Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green was issued a one-game suspension by the NBA on Sunday, sidelining him for the Monday’s potential title-clinching fifth game of the NBA Finals.
The defending champion Warriors, who seized a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series with a 108-97 victory over Cleveland on Friday, vowed to win the crown at home for Green.
“It sucks now that he’s not going to be on the floor,” Warriors star guard Stephen Curry said. “He gives us that fire and that attitude we need. We love that about him and now we have to go out and get a win for him.”
Green struck Cavaliers star LeBron James in the groin with a flailing hand with 2:48 remaining in the fourth quarter Friday after the two had tangled bodies and James stepped over Green as he was on the court.
“I felt like at that point in time it was a little bit outside of basketball,” James said of Green’s foul.
Green, who was nearly done with Sunday’s practice when told of the ban by Warriors coach Steve Kerr, had told NBA TV he felt insulted by James’ step-over move.
“He stepped over me,” Green said. “There’s many routes you can take. Don’t step over me like that… I don’t care who you are. I’m not going to back down.”
Asked if his step-over move rather than going around Green was disrespectful, James replied, “I don’t disrespect anybody. It’s all in competition. I was just trying to get back into the play.”
After NBA officials reviewed the incident, Green’s foul was upgraded to a flagrant one, giving him a one-game ban for a fourth accumulated playoff flagrant foul that will be served Monday.
Kerr said Green was “disappointed” but vowed, “We’re going play extremely hard and we’re confident we can win. We’re going to play a lot of people, give a lot of different looks, compete like crazy and I think we’ll give ourselves a great chance to win.”
Kiki VanDeWeghe, the NBA executive vice president of basketball operations, ruled Green made unnecessary contact with James with a retaliatory swipe of his hand to the groin.
“While Draymond Green’s actions in game four do not merit a suspension as a stand alone act, the number of flagrant points he has earned triggers a suspension,” he said.
Green had already accumulated flagrant fouls in the first round and third playoff rounds, most notably a kick to the groin of Oklahoma City’s Steven Adams, a New Zealander, in the Western Conference finals.
WARRIORS ‘STILL CONFIDENT’
“We were surprised,” NBA Most Valuable Player and scoring leader Curry said. “It’s an unfortunate situation him getting caught with LeBron on top of him. I don’t think his intention was to try to hurt anybody. He was protecting himself.
“We’re still confident. We know we have the personnel and the depth to come out and get a win and that’s all that really matters.”
James, given a technical foul for a physical taunt in the altercation, denied the notion he tried to entice a flagrant foul knowing Green would be suspended.
“Something like that you’re unaware. I didn’t even know at that point in time,” James said. “The league handled it as they felt they wanted to handle it.”
LUE: CAVS MUST TAKE THE WIN
Green, who missed only one game all season, has averaged 15.0 points, 9.7 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.9 blocked shots and 1.6 steals a game for the Warriors in the playoffs.
“He’s the heart and soul of their team, but we’ve still got to play,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “His suspension doesn’t make us win. We’ve got to go out and take the game.”
Also, Green guards James defensively and his absence Monday should make life easier for Cleveland’s superstar playmaker, who averages 31.9 points, 10.7 rebounds and 6.6 assists in games when his team is facing elimination.
“It’s disappointing, but I’m not going to let it get us down,” Warriors guard Klay Thompson said. “We know it’s going to kill him not being there, but we’re going to go out there and win for him, try to make a statement on our home floor.
“His defense, rebounding, intensity, and just his emotional impact on the game, nobody can make up for what Draymond does individually, but we’ve got to do it collectively. It’s another challenge for us and we’re going to embrace it and we’re going to accomplish it.”