Draymond Green will be back for Game 6.
Andrew Bogut will not.
The Golden State Warriors hope to close out the Cleveland Cavaliers tonight to secure an NBA title exactly one year removed from winning last year’s championship.
Green’s presence was dearly missed in Game 5, when the Dubs struggled with communication on the defensive end, turned the ball over in transition and fell victim to uncharacteristic cold spells.
Members of the team at practice on Wednesday said Green’s presence won’t represent a fix-all to those problems, but it will sure help.
“Draymond is the spirit of what we do, you see it out on the floor,” unanimous MVP Stephen Curry said. “That’s what he brings.”
Green returned to practice and expressed contrition for the fact he was watching Game 5 in the Oakland Coliseum instead of playing defense and frustrating LeBron James, who dominated in Green’s absence. James finished the contest with 41 points, a personal playoff-high, and found success attacking the rim and shooting jumpers. Most notably, James had a series-low for turnovers by only coughing it up twice, limiting the Warriors’ ability to get into transition and score fastbreak baskets.
That would’ve been different had Golden State been at full strength, according to Green.
“I owe to my teammates to come back and give all that I have, all that I can do to better this situation,” Green said. “I have strong belief that if I play Game 5, we win. But I didn’t because I put myself in a situation where I wasn’t able to play.”
Even with the return of possibly their second-best player, the Dubs will be shorthanded.
Bogut left Game 5 in severe pain after J.R. Smith collided with his knee. He received an MRI Tuesday that revealed a “significant impaction injury to his left knee,” according to the Warriors. He’ll miss the rest of the NBA Finals and will need up to two months to recover from the bone bruises.
“It’s bad news for our team,” head coach Steve Kerr said. “Bogues has made an impact on this series. … Last two [games], we played him fewer minutes but still he’s a defensive presence at the rim, a rebounder and a great passer. We’ll miss the minutes he’s been giving us.”
Kerr hinted he’ll likely replace him with a mixture of Festus Ezeli, Anderson Varejao and Marreese Speights.
The reserve big men struggled in the last game, but Kerr said it’s his philosophy to believe in every player on his bench. But the numbers are hard to deny: The trio of Varejao/Ezeli/Speights finished a combined 1-for-9 from the field.
Some have suggested Golden State will go with its smallball “Death Lineup” for the entire contest, noting the team plays better with Green at the center. (In 83 Finals minutes, the Dubs have scored more points with improved efficiency while limiting their opponents on defense, according to statistics database NBAwowy.)
Don’t expect the team to go small the whole time, because that lineup is effective due to their use of a more traditional unit for stretches.
”I think it works because of the other lineups we throw out there and have that versatility throughout the course of 48 minutes,” Curry said. “We’ll see how the rotations go and how we start. At the end of the day, whoever’s out there has to execute better than we did in Game 5 in order to win another championship.”
The bottom line: Golden State wants to finish out the season today with the players it has available. Because if they allow the series to come back to Oakland for a Game 7, the situation will be much more tense.
“Nobody will remember [Green being suspended] down the road if we get this done [tonight],” Curry said. “So that’s really all we need to talk about.”