With Draymond Green returning to the lineup for Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Thursday, the Golden State Warriors, one would assume, will be back to their usual great-defense-playing selves, and the Cleveland Cavaliers won’t come anywhere close to the 112 points they scored in Game 5 on Monday.
If Green picks up another flagrant foul, however, he would miss a potential Game 7. So what if Green plays a benign brand of basketball and is unable to be effective?
“If he is benign, it takes away the edge he has to play with,” CBS Sports NBA writer Bill Reiter said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “He has to play on that line to be Draymond Green, to be arguably the second-most important player on this team after Steph Curry. We’ve seen this story before. He plays with that emotion. We’ve talked ad nauseam about how many times he has made contact with an opponent’s groin. By the time the LeBron thing came up, we knew it couldn’t happen, he knew it couldn’t happen, the whole world knew it would cost him a game – and he still lost his cool. So I think you throw as much tantrum opportunities at Draymond Green as you possibly can. If you get him to overreact, that’s a bonus, and if his defense against that is to shut it down and lock it away, that’s probably a bonus too because he’s not the same player if he’s not living and playing on that very tricky line.”
While the Cavs likely won’t get 82 points from LeBron James and Kyrie Irving again, they’re hoping to get more than two points from Kevin Love. In fact, that might be Tyronn Lue’s biggest challenge heading into Thursday night.
“How do you make the broken spirit of Kevin Love come back to life during the NBA Finals?” Reiter asked. “I think here’s the answer: They didn’t need him in Game 5 because there was no Draymond Green, LeBron James could play absolutely downhill and attack the rim – which I think he should do anyway – and obviously Kyrie Irving was a maestro. When that happens, you don’t need anybody else. You don’t really need a bench. You don’t need Kevin Love. But let’s say that Draymond Green has the effect we all think that he’ll have and that these two guys – LeBron and Kyrie – can’t impose their absolute will on a historical level like they did in Game 5. You got to get scoring from somewhere else. If it’s not 20 or 25 points from J.R. Smith, it has to be some scoring from Kevin Love, and you have to rebound, especially with Draymond Green back in the game. You’ve got to keep that rebounding advantage that has powered you in every one of your wins.”
But can Love actually do that? He’s been relatively quiet since his 17-point, 13-rebound performance in Game 1, averaging just 6.0 points and 3.7 rebounds in his last three games.
“I don’t think Kevin Love has it in him,” Reiter said. “Not anymore. As long as (the Warriors) can play some defense, I think that gives (them) a chance because it’s Kevin Love who would have to be the difference-maker.”