Draymond Green gets under Celtics’ skin in Game 2


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SAN FRANCISCO — Draymond Green hit the Chase Center court for Sunday’s Game 2 intent on “setting the tone” defensively for the Golden State Warriors. Sure enough, he wrestled Al Horford to the hardwood to force a jump ball on the very first possession.

The Warriors evened the NBA Finals at one game apiece by combining Green’s intensity with Stephen Curry’s shot-making in a 107-88 runaway over the Boston Celtics. While Curry sealed the win with what Warriors Coach Steve Kerr called a “breathtaking” performance in the third quarter, Green’s physical antics on several plays got the attention of both the referees and the Celtics.

Midway through the first quarter, Green ran through Grant Williams while heading to the top of the key to set a screen, drawing a foul on the Celtics forward in the process. During the ensuing dead ball, Green received a technical foul for repeatedly pushing Williams away from him.

Then, shortly before halftime, Green became entangled with Jaylen Brown as the Celtics guard attempted a three-pointer. Green, who was called for a defensive foul, landed awkwardly with his right foot near Brown’s head. When Brown took exception to the extra contact, Green yanked at Brown’s shorts while he got to his feet.

Warriors brush aside nerves, put down the Celtics to even the NBA Finals

The two players had to be separated, though both avoided extra discipline. Had the referees issued double technical fouls for the minor altercation, Green would have been ejected from what was a one-possession game at halftime.

“I’m just trying to play basketball,” Brown said. “I feel like that was an illegal play. I feel like they could have called it, but they let it go in terms of a technical either way. But I don’t know what I was supposed to do there. Somebody got their legs on the top of your head and then he tried to pull my pants down. I don’t know what that was about. That’s what Draymond Green does. He’ll do whatever it takes to win. He’ll pull you, he’ll grab you, he’ll try to muck the game up because that’s what he does for their team. It’s nothing to be surprised about.”

Celtics Coach Ime Udoka was assessed a technical foul of his own midway through the third quarter when the referees missed an apparent reach-in foul on Green while he defended Brown on the perimeter. Udoka said that he received the technical “on purpose” for letting the referees “know how I felt throughout the game in a demonstrative way.”

As for the dust-up before halftime, Udoka implied that Green’s prior technical foul influenced the decision not to assess double technical fouls on Green and Brown.

“I was not surprised there wasn’t a double technical called,” Udoka said. “Not surprised at all, due to the circumstances.”

Former NBA referee Steve Javie endorsed the officials’ decision during the ABC broadcast, asserting that awareness of Green’s previous technical is “part of good officiating.”

“You have to consider that one player definitely has a technical foul,” Javie said. “Is this enough to call a double [technical] and eject the one player? Personally, I would say nothing and let it defuse.”

Green, of course, is no stranger to operating in gray areas during the playoffs. In the second round against the Memphis Grizzlies, he was ejected from Game 1 for a flagrant foul when he yanked Brandon Clarke out of the air by his jersey.

Most famously, the seven-time all-defensive team selection got in hot water at multiple points during the 2016 playoffs, twice kicking Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams below the belt in the Western Conference finals before getting suspended for Game 5 of the Finals for a swipe to the groin of Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James.

“We know what Draymond brings to the game,” said Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, who played with Green on USA Basketball’s gold medal winning team at the Tokyo Olympics. “I love that about him. Obviously, I played with him. We tried to match that. I just felt like we weren’t getting the benefit of the doubt when we were trying to play with that physicality.”

Green finished with nine points, five rebounds and seven assists in 35 minutes, a modest line that didn’t truly reflect his impact on Game 2. Although he was whistled for just three fouls, Golden State’s blowout margin meant that both teams rested their starters for long stretches of the fourth quarter.

In a strategic tweak, Kerr deployed Green more often as a primary defender on Tatum and Brown in hopes of disrupting the Celtics’ offensive rhythm. After scoring 120 points in their Game 1 win, the Celtics managed just 88 points in Game 2, their lowest total of the 2022 postseason. Boston committed 18 turnovers and shot just 30-for-80 on the night, and Brown had one of his worst shooting performances of the playoffs, going 5-for-17 from the field. The Celtics will try to regain their offensive chemistry in Wednesday’s Game 3 at TD Garden.

“[The Warriors] switched the lineup,” Brown said. “They tried to put [Green] on me, be physical, muck the game up, pull me, grab me and, overall, raise the intensity. I feel like they got away with a lot of stuff tonight, but I’m looking forward to the challenge of the next game. All that stuff, the gimmicks, the tricks, we’ve just got to be the smarter team and the more physical team.”

There are other numbers but that tweet right there sums things up nicely. The Celtics couldn’t miss in the fourth, starting with Jaylen Brown and continuing down the roster to Derrick White, Marcus Smart, Payton Pritchard (?!) and the veteran Al Horford, who hit shot after shot on the eve of his 36th birthday to finish with 26 points. He was 6-for-8 from three and the Celtics hit their first seven attempts from long range in the fourth, ultimately using a 17-0 run to end the game well before the final buzzer.


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