Like a heel in pro wrestling seeking heat from the crowd, Draymond Green grinned up at the angry fans, lifted his hands in the air and urged them to give him everything they had in the third quarter of Game 4 of the NBA Finals.
After the game, he stoked the kindling.
“I don’t pay much attention to anybody in Cleveland, honestly,” Green said. “Don’t seem to be the sharpest people around.”
Green’s history with Cavs fans goes back to last year when he was suspended for Game 5 of the series for swiping at LeBron James’ groin area after James stepped over him. The moment changed that series. The Warriors entered Game 5 of last season up 3-1, just like they are now, but they didn’t win another game.
That incident established Green’s status as a villain in Cleveland. In both Game 3 and Game 4, the crowd waited for Green to lose his cool. Both nights, they found cause to chant, “Draymond sucks” — earlier in Game 4 than in Game 3. In Game 4, a foul called on Green caused both Green and Warriors coach Steve Kerr to argue with the officials. The Warriors were called for twice as many fouls as the Cavaliers in the first quarter.
Referee John Goble issued a technical foul to Kerr for his protest.
“I thought they called it on Draymond,” Kerr said. “I thought I deserved it. But I thought I heard the announcer say, the P.A. announcer say, that it was on Draymond.”
The public address announcer did announce the technical foul was on Green. It was marked that way in the original box score too. So when Green was assessed a technical foul in the third quarter, the video board played “Hit the Road Jack,” assuming he was ejected with his second technical foul.
Green said he knew all along the first one wasn’t on him.
“They messed that one up bad,” Green said.
But it didn’t stop him from having some fun with the fans.
“The procedure is to advise the table who the technical foul is on, and with the player, we give a number,” official Mike Callahan told a pool reporter. “With a coach or trainer, we just verbalize, and at that time, we should listen to the P.A. announcer to who it is on. At that time, we did not do a very good job of listening to the P.A announcer, and we did not hear him announce it. I take full responsibly for that.”
It was only one part of a confusing and emotionally charged third quarter. In all, five players committed technical fouls in the third — James and Iman Shumpert from the Cavaliers and Kevin Durant, Green and Zaza Pachulia from the Warriors.
This year, the Warriors are going into Game 5 with the same 3-1 lead. Unlike last year, the Warriors will head into Game 5, another potential closeout, with their gritty forward available.
“Thank God I get to play on Monday,” Green said. “Hopefully.”
The Cavaliers’ 24 three-pointers in Game 4 set an NBA record in a Finals game, and it was an especially rare feat for Cleveland.
Those two dozen three-pointers were six more than they made in any other game this season, including the playoffs.
Prior to Friday night, the Cavaliers had made 18 three-pointers thrice — against the Miami Heat, the Boston Celtics and the Warriors — and lost all three games.
Cavaliers forward LeBron James and Warriors forward Kevin Durant exchange words after a foul call during the second half.(Jason Miller / Getty Images)
Warriors coach Steve Kerr and forward Draymond Green (23) want some answers from the referees after a call in the second half.(Ronald Martinez / Getty Images)
Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving tries to score on a drive down the lane against Warriors forward David West, left, and guard Klay Thompson during the second half. Irving finished with 40 points.(Larry W. Smith / EPA)
Warriors center Zaza Pachulia (27) and Cavaliers guard Deron Williams grapple for a loose ball while Cleveland guards Kyle Korver (23) and Iman Shumpert (4) join Golden State guard Shuan Livingston in the second-half scrum.(Gregory Shamus / Getty Images)
Warriors guard Stephen Curry drives to the basket against the Cavaliers during the second half. Curry finished with only 14 points in the game.(Gregory Shamus / Getty Images)
Cavaliers forward LeBron James collects himself in the second half after getting knocked to the court during a collision with a teammate.(Ronald Martinez / Getty Images)
Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving reacts after a play during the first half.(Tony Dejak / Associated Press)
Cavaliers forward LeBron James drives down the lane between Warriors forward Matt Barnes, right, and guard Shaun Livingston during the first half.(Jason Miller / Getty Images)
Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson tries to steal the ball from Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) during the first half.(Tony Dejak / Associated Press)
Cavaliers forward Kevin Love shoots over Warriors forward Draymond Green during the first half.(Ron Schwane / Associated Press)
Warriors forward Kevin Durant (35) tries to keep control of the ball while under defensive pressure by Cavaliers forward Richard Jefferson during the first half.(Jason Miller / Getty Images)
Warriors forward Andre Iguodala reaches for the ball while playing tight defense against Cavaliers forward LeBron James during the first half.(Ronald Martinez / Getty Images)
Warriors forward Draymond Green reacts to a foul call during the first half.(Ronald Martinez / Getty Images)
Warriors forward Draymond Green reaches for the ball as Cavaliers forward Richard Jefferson (24) tries to drive against Warriors guard Shaun Livingston (34) during the first half.(Tony Dejak / Associated Press)
In fact, 18 times during the regular season and playoffs, Cleveland didn’t even attempt 24 three-pointers.
Their 53% three-point shooting also was significantly better than in any other Finals game. Cleveland shot 36% from three-point range in Game 1 and below 30% in both Games 2 and 3.
Although the Warriors went home for Game 5 last year, up 3-1, guard Stephen Curry won’t compare their situation now to last year’s.
“Man, different team, man,” Curry said. “Obviously we haven’t felt this feeling walking off the court with a loss in a while, but we have done a good job of bouncing back and being resilient all year and obviously learning from all different experiences we have been through.
“I love the vibe we had in the locker room after the game, understanding what we need to do differently to play better, to have a better first punch in that first six minutes, to play with more force and aggressiveness and physicality. Talked about it. Going home is a good feeling, but it has to go with playing better. We obviously know you can’t just go home and expect to win.”
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli