By Michael Kinney
From the moment Game 3 ended Sunday night, all anybody could seem to talk about was one topic. Would Golden State’s Draymond Green face a suspension for his kick to Steven Adam’s groin in Game 3 was the question on every wagging tongue from Oklahoma City to Oakland.
After a day full of drama and suspense, word started to leak out around 6:15 p.m. Monday that Green would indeed not have to miss Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals because the NBA viewed the kick as an “unintentional” flailing of the legs.
“After a thorough investigation that included review of all available video angles and interviews with the players involved and the officials working the game, we have determined that Green’s foul was unnecessary and excessive and warranted the upgrade and fine,” said Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations. “During a game, players – at times – flail their legs in an attempt to draw a foul, but Green’s actions in this case warranted an additional penalty.”
Green was fined $25,000 and his original Flagrant Foul 1 was upgraded to a Flagrant Foul 2. Another flagrant foul and he will be automatically suspended a game.
While most the basketball world waited on the decision to be handed down, Green was publicly confident that he was safe from suspension.
“Like I said, I can see how somebody can think it was intentional, but yet nobody can go in my head and say, Draymond was thinking about kicking him and he kicked him,” Green said Monday afternoon. “If you watch my reaction, I walk back to the three-point line, clap everybody’s hands, turn around and look like, What’s the dude on the floor for? All the camera angles out there, they can see that too. It is what it is. People are going to judge what they want to judge. But like I said, I know I didn’t do it on purpose. My first thought was, like I said last night, I thought it was going to get rescinded, not be facing a suspension.”
One of the reasons Green was so confident was that he said Russell Westbrook was known for the same flailing leg kicks and flopping in order to get a call. Westbrook didn’t agree.
“I’ve never been fined for one flop since I’ve been playing in the NBA,” Westbrook said. “I don’t know about no flopping or nothing. I don’t know how to flop. But it seems like he was the one that was flailing, kicking his legs out and stuff yesterday. It wasn’t me.”
All the talk about Green and his groin kick has overshadowed the most important occurrence that came out of Sunday night and that was the complete and total drubbing the Thunder handed the Warriors. Not only was it the most points the Warriors have allowed this season, it was the most points the Thunder have ever scored in the playoffs in a non-overtime game. And that was with the starters not playing in the fourth quarter.
Much of Oklahoma City’s success came with its smaller lineup that had Serge Ibaka at center and Kevin Durant playing power forward.
The conventional wisdom had been that Oklahoma City couldn’t go small with the Warriors. For at least one night they proved that wrong.
“Yeah, it did surprise me because we are going big and they’re going small, but that definitely surprised me that they’re going small most of the games,” Enes Kanter said. “But you know what, we just cannot worry about it. We have to stick with our game plan and go out there and play our basketball.”
Oklahoma City takes a 2-1 series lead into Game 4 tonight. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. on TNT.
Even though Golden State hasn’t lost back-to-back games all season, the Thunder have a chance to take a commanding hold on the series. Westbrook wants to make sure they don’t let the opportunity slip through their fingers by not focusing on the right things. That includes the drama surrounding the Warriors.
“I don’t have any friends this time of the year on the court,” Westbrook said. “My only friend is just the basketball. That’s it. Everybody else, there ain’t no friends.”