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With Green under control, Warriors are in control

Emotional forward takes charge with 28 points as Golden State dominates Cleveland 110-77 to seize 2-0 lead in Finals

POSTED: Jun 6, 2016 1:28 AM ET

By Scott Howard-Cooper

BY Scott Howard-Cooper


Cavaliers vs. Warriors

Vince, Isiah and Dennis look ahead to Game 3 in Cleveland on Wednesday.

— This didn't earn him a flagrant foul, maybe even an ejection, and a suspension for the next game? Seriously?

Draymond Green openly pummeled Cleveland, the team and the city, on Sunday. He stepped on their throat, belted away their response plans with a tight fist, kicked them where it hurts and yet not one disciplinary whistle from referees to slow the rampage. It was like no one could stop him.

There were about 20,000 people watching in person and millions more on TV -- they are all witnesses -- though maybe not the Cavaliers, since they undoubtedly turned away in disgust and shame. And the way everyone around Green cheered the intentional infliction of pain. He hit back-to-back three-pointers in the second quarter, following a make from behind the arc about four minutes earlier, and Oracle Arena erupted.

The Warriors, too. With Green leading the charge, they went from trailing 28-27 to leading 52-37 to turn Game 2 of the Finals into an early blowout and eventually a 110-77 win. When the smoke cleared, the man facing the most unique of scrutiny had 28 points, including five three-pointers, seven rebounds and five assists against one turnover.

Green is one flagrant-foul point from a suspension and/or two technicals away from being forced to sit out a game ever since his emotions became the focus of attention in the Western Conference finals against Oklahoma City. Or, rather, the focus of negative attention. His energy and role as a locker-room leader, even in last season's championship despite while in just a third-year pro, has long been credited as a driving force for Golden State.

Draymond does everything for us. He defends. When we play our small lineup, he's our rim protector. It's a tough job in this series because he has to guard Kevin Love, who is usually spaced out at the three-point line. ... It's a difficult job.

– Warriors coach Steve Kerr

These playoffs, though, are when the emotions became a problem and maybe even a pressing problem. Kicking the Thunder's Steven Adams in the groin -- inadvertently, Green insisted repeatedly -- could have cost the Warriors their starting power forward and small-ball center for a game at the very moment Golden State was fighting for survival. And then, after the league decided against a suspension, Green got a technical in the third quarter of Game 5 of the West finals.

But he has been the personification of composure since. Zero flagrants, zero techs in his last four-plus playoff games. In that time, the Warriors became only the 10th team to ever rally from a 3-1 deficit in the playoffs and now own a 2-0 lead against the Cavaliers in The Finals. Twenty-two assists against nine turnovers over the same time.

"Draymond does everything for us," coach Steve Kerr said. "He defends. When we play our small lineup, he's our rim protector. It's a tough job in this series because he has to guard Kevin Love, who is usually spaced out at the three-point line. So he's got to pick his spots, how to help and try not to stray too far away from Love and still be able to help out on LeBron. So it's a difficult job. But I thought Draymond was great. Obviously he knocked down his three-point shots tonight, which is just a bonus. But he's always one of our most important players and had a heck of a game."

Nightly Notable: Draymond Green

Draymond Green goes off for 28 points, seven rebounds and five assists to lead the Warriors over the Cavaliers in Game 2.

Green's ability to steady himself again and play with absolute poise, while retaining the emotional style that helped turn a second-round pick in 2012 into an All-Star in 2016, has been an obvious factor in the Warriors likewise returning to solid ground. A suspension late in the tight Thunder series could have doomed Golden State, just as there was a time when being forced to sit in the early stage of the Finals could have added a hurdle to the repeat bid, although that notion is quickly disappearing.

When Green is like this, everywhere on the court, the Warriors can go anywhere.

He is a power forward, a center, a ball handler, a rebounder, a perimeter threat as a shooter, a defender, a leader and, yes, absolutely, emotional. It just doesn't have to be in the role of agitator, to where Kerr and Green talked last week about being careful to avoid a league discipline at the most important time of the season.

Warriors on Game 2 Win

Steve Kerr, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green address the media following the Game 2 win over the Cavaliers.

Green could still be an instigator. Take the second quarter Sunday, a stretch that may end up becoming the time that tipped the championship to the Warriors as they became the first team to win the first two games in the Finals since the Lakers did it against Orlando in 2009. He made threes, Golden State surged, the crowd swamped the Cavaliers with noise. Instigator.

"We really stayed poised," Green said. "We were up for a minute, and then they [the Cavaliers] went on that run and started the second quarter, and everybody kept their poise. We continued to trust the offense, and we started to lock back down on the defensive end. Once we did that, we were able to get a couple of run-outs, our guys hit a couple of threes and we just continued to move the basketball and continued to move bodies."

The Warriors, once down 3-1 in the Western Conference finals, once on the verge of elimination as Game 6 went down to the closing minutes and then again as Game 7 went down to the closing minutes, are firmly back in control. Green, handling the emotions, is firmly back in control. He worked over the Cavaliers in most every way possible Sunday, in full view of referees and league officials in attendance, and got congratulated, not suspended.


Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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