Draymond Green, to nobody’s surprise, is filled with hubris in the face of elimination.
After losing back-to-back games for the first time since last his Golden State Warriors were shockingly eliminated in a playoff series, falling behind 3-2 to the Houston Rockets in the best-of-seven Western Conference finals, the All-Star forward all but guaranteed their return to a fourth straight NBA Finals.
“We’ll be back here for Game 7,” Green told ESPN. Here being Houston. The Warriors must first win Saturday’s Game 6 at home, where they just lost for the first time since Game 7 of the 2016 Finals.
And when the Warriors return to Houston? “We still winning this,” Green told The Athletic. “Book it.”
This proclamation seems less bold a day after Green made it, now that Rockets point guard Chris Paul has been ruled out for Game 6 and won’t be 100 percent even if he is available for Game 7. It’s also unsurprising that it came from Green, who said before the series started that he’s not worried about Houston — or any other team that stands in Golden State’s way of a third championship in four years.
Steve Kerr and Stephen Curry concur
What’s a little more surprising is how brazen the rest of the Warriors are on the brink of elimination.
“I feel great about where we are right now,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters after his team suffered a winnable Game 5 defeat. “That may sound crazy, but I feel it. I know exactly what I’m seeing out there, and we defended them beautifully tonight. We got everything we needed. Just too many turnovers, too many reaches, and if we settle down a little bit, we’re going to be in really good shape.”
Asked why Kerr seems so confident, Warriors star Stephen Curry said, “You don’t believe him?
“Because I think the way we’ve played the last two games we’ve played good enough to win and just haven’t gotten the job done,” he added. “So going home Game 6, the way we played tonight, if we can repeat that, take care of turnovers, just stay mentally locked in on the details for 48 minutes, we know we can get a win. Just with the talent we have on this team and the resiliency and whatnot, we can get the job done. I think we’re excited about that opportunity to go home, to get ourselves back in the series, stay alive, obviously, like I said, then worry about a Game 7. We haven’t been in this position before, this team and teams of old, so it’s a chapter we need to figure out and finish the story.”
The Warriors have been here before
OK, sure, fearing a 3-2 deficit is sort of self-defeating, so you can’t lose confidence, but suggesting all these wounds are self-inflicted — that what they did in Games 4 and 5 was good enough if not for a few too many mistakes — sort of ignores the job Houston has done to push Golden State to the brink.
And the Warriors have been here before. They faced elimination against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 7 of the Finals two years ago — after Green said the Warriors would have already won the series had he not been suspended for Game 5 of that series — and they lost. This is not uncharted territory.
Instead, Green and Curry compared this deficit to the 2-1 margin they had to overcome against the Memphis Grizzlies in 2015, per The Athletic, but the Grit ‘n’ Grind Grizz were not a 65-win juggernaut with home-court advantage in Game 7. Of course, the Warriors have also added Kevin Durant since then, and Paul’s absence may make any concerns about overconfidence a moot point anyway.
Assuring victory when you’re starting four All-Stars, you’re favored by double digits in Game 6 and the other team’s second-best player just hobbled off the floor with a strained hamstring isn’t exactly going out on a limb. But that Green feels the need to put what amounts to a guarantee on record may speak to the fact that the reigning Defensive Player of the Year knows his team needs motivation.
Maybe Green is merely trying to motivate the Warriors
Green is the backbone of these Warriors, and he has sensed a malaise with this team before, as we all did during the regular season, when arguably the greatest team ever assembled fell short of 60 wins. Even in the conference semifinals, when Golden State led New Orleans two games to one, he felt the need to send Durant a 4 a.m. text telling him he lacked aggression on both ends of the floor.
So, maybe what seems like hubris is really quite the opposite. Or the Warriors just feel like they have the Rockets figured out, and Paul’s absence has an already confident team feeling unbeatable again.
“We faced series deficits before,” Kerr told reporters again from Friday’s off-day practice. “We’ve won all of those series. Our guys have the ultimate confidence that we can get it done this time too.”
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