“I know your moves.”
This was Draymond Green, speaking to Kyrie Irving, during the Warriors’ 126–91 blowout of the Cleveland Cavaliers at Oracle Arena on Monday. Draymond was telling Irving what he thought the Cavs point guard was going to do on a recent drive to the rim, based on his study of Irving’s tendencies. The exchange, caught by TNT cameras, was pleasant enough. Kyrie and Draymond were just sitting by the scorer’s table, waiting to check back into the game. But there was an edge. With Draymond there’s always an edge.
It was a compliment (Irving scored over Green on the drive), but Draymond was also saying, I have you figured out. Even Kyrie’s brand of herky-jerky, ballhandling improv has a pattern, and Draymond has a beautiful mind.
Without Green, the Warriors-Cavs rivalry would run the risk of being Heat-Spurs II — another monument to the aesthetic possibilities of basketball, without the healthy enmity that takes these repeated contests up a notch. Draymond gets that. Or maybe he can’t leave well enough alone. Either way, I appreciate his contributions to sports.
That is an interesting choice to make when your team is up 17 in the second quarter. The Warriors might be sensitive about having seemingly insurmountable leads over the Cavs, but this game looked over almost as soon as it got started. But simply dusting the Cavs would not be enough, and watching LeBron motor down the court, uninterrupted, was not gonna fly.
Draymond went for a steal, or Draymond clotheslined LeBron. LeBron hit the deck, or LeBron flopped. Draymond did his public theater criticism, or maybe he was just sensitive about clashes with James in the middle of the court and decided to preempitvely make as big a deal of the situation as possible. He got a flagrant 1 for his trouble, but he got his point across. If the barrage of 3s that opened the game were Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant’s calling cards, this was his.
Draymond is not a hardman. He is a troll, albeit a troll who also racks up triple-doubles — he ended the contest with 11 points, 11 assists, and 13 boards. He didn’t just want to beat the Cavs, he wanted to annoy them. He probably still goes to bed thinking about his Game 5 suspension from last season’s Finals, he probably still believes the Warriors win the championship if he’s available. And he probably gets annoyed at the “Warriors blew a 3–1 lead” stuff, because making that joke is exactly something Draymond would do.
Before Monday’s game, LeBron said of the Cavs-Warriors rivalry, “I don’t think we have a rival in our game today. … We’ve had two great Finals appearances the last two years, but I had the same with San Antonio when I was in Miami. We weren’t rivals. And I think I played those guys more, so I wouldn’t look at it as rivals.” Measured, tempered, good play.
This was Draymond, after the game. Bless him. He knows all the moves.