Draymond Green walked right up and didn’t take a step backwards — literally or verbally — in front of a dozen cameras and many more reporters packed into a tiny room, and his relaxed, wry grin underlined and emphasized everything he said.
He was there — in an interview room across the hall from the Warriors locker room at Quicken Loans Arena on Friday, about an hour after the Warriors’ Game 4 loss to the Cavaliers to narrow their Finals lead to 3-1 — and he had no desire to be anywhere else.
Green wanted to put himself under the spotlight, draw as much attention as possible, prime the mood for Game 5 at Oracle Arena on Monday, offer himself up as Cleveland Public Enemy Nos. 1-100, and embrace every rowdy moment of it.
“I love this game,” Green said to finish off one answer. “And I love y’all. I appreciate y’all. I’m having a great time right now.”
Then when the questions ran out — and that almost never happens in the NBA Finals, with such a high-profile player, after such a potential series turning point — Green stared at the cameras, shrugged, and suggested he could’ve handled dozens more.
“That’s it?” Green said. “Ahh, man, I never wanted this to end.”
So yes, we have reached the Second Annual NBA Finals Draymond Green Moment — the exact juncture when the championship chase seems to bounce to his emotional rhythms, which, as the Warriors found out last season, is not guaranteed to work out to their benefit.
Of course, in last year’s Finals, the Warriors won Game 4 in Cleveland to go up 3-1, but the series changed when Green was suspended for Game 5 due to an accumulation of flagrant fouls that highlighted this emotional tightrope.
The Warriors lost Game 5. Then also lost Games 6 and 7. Everything about this season has been to make sure those three losses aren’t repeated, and here the Warriors are, up 3-1 again heading home for Game 5.
And all of this was the subtext of Friday night’s one-man postgame performance.
“At the end of the day, the series is a little different,” Green said. “Thank God I get to play.”
Yes, he will play in Game 5, and he will have Kevin Durant as his teammate, not Harrison Barnes, and yes the Warriors feel very good about those things and many other differences from last year.
But Green kept pushing the rhetoric on Friday, because that’s just what he does — he has been trash-talking the Cavaliers (who are trash-talking right back) the whole series, and he had that weird episode with the officials on Friday when it was assumed he’d been ejected for two technical fouls but the refs went back and clarified that the first technical was actually called on Steve Kerr.
Green pushes things — he pushed Kerr for much of this season, but the two ironed things out a few months ago and they have always acknowledged that they are the team’s two most volatile characters, and both vital motivators for this team.
Draymond does it a very different way, and you can tell that he feels this moment is a particularly significant one for the Warriors. Well, because it is.
On Friday, Green also took a verbal swipe at Cleveland fans (”they don’t seem to be the sharpest people around”), said he was thrilled the Quicken Loans crowd chanted his name in derision (”they show me how important I am to them; they are at home thinking about me”) and deftly outlined the Warriors’ complaints about the officiating in Game 4 without being too obvious about it.
Green is the Warriors’ designated vocal leader, and this was how the Warriors expressed their frustration with Game 4 and how Green wanted to display that Game 5 at Oracle Arena on Monday would be different, better, and edgier.
The Warriors have heard a year’s worth of taunts for blowing the 3-1 lead last year, and Game 5 is their best and first opportunity to shut all of that down.
So Green’s words were the clarion call for Game 5, the bump-start to everything the Warriors will say and feel in the hours leading up to tip-off and throughout that contest … which could and should end with them celebrating a championship for the second time in three seasons.
Was it over the top? A little over the line? Possibly a perfect motivation for the Cavaliers, too? Yes, yes and yes.
That’s Green’s style, and his flagrant-foul accumulation last year and his rapidly growing technical-foul count in these Finals are more evidence.
Most players shooting the way Green has recently would not put themselves forward like this; they’d duck under the radar and try to escape notice until they got hot again.
Not Draymond Green, though he’s 5 of 20 from 3-point distance (25 percent) in this series and shooting 35.6 percent from the field overall in the Finals.
Interesting, here are Green’s 3-point percentages by series this postseason:
■ First round against Portland: 55 percent.
■ Second round against Utah: 47.6 percent.
■ Third round against San Antonio: 33 percent.
■ Currently in the Finals against Cleveland: 25 percent.
Maybe Green feels he needs to electro-shock his own game back to where it was in the Portland series, and the Warriors could certainly use that, too.
The Warriors lost Game 5 last year when Green was suspended, then he came back for Game 6 with a relatively pedestrian (for him) eight points, 10 rebounds six assists, 3-for-7 shooting in 41 minutes in Cleveland’s 115-101 victory to tie the series.
But then in Game 7, Green put on a tour de force: 32 points, 15 rebounds, nine assists, 11-for-15 shooting (6-for-8 from 3-point distance) in 47 minutes … and yet the Warriors still lost, 93-89, and Cleveland celebrated the championship on the Warriors’ home floor.
If Green has another performance like that Monday, and if Durant and Curry and there with him, this series will end in five games and the Warriors will celebrate a title on their home floor for the first time since they moved to the Bay Area in 1962.
Without saying the exact words, but by standing in that spot and circling himself and underlining the differences from last year, Draymond Green wants everybody to know that the Warriors are ready for this, and that the Second Annual NBA Finals Draymond Moment is set up to be something special.
Golden State vs. Cleveland
Warriors lead, 3-1
All games on ABC
■Game 1: Golden State 113-91
■Game 2: Golden State 132-113
■Game 3: Golden State 118-113
■Game 4: Cleveland 137-116
■Monday: at Golden State, 9
■x-Thursday: at Cleveland, 9
■x-Sunday: at Golden State, 8