SAN FRANCISCO – His ears still tender from the blowtorching they received last weekend, Draymond Green was inspired by several factors Wednesday night, none more than sparing them additional fire.
Unlike last time, when the heat came through blistering text messages, this time it would be up close and personal.
Tom Izzo, Green’s beloved coach at Michigan State, issued a warning on Tuesday that he would be at Chase Center for Game 5 of the Warriors-Lakers Western Conference semifinal playoff series. Izzo sent another warning Wednesday morning, hours before he strolled into the building for a game that could end Golden State’s season.
That was enough to fully activate Draymond. With the Warriors facing elimination, he dug in and summoned a performance that ensured they would play at least one more game in these Western Conference semifinals.
“He texted me yesterday,” Green told NBC Sports Bay Area after Golden State’s 121-106 victory. “Said, ‘I’ll be out there tomorrow.’ And he texted me this morning and said, ‘Alright, goddamnit, I’m here.’
“I was like alright, let’s go.”
Though Stephen Curry, Andrew Wiggins and Gary Payton II were primary co-producers of the win that narrowed the best-of-seven series to 3-2 in favor of Los Angeles, the voltage was supplied by Draymond’s high-velocity disposition on both ends.
“I loved his approach to the game,” coach Steve Kerr said. “He was aggressive right from the start. Picked up a foul on the first play and didn’t care. Made no bones about it. He's like, ‘I'm coming. I'm coming.’”
The first time Lakers star Anthony Davis got the ball, Green jumped him and was whistled 20 seconds after tipoff. Davis put up decent numbers (23 points, nine rebounds, three assists) but blocked no shots and left the game in the fourth quarter with a head injury after an inadvertent blow from Kevon Looney.
What Davis did not do was own the game. He finished minus-22 during his 32 minutes. That’s a formula that practically assures success for Golden State.
Green’s base statistics -- 20 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, two steals, one block, plus-13 over 30 minutes -- merely hint at his impact. He consistently made effective plays, putting his teammates in position to thrive and, moreover, consistently making the Lakers uncomfortable.
“I definitely wanted to come out and set a tone,” Green said at the postgame podium. “[Player development coach] Jacob Rubin told me before the game, ‘You played well, but I still haven't felt your presence like I know you can. Your presence should be felt. That's coming out aggressive both ends of the floor. That's verbally, so everyone hears you on the floor.’
“I felt a little disrespected when he said it.”
Draymond also took heat, though more soothing, from his personal skills coach, Travis Walton, who uttered a few motivational lines after odious losses in Games 3 and 4 in Los Angeles pushed the Warriors on the edge of the offseason.
Those ears were getting a workout from several directions. They got the desired response from Green, drained a 3-pointer in the first minute and finish 7 of 11 from the field, including 1 of 2 from deep.
“I told him every play he made tonight that I love that aggressive nature because it just keeps the defense honest,” Curry said. “And he's capable of making plays. The first 3 was big to get everybody's morale up, the emotions high. But then he was assertive getting into the paint, finishing at the rim. He hit a big shot in the fourth off a last-second broken play. Timely baskets.”
Green heard it all. One voice, however, mattered most.
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Izzo, 68, was compelled to take time from his personal and professional schedule because he was disappointed -- no, livid -- with Draymond’s loss of composure in Game 3. He committed five fouls and a technical foul as the Warriors absorbed a 127-97 thrashing at Crypto.com Arena.
“You know, man, it’s always special for me, having (Izzo) around,” Green told NBC Sports Bay Area. “He’s still a guy who I am really, really tight with. Just his presence. I feel that. That presence means a ton to me.
“If I don’t play well, I’m going to get an earful -- and I don’t want that. I already got that a couple days ago: ‘That’s the first time in a long time I’ve seen you allow officiating to take you out of a game! That’s bulls--t. It was blah blah blah.’
“I didn’t want to hear that s--t again.”
Draymond won’t have that s--t again for at least two days. Maybe his ears will heal before Game 6 on Friday in Los Angeles.