SAN FRANCISCO — The Warriors are upset and the Cavaliers are amused, especially LeBron James, who laughed at things Golden State players are saying about him.
The NBA Finals hasn’t been much of a series. Ahead 3-1, the Warriors can close out the Cavs on Monday night in Game 5. Things, however, have gotten interesting.
The outrage and entertainment come from the NBA’s decision to assess Draymond Green with a flagrant foul 1 for making “unnecessary contact with a retaliatory swipe of his hand to the groin” of James late in the Warriors’ 108-97 win in Game 4 Friday night.
Green has accrued four flagrant-foul points in the playoffs, resulting in an automatic one-game suspension for the versatile All-Star forward.
The Warriors are angry because they believe James disrespected Green by stepping over him after knocking him to the floor. The two were talking trash and James said Green “crossed the line” with his words. Klay Thompson accused James of “getting his feelings hurt.” James twice asked a reporter Sunday specifically what Thompson had said, and when he was told, he started laughing.
“Oh my goodness,” James said. “I’m not going to comment on what Klay said, because I know where it can go from this. It’s so hard to take the high road. I’ve been doing it for 13 years. It’s so hard to continue to do it, and I’m going to do it again.
“We’ve got to go out and show up and play better [Monday night], and if we don’t, then they’re going to be back-to-back champion, and that’s it. But I’ve taken the high road again.”
James, dressed in black, wore black sunglasses and an “Undertaker” T-shirt. He was in good spirits, laughing with reporters before practice.
Although James and the Cavaliers seem relaxed despite their position, this could work in the Warriors’ favor. They are upset and looking to win one for Green, who can’t be inside Oracle Arena during the game but can take part if there is a championship celebration.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr wouldn’t divulge who will start for Green, but Andre Iguodala is a safe bet.
In Game 4, James and Green were playing each other physically and jawing at each other. When James stepped over Green, the Warriors forward flailed his arms and hit James, who lobbied the NBA to review the play. James was assessed a technical for his role in the altercation, but Green suffered the greater penalty.
“It’s a man’s league,” Thompson said. “People’s feelings get hurt even if they’re called a bad word. I guess his feelings just got hurt. We’ve all been called plenty of bad words on the basketball court before. Some guys just react to it differently.”
It’s been building up for Green. Some believe he should have been suspended for kicking Thunder center Steven Adams in the groin in the Western Conference finals. Green was fined $25,000 and received a flagrant foul 2 after league review.
Warriors center Andrew Bogut said the Cavaliers’ postgame “strategy” was to get Green suspended. Backup big man Marreese Speights tweeted an emoji of a baby’s bottle Sunday afternoon. Shawn Livingston said the Warriors will have “a chip on their shoulder” in Game 5. “They played their strategy very, very well,” Bogut said. “They did what they had to do and they got one of our guys out.”
The conspiracy theorists contend that James baited Green into doing something that would get him suspended, and the NBA did it because it happened to their marquee player and could help extend this highly watched series. Green was not made available to comment.
“I don’t know what LeBron’s intention was,” Stephen Curry said. “Draymond thought it was disrespectful and wanted to get up and say something, so that was his reaction to it. I would have probably done the same thing.
“He’s trying to get up and somebody’s straddling him on top. It’s like an awkward situation to be in. So that was his reaction. That’s why I’m still kind of surprised that that was what the decision was.”
James said he didn’t do anything intentional and was “just trying to get back into the play” when he stepped over Green. “I don’t disrespect anybody,” James said. “It’s all in competition.”
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue, who was fined $25,000 for criticizing officials in Game 4, wouldn’t reveal his starting unit. With the season on the line, Lue could put Kevin Love back with the first team. Love came off the bench for Richard Jefferson in Game 4 after missing Game 3 with a concussion.
“We’ve got to give everything we’ve got,” Lue said. “Our backs are against the wall, so we’ve got to be prepared to win just one game.”