Halfway through the second quarter of Warriors-Thunder Game 3, Draymond Green sold a holding foul by raising his right leg and executing a basic taekwondo maneuver directly between Steven Adams’s legs. The OKC big man is awfully lucky that Green didn’t possess nearly enough explosiveness to pull off the second stage of the jump axe kick.
With the home side up 48–40, the Oklahoma City crowd’s bloodthirsty “KICK HIM OUT” chant reflected the energy of a Thunder team that was operating at full tilt. Rather than eject Green, the refs spared him with a flagrant 1 — though you wonder whether the Warriors, who lost 133–105, would’ve fared better without the shell of a player they ended up with for the rest of the game.
After the incident, Green’s spirit seemed to leave his body. His shoulders were slumped; he made novice mistakes, like closing out hard on Andre Roberson from the corner, allowing the career 27 percent 3-point shooter an easy lane to the basket. Green shot 1-for-9 in the game and turned the ball over four times. He finished a minus-43 on the night. Objectively speaking, it was the worst game of his career.
For a unique player like Draymond, the margin for error is so slim. Anything less than maximum effort is enough to turn his foundational role in Golden State’s excellence into a weakness. Normally, Green’s hyperaggressive yawps keep the Warriors defense in line; his hyperaggressive forays to the rim open new avenues for the perimeter. But with the threat of ejection (and possible suspension) looming last night, Green played like he was the one who had just suffered a low blow — stripped of his bite and too afraid to bark.
This piece originally appeared in the May 23, 2016, edition of the Ringer newsletter.