruptions on both ends of the floor much like a swarm of wasps would disrupt a group of entomophobes having a picnic, he becomes not just tolerable, but really fun to watch.
All that’s left for Draymond to do is to take the same mindset that helped him fix his technicals problem and use it to stop the habit of returning a dirty contact back into eye in between plays.
If he does that again, I might have to take back everything I just said.