OAKLAND, Calif. — Two years ago, the Warriors held a 3-1 lead over the Cavaliers and looked to be well on their way to a second straight NBA title. But Draymond Green was suspended for Game 5 of the Finals after an altercation with LeBron James in the previous game, and everything unraveled from there as the Warriors became the first team in NBA history to blow a 3-1 Finals lead.
Flash forward to the Warriors’ Game 1 win in overtime Thursday night as the same two teams squared off for a record fourth straight year. Green was on the receiving end in a heated exchange with the Cavs’ Tristan Thompson at the end of OT.
After being ejected for a flagrant foul against Shaun Livingston, Thompson responded to a verbal exchange with Green by mushing the ball into Green’s face the way actor James Cagney once rubbed a grapefruit into his girlfriend’s face in the movie “The Public Enemy.” But Thompson received only a $25,000 fine rather than a suspension.
Did that surprise Green? “Not at all,” he said Saturday. “Suspending somebody else wouldn’t make me feel good. It’s in the past. I don’t want nobody to get suspended. It does nothing for us or for me.
“I’m happy he only got a $25,000 fine. It’s not that much, but we’re out here trying to feed our families. I don’t like to see people lose money, and I don’t like to see people get suspended. I don’t really think it’s a double standard. I think it is what it is.”
Asked if he would have been suspended for shoving the ball in another player’s face, he said, “I’d maybe have gotten suspended.”
Emotions ran hot at the end of Game 1. The Cavs were angry about a replay reversal that went against them and upset about blowing their chance to win at the end of regulation. The Warriors were giddy about stealing the game, and they rubbed the Cavs’ noses in it when Stephen Curry taunted James and Green appeared to dance and celebrate Thompson’s exit. “That was a result of some people who were talking,” he said. “I talked back, and I danced back. I wasn’t really dancing, though. I was shaking pompons.”
Despite the way Game 1 ended, the rivalry between the Warriors and Cavs hasn’t evolved into the kind of hatred associated with the Lakers-Celtics rivalry in the past. But it definitely got chippy in Game 1, and after surrendering 51 points to James in the opener, Green and the Warriors are talking about coming out with more “force” in Game 2.
“Part of that competitive environment when somebody is in your way of holding the trophy, there is going to be a little animosity and a little edginess,” Curry said. “But at the end of the day, it’s basketball. You can leave it out there on the floor and not take anything too personally. We’re not holding hands and singing songs as friends. We’re enjoying the competitive environment.”
Green expects the emotions at the end of Game 1 to spill over to Game 2. “It should,” he said. “We’re trying to win a championship. There should be emotions involved, and if not, then whoever’s emotions aren’t involved should go sit down somewhere. This is what you work your whole life for, so it should carry over. It will be more controlled, probably, but the intensity should carry over.”