Draymond Green is ready for the aggressive balancing act in NBA Finals Game 4

BOSTON — It wasn’t long before chants began Wednesday night at the TD Garden. You were expected. Then they reached another level early in the Warriors’ 116-100 loss to the Boston Celtics in Game 3 of the NBA Finals.

What began as “Draymond sucks!” soon became a harsh refrain of “F–k you, Draymond!” Green, Steve Kerr, Klay Thompson and Steph Curry were all unsurprised by the cold welcome from the street crowd.

Later in the night, Green had his own special response for Celtics fans.

“Fk you, too,” he said on his podcast, The Draymond Green Show.

That side of the three-time champion is needed for the Warriors to level Friday night’s streak in Game 4 of the Finals with two wins apiece. Green has embraced the hatred as Public Enemy No. 1 on the street throughout the playoffs, particularly in Memphis — whether it was two angry birds attached to his hands or listening to the crowd’s insistent chanting and dancing of “Whoop.” That Trick” followed.

But in the Warriors’ loss on Wednesday night, which put them in a two-game-one hole, he remained silent and held his own. It did not work.

Green’s presence was not felt in either the box score or the eye test. Offensively, defensively or with his energy, he didn’t have a convincing effect. And he knows it.

Expect that to change in a crucial Game 4. If not, the warriors could find themselves in an impossible hole to climb out of.

“I didn’t really give much to the crowd anyway, which I felt was a little more problematic than if I had,” Green said at Warriors practice Thursday.

“So, like I said, it’s just finding that balance and, as I said on my podcast, being Draymond Green. I know better than anyone how to be him. I know better than anyone how to be him be him. So I just have to be myself.”

To open that Finals, Green wasn’t the version of himself the Warriors needed, leading to a fourth-quarter meltdown and a 12-point loss. He felt he had failed Curry and his teammates and vowed to get better. No wonder he fulfilled his promise with focus and intensity, finishing with nine points, seven assists, five rebounds, a block and a steal en route to a 19-point plus-7 win.

His influence was felt well beyond the stats, which can almost always be seen on the scoreboard with the warriors in the victory column. The same Draymond didn’t appear when the series moved to Boston.

Defense is his calling card, we know that. He must also not be invisible on the other side of the ball. He didn’t score a single point until halftime in Game 3. In those first two quarters, he also had just one assist, rotated the ball twice and was called for two fouls.

Before fouling four minutes from time, Green’s last stat line was as follows: 2 points, 1 to 4 from the field, 0 to 2 from 3-point range, 4 rebounds and 3 assists. He was minus 13.

“I need to be more aggressive on both sides of the ball, not just defense or offense,” Green said. “I think the game is connected, everything goes hand in hand. If you flow on one side, you can flow on the other.

“We’re a much better team when I’m offensively aggressive, so I have to be that for this team. I’ve always been proud of giving the team what it takes to win. I think this team is getting more need of it.” In order for us to win, I definitely have to be better on this side.”

In the first three games of the finals, Green has scored 15 points and was called for 15 fouls. He fired five shots and flipped the ball six times. More worryingly, he hasn’t come close to becoming the defensive star the Warriors desperately need right now.

For nearly 35 minutes on the court, Green had a 130 defensive rating in Golden State’s last loss. That was worse than Jordan Poole and the second-worst on the team. The Warriors were outnumbered in defense with Green off court than they were against the Celtics.

They have a 113.6 Defensive Rating when he’s on the floor and a 105.1 Defensive Rating when he’s on the bench. The truth is that if these numbers continue, they won’t win the title. For him everything starts with energy, power and aggressiveness. He must be the captain of this boat.

“I think it’s all part of the same problem,” Green said. “We didn’t approach the game with the right vigor that we needed and that starts with me. I think if I increase my power, we increase our power, it can take away all those things.”

Draymond reacted after his lackluster opening performance but reverted to a state that won’t bring wins in his next game. Kerr and all his Warriors teammates have no doubt that he will bounce back. It is clear that he agrees.

That begs the question: can he keep it up for the entire series? He will have to. One version of Green cannot arrive one night and another shows up the next. Consistency is the answer.

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We should know from the opening tip which Draymond Green the Warriors will get on Friday night. He will perform an aggressive balancing act of offense and defense as well as juggling the crowd. Maintaining their lead and maintaining the upper hand in all three categories has long helped the Warriors win.

That is intended to be the case in Game 4 as he once again fulfills his promise to be the player he once again convinces himself and everyone else of who he will be and who he still is.

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