Ex-Spartan Green puts mark on NBA Finals

Associated Press
Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green laughs while speaking at a news conference after Game 2 of the NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Oakland, Calif., Sunday.

Oakland, Calif. — He flexes his muscles and barks at the crowd.

He blocks shots and kicks opponents.

He hits 3-pointers and devours rebounds.

Draymond Green has had his fingerprints — and shoe prints — all over the NBA Finals as the Warriors have dominated the first two games of their rematch against the Cavaliers.

LeBron James and the Cavaliers have used all their defensive energy trying to keep Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson from beating them, which has opened the door for Green.

He hasn’t just walked through. He has kicked the door down.

Green (Michigan State) averaged 22.0 points, 9.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists in Games 1 and 2, and spearheaded the dominant defensive effort against the Cavaliers. The result has been victories by a combined 48 points, the most ever in the first two games of an NBA Finals.

The intensity and ferocity he brings have been crucial throughout the playoff run. But it also has manifested in some on-court antics that have turned the hard-nosed, prideful underdog into something of a villain.

“When you look at him as a competitor, you want Draymond Green on your team and you probably can’t stand him when you have to face him because he keeps his foot on the gas and he’s going to do whatever it takes to win ballgames as far as a competitive spirit is concerned,” said ABC analyst Mark Jackson, who coached Green two years at the start of his career.

Green had several run-ins with Thunder center Steven Adams during the Western Conference finals, and that has carried over to the championship round, when he kicked Kyrie Irving in the chest in Game 1.

Players have long made a habit of kicking their legs out while taking jump shots to try to draw fouls, with Reggie Miller, Manu Ginobili and Russell Westbrook a few of the culprits.

But Green’s kicks, like the one to Adams’ groin, are more violent in nature.

Green has said on multiple occasions his wild kicking motion is involuntary.

“If I was aware of something, I wouldn’t do it,” Green said. “But basketball is basketball, and bodies react a certain type of way. I don’t really mind any scrutiny. It doesn’t bother me. I’m going to still live my life and do everything I do the same way and not lose any sleep.”

Love returns to Cleveland

Kevin Love was cleared to fly.

His playing status, however, remains up in the air.

The Cavaliers forward, who sustained a concussion in the first half of Game 2, traveled with his teammates from San Francisco to Cleveland.

It’s not yet known if Love will play again in the series. He is following the NBA’s protocol on concussions.

Ratings drop

The 110-77 Game 2 victory by thew Warriors averaged nearly 17.4 million viewers on ABC. That’s down about 8 percent from the almost 18.8 million viewers for Game 2 between the same teams in 2015.

ESPN officials said the audience was still the second largest for a Game 2 since the NBA Finals moved to ABC in 2003, behind only last season’s matchup.