For Draymond, a return to the game he loves

© Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Art Spander

OAKLAND, Calif. — This was the way Draymond Green likes it, and not only because the Warriors won, although that might have entered into the equation.

What satisfied Green, what pleased him really, was that Tuesday night the game of basketball, the game he enjoys so much, was what mattered, the schemes, the execution, the offense, the defense.

Not the officiating. Not the noise, which took over the Western Conference semifinal between the Dubs and Houston Rockets.

Not the whining and complaining left in the wake of the first game on Sunday, the grumbling and worry that filled the subsequent 48-plus hours.

Yes, the Warriors beat the Rockets again, this time 115-109 again at home, and have a 2-0 advantage in the best-of-seven series. Sure, Green appreciated that. He no less appreciated what went on. And what didn’t go on.

“Tonight was a great officiated game,” said Green. “They let us be physical, both teams.”

Maybe too physical, in the cases of Houston’s James Harden, the reigning MVP, who got poked in his eyes — “I can barely see,” he said after the game — and the Warriors’ Steph Curry, a two-time MVP, who suffered a dislocated finger on his left hand.

But the league is about toughing it out, because contact among guys who are mostly about 6-foot-7 and weigh more than 200 pounds is a given.

“The refs made the calls they had to,” said Green. One of those was a double technical involving Green and Houston’s single-named Nene, when they battled for a ball with a minute left in the third quarter.

“It’s kind of disheartening,” said Green, “for a game I love since I was a child, to see the talk over the last two days was nothing about basketball and everything about foul calls. Is that what the game is coming to?

“It was fun out there tonight.”

Fun for Green, his sprained toe finally healed. He had 15 points, 12 rebounds and 7 assists. He found an open Kevin Durant, whose 29 points equaled the total of Houston’s Harden. He found gaps to the basket. He found joy.

“I think both teams just realized what the hell was going on the last two days,” Green said. “You can’t really turn a blind eye to anything in today’s age with social media and all these things ... Come out and play the game. What about beating your man? What about stopping your man?”

The Warriors stopped as many men as possible. Their defense was efficient, their ball control effective. Both teams shot 46 percent. The warriors had only 12 turnovers to Houston’s 17, five in a hectic final quarter when a 12-point lead was trimmed to four in the dying seconds.

“Defensive intensity right away was great,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr. “I was pleased with our first quarter. I think this is how this series will go. It’s going to be hard to pull away from Houston with the number of threes they take and the number of talented offensive players they have.”

The Rockets were 17-of-40 on threes, with Harden 3-of-7; the Warriors were 11-of-36, Curry 3-of-13, Durant 3-of-6 and Klay Thompson 3-of-9. Curry had 20 points, Thompson 21.

The Warriors’ man of the game — besides Green, the Warriors man of every game — was Andre Iguodala, who Kerr has been starting because of the matchups.

“Andre, he doesn't look 35 to me,” Kerr said of the ageless Iguodala. “He's just an incredible athlete. What makes Andre special is when you combine that athleticism with that brain, now you got a hell of a player.

“I say it all the time: I'm lucky to coach him, we're lucky to have him. He ties up a lot of loose ends for us. He does so many things for us. I thought he was brilliant tonight.”

Durant thought the whole team was brilliant.

“I loved how we stayed poised through it all,” said Durant. “Glad we were able to finish it out at home. We know (the Rockets) are even more dangerous at their crib, (which means) us on the road.”

On the road to success maybe, now that, as Draymond Green pointed out, once more it’s all about the talent and not the officiating.