His Warriors teammates say it. His Warriors coaches, past and present, swear to it. Opposing players and coaches also agree. So, it’s fairly unanimous around the NBA that Draymond Green is among the smartest players in the game.
No argument here, either, for what it’s worth.
But Draymond’s conduct in the final seconds of a 102-100 loss Saturday night in Charlotte was bitter proof that even basketball savants are not immune from horrible judgment.
His ejection after being assessed back-to-back technical fouls in the final seconds led directly to Charlotte tying the game and then winning it at the buzzer.
“Draymond can’t do that. He knows that,” coach Steve Kerr said in a postgame video conference. “He made a terrible mistake, getting T’d up and giving them a chance with two free throws and tie the game.
“He crossed the line. That’s the main thing. We love his passion and his energy and we would not be the team we are without him. But that doesn’t give him license to cross that line, and he knows that.”
With the Warriors clinging to a 100-98 lead and 13.3 seconds remaining, a jump ball between Warriors guard Brad Wanamaker and Hornets guard LaMelo Ball resulted in a loose ball that Hornets forward Gordon Hayward grabbed before being tied up by Green. Despite what appeared to be a dual possession, the Hornets were awarded a timeout.
Not another jump ball.
Draymond lost it. Though his argument was valid -- that this was no different than the Wanamaker-Ball dual possession seconds earlier -- he was so vociferous that veteran referee Mark Lindsay slapped him with two technical fouls, resulting in automatic ejection. And, more important, giving the Hornets two free throws and the ball with 9.3 seconds remaining.
Charlotte guard Terry Rozier parlayed this into a pair of game-tying free throws, and then took advantage of the possession to drain a 20-foot jumper as the clock showed zeroes.
Game over, a morose Warriors locker room, Draymond paying a steep fee for losing composure at a critical moment.
“He said it was his fault,” rookie forward Eric Paschall said. “He took ownership, as he always does as a leader. We’re still rocking with Dray, no matter what. Great dude. Competitor. S--t happens in the NBA.”
The Warriors’ immediate reaction to the Rozier’s buzzer-beater was to stand on the court in a state of disbelief, dumbfounded by the call, gut-punched by the departure of Draymond and ultimately eating defeat in a game in which they -- even with Steph Curry out ill -- had a 10-point lead with 4:44 remaining.
Draymond clearly challenged officials, unable to understand why the Hornets were awarded a timeout when only seconds earlier, in the same situation, the Warriors were not. Seeing Charlotte get a timeout, the Warriors were surprised, even stunned.
“Very,” Paschall said. “Because the play before, we tried to get the same thing, tried to get the timeout. They didn’t give it to us. It’s rough ... s--t happens.”
Golden State’s second loss in two nights, both after blowing double-digit leads in the fourth quarter, can be blamed on many factors. The Warriors let one man, Rozier, put them down by scoring 20 of Charlotte’s 33 fourth-quarter points.
They declined to accept a game the Hornets, who gifted the Warriors 32 points on 25 turnovers, spent most of the night trying to donate.
But Green was absolutely right in pointing the finger at himself. Ever since he was suspended for Game 6 of the 2016 Western Conference Finals, he has prided himself on being available when it matters. He runs his technical foul count up every season, but never to the point of suspension.
This time, the same passion that so often intensifies the Warriors ended up costing them a game. The Warriors have to believe that this will not be repeated.
“He’s a leader and I’ll continue to look towards him for leadership,” Damion Lee said. “He’s been in this league long enough and he’s a professional and he knows what’s right and what’s wrong. ... Throughout the good, throughout the bad, I’m always going to ride with Draymond.”