Draymond Green would rather do more playing than complaining these days.
Known at times for his temper and tangles with officials, a more mature Green has the Golden State Warriors on the brink of a fifth straight trip to the NBA Finals.
“I realized I got to a point where I was doing more crying than playing,” he said. “I’m sure it was disgusting to watch because I felt disgusting playing that way, and I just wanted to lock back in on the game.”
Green led the way as the Warriors rallied from an 18-point deficit to beat the Portland Trail Blazers 110-99 on Saturday night to take a 3-0 lead in the Western Conference finals. Golden State can finish out the series Monday at the Moda Center.
Green had 20 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists for his seventh playoff triple-double overall, and third of this postseason. All three have come on the road.
He also was instrumental in Golden State’s 114-111 comeback victory in Game 2. He made a bounce pass through the paint to a cutting Andre Iguodala for a dunk with 3:06 left to make it 108-105, and then assisted on a layup by Kevon Looney the next possession.
He finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and five blocked shots. He has collected 10 or more rebounds in eight straight playoff games.
Green said he has mellowed, and credited his family — including 2-year-old Draymond Green Jr. — for his newfound awareness.
“I understand that officials aren’t perfect and I still have conversations with them now, when they miss a call, but it’s a completely different conversation,” he said. “My mom has been really big. My fiancée has been really big with just talking to me about that and just telling me to stay locked in on the game. I also have some little ones at the house who enjoying watching me play. I don’t necessarily want them to see that. So just try to be more mindful of it.”
Green was famously suspended for Game 5 of the 2016 NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers after collecting four flagrant foul points in the postseason.
Coach Steve Kerr said Green’s improved focus has been a big key for the Warriors.
“I mean, I think that’s been really obvious over the last couple of weeks, and I think it’s important because, when he gets upset and emotional, it costs us,” Kerr said. “We lose our focus as a team. I mean, he’s our leader.”
Green was much more than a triple-double Saturday night. He pushed the pace and steadied Golden State as it overcame a double-digit deficit against the Blazers for a second straight game.
“Once he gets the ball in his hands, he’s doing everything you’d want that guy in the middle to do,” Portland’s Damian Lillard said.
The Trail Blazers are going to need more from Lillard to get back in the series, and the star guard is playing though a rib injury. He had 19 points in Saturday’s loss, well off the 33 he averaged in Portland’s first-round series against the Thunder. He has been double-teamed often with the Warriors keying in on him.
No team has ever come back to win after going down 3-0 in the playoffs.
The Warriors were dealing with injuries of their own. Iguodala is listed as questionable for Monday’s game with an injured lower leg but the team reported that his MRI Sunday was clear.
Golden State was already without Kevin Durant because of a sore right calf. It’s unlikely that the two-time NBA Finals MVP will return during the series against the Blazers.
Green said it’s important that he take on a more effective leadership role in the absence of Durant, who is averaging more than 34 points during the playoffs. The Warriors were also without DeMarcus Cousins, who tore a quadriceps muscle at the start of the playoffs.
“Obviously, I’m not capable of doing what Kevin does on the basketball floor, and no one else on this team is. Or DeMarcus. So collectively, we’ve got to do that,” Green said. “I just try to take it upon myself to do my part and also try to create a pace that I know we can be successful at.”
Kerr said in many ways Green reminds him a bit of Dennis Rodman, the coach’s former teammate on the Chicago Bulls.
“Draymond has just become a tremendous playmaker. He’s our leading assist guy, handles the ball and pushes the pace quite a bit for us. So, I think he’s actually a better two-way player but very similar to Dennis,” Kerr said, adding with a smile: “Not as good of a rebounder, though. I have to give that to Dennis. I’ve never met a better rebounder than Dennis.”