This is the play that got Draymond Green his fourth flagrant foul, and thus suspended for tonight's, potentially Championship clenching, game against the Cavs. A lot has been made out of the leagues decision to suspend Green. A number of current and former players have come out in Draymond's defense. The national media has delighted in having such a juicy story to fill the three days between games with. You can read takes until you are blue in the face but whether or not Draymond deserves to be suspended for Game Five, it's the reality we live in. According to Marc Stein, Green will be able to celebrate with his teammates if Golden State win's tonight.
I can't imagine how bummed out Green is about all of this. To think that the teams heart and soul may not be able to compete in the game that caps off their historic season is almost asinine. But Draymond is a smart guy, he knew that the league was going to be watching him extra close after he went all, Karate Kid on Steven Adams junk, and yet he couldn't help but take a shot at James in the open court after LeBron went for the step over. Is LeBron a savvy enough player to know that Green would retaliate to his disrespectful show? Of course he is. Am I cynical enough to believe that James would do something like that knowing that their only chance to get back into the series would be to eliminate Green from the equation? Eh... Almost.
It's easy to imagine an era in which Draymond's groin swipe goes mostly unnoticed and the league isn't put into a situation to have to suspend one of its premier players in such a big game. Go back and watch any old Utah Jazz game in which John Stockton is playing and be prepared to see a horrifying number of low blows. It's easier to get away with these kinds of shenanigans when millions of people are not retweeting .GIFS of any questionable act seconds after they happen. Modern players have to be more self aware than at any other time in the history of the game. Green knows this. He knew that one more cheap shot was going to lead to this, and he has no one to blame but himself for this suspension.
So what does this mean for the Warriors? One player who is definitely going to miss Green's versatility is Stephen Curry. It's the pick and roll with Draymond that kickstarts so much of Steph's game. Green is the only Warriors big who can set a pick and either roll to the basket for a monster dunk, pop behind the arc and hit a three, or slip out and make a play from the free-throw line. It's this kind of versatility that keeps defenses on their toes and can create open looks for Curry. Just look at Curry's numbers when Green is on the court compared to when he is on the bench.
The same intensity that has garnered Green this suspension makes him an absolute hellion on defense. Iguodala's defense on LeBron James has gotten most of the headlines in these Finals, and for good reason, but Green has also played well on James, and his ability to switch on Cleveland's guards on screens that has Golden State on the brink of their second straight title. When the Warriors are at full strength they can play defense as well as any team in NBA history.
That's what the Warriors are losing. What they have to work with is still formidable. They have home court advantage in Game Five which means their role players will be more comfortable having expanded roles. Maurice Speights is more than capable of going on a scoring binge as the primary screen setter in Golden State's starting lineup. Shaun Livingston has been particularly better at home than away in these playoffs: +9.8 at home, -2.3 on the road. Between the two of them I think that Mo and Shawn can combine to make up for Green on offense.
There is just no making up for what Green does for Golden defensively. Steve Kerr is going to be put to a lot of tough decisions tonight, does he want to pay big with either Bogut or Ezeli and run the risk of getting run off the court by Cleveland's small lineup, or does he choose to go ultra small, playing Barnes at center at the risk of getting dominated on the offensive boards. Tristan Thompson has had his way with the Warriors in the Finals. He already has 22 offensive rebounds, and without Green in the game to bang bodies with Thompson down low, we have a real chance of seeing Thompson get over 10 offensive boards in Game Five.
We saw James McAdoo play his first minutes of the Finals in Game Four. The 6'9," 240 pound rookie has the size and athleticism to keep up with Cleveland's bigs, but does not the kind of experience you would expect out of someone playing in such a decisive game. When Kerr trusts a player he is not afraid to go with him at any point, and I'll be curious to see how many minutes the rookie gets tonight, if for no other reason than to have another big body to bang around with Thompson on the glass.
I'm expecting all kinds of lineups from the Warriors tonight in a game that will test their incredible versatility. The Cavaliers are playing for their season, and LeBron James is going to be a demon on the court. As much as I would love to see this series go six or seven games, I am fascinated by the prospect of Kerr being able to constantly tinker with his lineup and finding a way to win without Green, who is very much an MVP caliber player. It would suck for Draymond Green to have to miss out on the finishing touches of this historic campaign, but it would be so fitting if the team that can do anything overcomes this one last obstacle to cap off the season of a lifetime