Did someone say rivalry? And bet?
Of course, Draymond Green is ready to be on his feet in Tuesday night’s Warriors-Kings game, and not right away.
A trip to the knockout round of the surprisingly entertaining NBA in-season tournament is at stake, which comes just in time for Green to return from his five-game sleeper-hold-induced suspension.
Poor Rudy Gobert.
Really, poor Sacramento Kings — for the better part of 36 minutes or so. For Green, you get the whole gamut. A technical foul. Maybe a flop. Some physical play and even a couple of 3-pointers that he seemed to enjoy, played in that arena.
You’d almost think it was gold, curing all the ills of proud competitors. His impact was evident, scoring eight points with six rebounds, three assists and two blocks in 33 minutes.
But the crowd at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento saw the Kings overcome a major hurdle, having lost 11 of their last 12 regular-season games heading into Tuesday night and still smarting from the Game 7 loss just a few months ago.
Green’s reappearance seems to signal that things are headed back in the right direction for the Warriors, who need to win 12 to advance to the knockout round of the tournament.
Maybe it had something to do with the Warriors blowing up the Kings in the first half, which looked all vintage with Green troubling everyone in all the good ways, taking a 24-point lead. But if it worked for them, it certainly worked against them in the second half when the Kings walked them and earned the final knockout-round spot.
The way no lead was safe when playing against the vintage Warriors, today’s Warriors have no lead that feels safe. Stephen Curry, of course, plays footloose and doesn’t want the ball – part of the Steph package, cooked in math.
But even with Green and Curry hitting, the margin for error feels nonexistent.
When Green plays, the intensity of the Warriors is better, with their ball movement and natural defense. When he defends Domantas Sabonis, there is a forcefield around the paint that Sabonis can’t penetrate.
Vultron formed with himself, Curry and Klay Thompson. They’re not undefeated – they fell in six games to the Lakers in May – but they’re terrifying and you fear they’ll throw you out of any building at a moment’s notice.
That doesn’t matter to De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk, who shoot without a conscience and fly without fear — just like their past life tormentors.
So of course Green’s objection will hit the floor and interview room before he does. You heard him and felt his presence before you saw him — and the officials certainly had to tackle him during a fourth-quarter segment that featured Green (maybe, maybe not) taking an elbow. from Trey Lyles, then unnecessarily fouled Monk and soon after. later, got a technical foul for continued complaints that started two properties ago.
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In the long run, the Kings might feel better about this win and it might signal some level of sea change in the West, even if it’s small waves. Although Chris Paul and Gary Payton II were injured, Green the agitator was there, thus proving the experience for the Kings.
The intensity of the game, certainly aided by the stakes, was fueled by a crowd that not only wanted revenge but respect from the likes of Green — who probably wouldn’t give them what they wanted.
According to TNT, Green apologized to his teammates for exaggerating the incident in Minnesota, but stopped short of actual regret. This is what makes him special and flammable at the same time, because the Warriors can’t win anything without him.
But with the Warriors getting older and the conference quickly gaining and surpassing the Warriors, it’s hard to say if the Warriors can win with him.
You just know they’re a lot more compelling to watch with him playing than him on the periphery, serving penalties.