With Draymond Green suspended for tonight’s Game 5 of the NBA Finals, one wonders how the Golden State Warriors will be able to clinch their second straight championship without their team’s heart and soul.
However, maybe it’s not all bad for the Dubs. Some, including Warriors coach Steve Kerr himself, have mused about the 1980 Finals, when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was out of the lineup for the Lakers and Magic Johnson came up with a game for the ages to win the title over the Philadelphia 76ers. The implications are obvious:
Ian Clark is about to go out of his mind and play the game of his life.
Or, perhaps somewhat more likely, the Warriors will wind up starting Andre Iguodala in Green’s place, and the Dubs will make up for their starting power forward’s absence by giving more minutes to Marreese Speights, Festus Ezeli, and James Michael McAdoo on the front line.
In fact, they might play one of those players in tandem with Andrew Bogut to create a “twin towers” effect and nullify Tristan Thompson’s maniacal offensive rebounding. Depriving Cleveland of that advantage would go a long way towards driving down the Cavs’ effectiveness, regardless of what advantageous match-ups Green’s absence might create for them. In their two home games, the Cavaliers thrived on second-chance points, largely because of Thompson’s efforts on the boards; take that away, and Cleveland becomes pretty much the same team we saw in Oakland last week.
However it plays out, the plain truth is, losing Green won’t make as much difference as people seem to believe. Golden State has lived on roster depth all season, all of these past two seasons in fact, and they’ve also had a habit of coming up big whenever they’re challenged. Going into Game 5 up 3-1, they might have been tempted to lay easy for at least the first quarter of the game and give Cleveland an opening to make a series of it. Now, they’ve taken that little slap to the face that will get them focused and intense right from the start.
Had Green stayed in the lineup, the Cavs might have been in for a long night and a longer flight. But even with Draymond in a suit, those prospects have gotten only slightly better for Cleveland.