OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — A year ago for Game 5 of the NBA Finals, Golden State general manager Bob Myers sat alongside suspended forward Draymond Green next-door to Oracle Arena in a suite at the Oakland Athletics game.
Myers told Green: Let’s not do this again.
On Monday night, the Warriors will try again to close out their second championship in three years with the fiery Green on the court to start Game 5 this time. They are up 3-1 in the best-of-seven series — again. LeBron James and Cleveland, looking down and out only days ago in an 0-3 hole, now have some momentum after winning Game 4 and they will try to stave off elimination once more.
“We won three games in a row in the Finals and 15 in a row overall in the playoffs, you just think it’s going to happen,” Green said Sunday. “And then all of a sudden you get slapped in the face. It’s like, ‘Whoa.’ You remember what can be, what can happen.”
Golden State would rather forget that monumental collapse last year, when Green’s absence for Game 5 because of flagrant foul point accumulation helped swing the series. He took a swipe at James’ groin in Game 4 after the Cavaliers superstar stepped over him.
Myers chose to stay with Green as he sat out that game last June.
“When we were there last year I think I looked at him and said: ‘Let’s just never do this again. Let’s make sure you’re playing and I get to watch. This doesn’t feel right, let’s avoid this, move forward,'” Myers recalled. “Whatever he’s doing, he should keep doing it. And look, he hasn’t lost any of the intensity and he hasn’t lost his edge. That’s the hardest challenge, when you have that type of emotions, to channel it. And he’s really been able to do that. Like I said, I think because of experience.”
Green said his suspension conversation with Myers is a moment “I remember like it was yesterday, I’ll never forget it.”
If the Warriors can close out the tough-to-eliminate Cavs on Monday, they would become the first Bay Area team to capture a championship at home since the A’s finished the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 5 of the 1974 World Series.
James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love know they aren’t out of this yet — after all, they came back from a daunting deficit a year ago on the way to the city’s first major team sports title in 52 years. Sure, it will be a tall task in Oakland with a motivated Kevin Durant trying to capture his first career title and playing like a possible Finals MVP.
“We know that champions don’t die. They don’t just lay down and die,” Durant said.
The Cavs showed what they’re capable of doing when everything clicks on both ends, scoring a record 86 points in the first half of Friday’s 137-116 win to extend the series and postpone any Warriors plans for a victory parade.
But that was in Cleveland.
“We have to be 20 times better in this building,” said James, who has won at least one road game in 29 straight postseason series.
Golden State knows it too must make adjustments, including getting a hand in the face of the Cavs’ sharpshooters after surrendering a Finals record 24 3-pointers Friday, seven of those by Irving during his 40-point masterpiece. Warriors coach Steve Kerr said it all starts with better on-ball defense.
Durant said he can accept when Cleveland hits a contested 3, but not those when nobody closes out so shooters have ample time and long, open looks.
“You can make a sandwich before somebody even gets out there,” Durant said of how it seemed in Game 4.
Green has stayed just on the right side of the line this postseason, not in danger of an automatic suspension for technicals or flagrant accumulation.
“Maybe more measured,” Myers said, comparing Green from last year to now. “He’s confining his intensity in a more narrow lane, meaning sometimes he would spill over in areas. But he’s learned how to focus that intensity. And also perspective and experience. There’s no substitute for experiencing winning a championship and losing one for what else you need to know as a player.”
James, too, understands. He’s been on both sides the previous two years.
He was asked whether this might be the game the Warriors feel they must get.
“No, I feel this is the game we’ve got to get,” he said, “or it’s over.”