With the Golden State Warriors nursing a five-point lead and less than a minute remaining in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, Draymond Green found himself in an unusual position — sitting on the bench.
Though the Golden State Warriors big man was not in foul trouble, head coach Steve Kerr called a timeout to take Green off the floor for the team’s offensive possessions over the final three minutes. The Warriors veteran had been brutal shooting the ball throughout the NBA Finals and had one of his worst performances on Friday, making just one of his seven shots.
The Warriors were able to squeeze out a 107-97 win to even the series with Green on the bench for much of the fourth quarter, but the veteran big man’s performance earned some criticism and questions about his place in the rotation for the remainder of the series.
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Green ‘Shook’ in Boston
Green was brutal in a Game 3 loss on June 8, scoring just two points on 1-of-4 shooting with two turnovers before fouling out. As the San Francisco Chronicle’s Connor Letourneau noted, Green came out even more flat in Game 4, missing all four of his first-half shots.
“I didn’t expect to write these words, but Draymond Green has actually been worse than he was in Game 3,” he tweeted.
During the halftime show on the ABC broadcast, analyst Michael Wilbon said Green appeared “shook” by the Boston crowd.
Green’s performance led Kerr to bench him for critical stretches in the fourth quarter, a strategy that ultimately worked out for the Warriors. Golden State trailed 90-86 when he first came out of the game with 7:32 remaining in the fourth quarter, and the Warriors then went on a 11-4 run over the next four minutes.
Kerr took out Green on offensive possessions when he had the opportunity, and Green was efficient on offense when he did stay on the floor. With 1:42 remaining, he found Curry for a three-pointer that gave the Warriors a 100-94 lead. On Golden State’s next possession, he grabbed an offensive rebound and then assisted on a Kevon Looney layup.
Kerr’s decision to bench Green down the stretch in the fourth ultimately won the praise of the same broadcast crew that had just criticized Green’s play.
“That’s a brutally hard decision and it shows incredible coaching courage,” analyst Jeff Van Gundy said. “Even if it hadn’t worked, you’ve got to make split-second decisions on what you think gives you the best chance to win.”
Green’s Spot in Rotation Uncertain
It’s not clear where Green could fit for the remainder of the series. Kerr showed a willingness to shake up the rotation, pulling big man Kevon Looney out of the starting lineup on Friday in favor of Otto Porter Jr. If Green continues to struggle on offense, Kerr could employ the same strategy in similar late-game situations for the rest of the series.
The Athletic’s Steve Berman suggested that the benching could be good for Green over the remainder of the series, especially if he was off mentally as Wilbon had suggested.
“Draymond took the benching in stride and made several key plays when they needed him most. Almost like the benching was a mental reset of sorts,” he tweeted.
With the win on Friday, the Warriors evened the series at two games apiece and will return to San Francisco for Game 5 on Monday.