DENVER -- Draymond Green was raging. Jawing with the officials, yelling into thin mountain air, responding to opposition physicality with a little extra gusto, picking up five personal fouls and a technical foul along the way.
If this seems a bit extreme -- oh, it surely was -- it’s also by design.
Green picks his spots to crank up his personal volume and Friday night, inside the palpable drama of Vivint Smart Home Arena, was one of those instances when the Warriors needed a jolt. Nobody jolts better than Draymond.
“We were dead, man,” Green said after a pulsating 124-123 win over the Utah Jazz. “Sometimes, you’ve just got to do something to get everybody else going. I kind of felt that, and that’s on me. I’ve got to feel that, and when I feel it I’ve got to act on it and do whatever it takes to get the guys going.”
So Green, at a generously listed 6-foot-7 exchanged shoves with Rudy Gobert, Utah’s 7-1 center, sent a get-off-me forearm to hyper-aggressive Jazz forward Jae Crowder and yapped at officials from the first quarter to the fourth.
Green wasn’t so effective early. The Warriors fell behind midway through the second quarter, trailed throughout third and were down 95-82 with 5:46 left in the third when Green picked up his third foul for getting too physical with Crowder.
The sellout crowd had its villain and Green was booed lustily as he strolled to the bench, summoned by coach Steve Kerr. Green needed a cooling-off period.
Green’s teammates picked up their intensity almost immediately, outscoring the Jazz 10-3 over the next 2:34. The Warriors outscored Utah 27-20 in the fourth, winning on a Jonas Jerebko tip-in with .3 seconds remaining.
Green before cooling off: 7 points (3-of-8 from the field, 0-of-2 from deep), six rebounds, five assists and three turnovers. He was minus-8 over his first 24 minutes.
Green after returning to play the final 9:37: 7 points (3-of-4, 1-of-1 from beyond the arc), three rebounds, one assist and one block. He was plus-11.
His tactical plan, inconvenient at times, was in the end successful.
“He’s able to control it to the point where it’ll turn for him as we get deeper into the season,” Stephen Curry said. “So we’re not worried about that at all. Nothing was going his way early. He gets into a couple altercations, or whatever it is, it gets him going, gets his confidence going and he steps up and knocks down a big 3 in the fourth quarter and talks trash the whole way down the court.
“We love that, because we feed off that energy. His body language was amazing tonight, despite what was happening in the first half. And he made countless plays to help us win.”
This is why Kerr, who slapped five with Green when he came off the floor in the third quarter, tolerates his fiery power forward. There is a sincere player-coach appreciation that may be strained but never quite snaps.
“I just sensed that after the first game, where we really didn’t compete, where we were out of sorts, I sensed that the guys knew it and felt and wanted to get back to being us,” Kerr said. “We had a great practice (Thursday) and you could feel, even when were down, that the guys were connected and competing and still playing hard. We just had to get smarter.”
The Warriors needed Green to win this game and not until they responded did they find the will needed to pull themselves from a 16-point hole.
“He missed a lot of training camp, so he’s trying to get himself going,” Curry said. “But he’s a smart guy. He understands, in the moment, how to balance the fire, the (testiness), that edge that he needs and not distract us from what we do and how we’re going to play.”
Green got under the skin of the Jazz, got on the nerves of their fans. He also got into the souls of his teammates, not for the first time and hardly the last.