Warriors vs Celtics, 2022 NBA Finals Game 4: all eyes on Draymond Green
The Golden State Warriors need Draymond Green back on form as they bid to recover from 2-1 down in the 2022 NBA Finals.
A number of things need to change if the Golden State Warriors want to turn the 2022 NBA Finals around. In Game 4 tonight, it’s on Steve Kerr’s men to produce a reaction... and, given their previous record in the Playoffs, you wouldn’t bet against it. The Warriors have won at least one game on the road in 26 consecutive postseason series. It’s time for them to make it 27; otherwise, they’ll go back to San Francisco 3-1 down. The last time they found themselves in their current predicament was in the 2019 Finals, against the Toronto Raptors. They proceeded to lose Game 4, before winning Game 5, in Toronto, and suffering a series-ending defeat in the sixth, in the last official game at Oakland’s Oracle Arena. In Game 5, Kevin Durant had injured himself in his attempts to lead a heroic comeback. In Game 6, Klay Thompson was also struck down. And Kevon Looney and Andre Iguodala were struggling, too…
Warriors have form in overturning 2-1 deficit
Before then, the Warriors had only been 2-1 behind three times in the Kerr era: in the Western Conference Finals in 2016, when they flipped a 3-1 deficit against the Oklahoma City Thunder (before throwing away such a lead in the Finals, as the Cleveland Cavaliers pulled off a fightback unprecedented in the championship series). In 2015, on their way to their first NBA title of the modern era, the Warriors were twice 2-1 down: against the Memphis Grizzlies in the Western Conference Semi-Finals, and in the Finals against the Cavs. On both occasions, they won Game 4… and the series.
Crucial for Golden States that Green bounces back
Tonight, all eyes will be on Draymond Green, the team’s emotional coat of armour, a key figure because of his status as one of the all-time great defenders. What’s more, he’s an exceptional distributor who has specialised in getting the team going when the opposition has focused on stopping Stephen Curry. Green is enduring a dreadful Finals series, however. In Game 2, which the Warriors won after a superb second-half performance, he was able to frustrate his opponents, control the emotional rhythm of the game and disrupt the flow when things weren’t going their way. But when the series moved to Boston for Game 3, Green was awful, on a night when he found himself insulted by the crowd and pushed around by the Celtics, who were the more focused team and seemed to have far more in the tank.
Green is always at the centre of the controversy. It’s part of his personality as a player, part of what has made him so significant to the best team in history, and something that has helped the Warriors to victory on many occasions. It has also come back to bite him when things have gone wrong, though: both internally (the end of his friendship with Durant), and in the moments when his habit of pushing the limit with referees, opponents and supporters has cost him dear. Never more so than in the 2016 Finals, when his altercation with LeBron James left him suspended for Game 5, the point at which the Cavaliers’ comeback began.
Now, Green also devotes the hours after games to his podcast. For some, it’s odd to hear a player analysing and dissecting a series in which he’s playing. There are even those who believe it distracts him… and gives the other team an advantage. The reporter Jake Fischer said so to Green in a press conference, prompting a terse response in which the player insisted that he wasn’t giving away significant strategic clues to the Celtics, given the level of analysis teams undertake during a series of such importance. However, Fischer emphasised that opponents are listening to his podcast, and that Celtics head coach Ime Udoka has an assistant keeping tabs on what he says. Because even the smallest of details could be significant in the fight for the title.
Green admits he has “played like shit”
But the chief problem for Green is his on-court performances. In the Finals so far, he has averaged five points, seven rebounds and five assists, with a 26% shooting success rate, 0% on three pointers and 50% on free throws. He has accumulated more personal fouls than points, more technicals than threes, and more turnovers than baskets (and more than his steals and blocks put together). In defence, he has been a shadow of his former self in two out of the three games, something he cannot afford when he’s in a team with fewer specialists than in the past. Green is allowing 1.24 points per play when he’s the direct defender - his worst record in the Playoffs since the 2013/14 season. In offence, his inability to score three-pointers or even to finish off plays close to the rim has been a critical issue for the Warriors. The Celtics can forget about him, leaving themselves with an extra defender in the paint. And Boston don’t focus on pressuring Curry with several players, depriving Green of the chance to launch those four-one-three plays that have made Golden State so lethal even when Curry hasn’t produced big.
Green himself has acknowledged that he “played like shit” in Game 3, insisting that his displays will be back to to scratch starting from today. They’d better be, because time is running out…