By Ben Ross
Special to S.F. Examiner
CHASE CENTER — Draymond Green returned to the Golden State Warriors starting lineup on Monday night after missing five games with a torn ligament in his left index finger.
He wouldn’t stay through the end.
In a 122-108 loss to the Utah Jazz on Monday, Green — the lone remaining healthy veteran on a team stocked with eight players age 23 or younger — was ejected early in the fourth quarter for arguing a blocking call.
“I disagreed with that call,” Green explained after the game. “And I’m never going to be okay with another grown man telling me, ‘Don’t talk.’ If you feel like you got the call wrong or right, you don’t tell me not to talk. I’m a grown man. I’ve got my own kids. So that’s what happened.”
Warriors head coach Steve Kerr agreed with Green’s take on the call but was disappointed in his veteran for leaving the team shorthanded.
“I thought it was a tough call,” Kerr said. “I thought it was a charge that was called a block, so it was a tough call. I don’t know what he said, but we need him. So one tech is fine. Can’t have two.”
Kerr picked up a technical of his own less than a minute after Green’s ejection, arguing a kick ball violation.
Before he was tossed, Green struggled on the offensive end, scoring just four points in 22 minutes as Golden State fell to an NBA-worst 2-9, continuing their march toward the NBA Draft Lottery.
“I’ve just got to get my wind back, but that will come back pretty fast,” Green said of the five-game layoff. “And then just adjust to our offense. This is a completely different offense we’re running. I don’t know if you noticed it or not, but this isn’t our normal offense. So just adjust to that, kind of find my spots and figure out where I fit in the offense – spacing, different stuff like that, which will happen pretty quickly.”
Added Kerr: “I thought Draymond looked good. He was a little rusty his first run, and then after his first run, he looked much better. He’s easing his way back from injury, but he’s also easing his way into a team that he hasn’t really seen before.”
Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, and Mike Conley combined for 70 points to deal Golden State its fourth straight loss, and seventh in its last eight games.
D’Angelo Russell — tasked with shouldering the scoring load in the absences of Stephen Curry (broken hand) and Klay Thompson (ACL) — did his best to keep the Warriors close, scoring a game-high 33 points and eight assists and shooting 13-for-25 from the field, including 5-of-9 from 3-point range. It was Russell’s career-best fourth straight game tallying 30 or more points.
Jordan Poole and Marquese Chriss added 11 points apiece for Golden State, and Alec Burks also reached double figures with 10. Willie Cauley-Stein scored eight points and pulled down a season-high 11 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough to contend with Utah.
Gobert paced the Jazz with 25 points on 11-of-12 shooting, along with 14 rebounds and two blocks. Mitchell added 23 points, eight rebounds and six assists, while Conley chipped in 22 points and seven assists. The trio led seven Jazz players in double figures.
The Warriors hung tough for the first quarter and a half, trailing 45-40 with 5:47 remaining in the half, but the Jazz would use a 24-12 run to open up a 17-point lead and enter halftime up by 15. The Warriors would never get back within single digits.
Utah shot 49% from the field, while Golden State shot 48%, but the Jazz made a very Golden State-esque 16 3-pointers on 35 attempts (46%), compared to the hobbled Warriors, who shot just 10-of-31 (32%) from beyond the arc.
Golden State’s four-game losing streak matches the team’s longest skid since the 2014-15 season. The 2-9 start is the Warriors’ worst since 1999.
Still, Kerr wants his players to stay positive.
“They have a lot to play for, all of these guys,” he said. “It’s discouraging to be 2-9 but it’s a long season and there’s no reason why we can’t get on a run and win some games and start to feel better about things. But we’ve got some work to do.”