OAKLAND — With 5:06 left in regulation and the Golden State Warriors tied at 94 with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Draymond Green decided to unload from the perimeter, to the groans of 19,596 screaming fans.
Green’s three-point shot was broken. He was 2-of-17 from three-point range against the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Finals. Midway through the fourth quarter of Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Green had missed three from beyond the arc.
He swished his fourth.
I have no idea where the Warriors would be without Draymond Green. In all likelihood, they wouldn’t be in the Finals. Ignore his barking to the officials, his trash talk towards LeBron James and interaction with Cleveland Cavaliers’ forward Tristan Thompson at the end of overtime. Folks will focus on those shenanigans and dismiss his stellar play.
The reigning Defensive Player of the Year finished with 13 points, 11 rebounds, 9 assists, 5 steals and 2 blocks. Oh, and his plus/minus was a game-high plus-17.
Basically, a typical night for Green, but afterward, it was about his confidence to shoot the three, a shot he’s hesitated to shoot as of late.
“Well, I know how much time I put on my shot, Green said. “I put a ton of time in. Just trying to stay confident. I’ve got guys like Steph who after I missed the first one, he’s like, ‘Listen, you’re going to get that shot all night, take it with confidence.'”
During this postseason run, teams have dared Green to shoot, and at times — especially against Houston — he thought too much, and refused to shoot. Overthinking and being unsure is not Green’s DNA.
It’s a message that not was relayed to him not only by head coach Steve Kerr before Game 1, but seldom-used center Zaza Pachulia, who has stayed engaged despite the lack of playing time.
“Coach Kerr has been telling me the last couple days, ‘Your shot’s going to fall, take it with confidence,'” Green said. “Even Zaza came up to me before the game, like this whole pep talk about shooting the basketball.”
The story of Green’s basketball career has been built on people doubting his talents, questioning his ability to play in the NBA due to his stature. However, he’s in an organization that backs him, one which encourages him to be the vocal leader and quarterback of the defense.
They also encourage him to shoot, even when it looks like he can’t hit the broad side of a barn. That confidence certainly helped him hit two of the biggest shots of Game 1.
“Like, when you play with people like that, coaches like that, play for coaches like that, and they keep that confidence in you, it helps you keep that confidence in yourself,” Green said. “You know, the big moment helps. You like to be in that moment, so I think that helps as well.”
With 3:45 to go in overtime, Green led Klay Thompson for a rhythm three in the corner.
After a Jeff Green tip-in with 1:56 to go in overtime, Green stepped up and hit a 29-footer of his own from the right side, giving the Warriors a 10-point lead.
Then, with 1:36 left in overtime, he sank the dagger, looking confident in nailing his second three-pointer of the night. He wasn’t done. Green then found Thompson with 1:04 to go, giving the Warriors an 11-point lead.
I’ve run out of adjectives to describe Draymond Green, but on the same floor as LeBron James, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Kevin Love, he was arguably the best player on the court down the stretch.