Asked if the collision with the Cleveland Cavaliers’ J.R. Smith that caused a season-ending knee injury was a basketball play, Andrew Bogut said he didn’t know.
“I don’t know how he fell and all that, but tough for interpretation,” Bogut said Thursday before Game 6 of the NBA Finals.
“I blocked his shot,” Bogut said. “Somehow he cannon-balled right into my shin with his shoulder. It was painful.”
“I fell slow to the ground, and he went down,” Smith said. “It’s a basketball play. It’s not like I’m out there trying to take his legs out.”
Smith was falling to the floor, and his natural course easily could’ve taken him into Bogut’s legs. Did Smith aim for Bogut’s knee? Could Smith have avoided Bogut’s knee and not done so? Either is possible. But so is this just being unfortunate circumstance.
I haven’t seen anything that would lead me to accuse Smith of wrongdoing.
Draymond Green could become second player to miss Finals game and still win Finals MVP
This year, Draymond Green could become just the second player ever to miss a game in the Finals and win Finals MVP that year.
Green has been the Warriors’ best player in this series when on the court. He’s averaging 14.8 points, 9.3 rebounds, 5.8, assists, 1.8 steals and 1.3 blocks per game and playing awesome defense that doesn’t show up in the box score. Golden State is outscoring the Cavaliers by 13.6 points per 100 possessions with him on the court – the team’s best mark among the seven players who’ve gotten at least 60 minutes in the Finals.
If Golden State closes the series in Game 6 tonight, Green has a strong chance of claiming Finals MVP.
I’m favoring LeBron James right now, but the series winner nearly always gets the Finals MVP. I recognize that my thinking differs from typical voters.
Andre Iguodala, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are also in the running. With strong finishes to the series, any of them could overtake Green.
But if Green wins the award, he’d become just the second Finals MVP to miss a Finals game. Willis Reed is the only player to do it so far.
Reed famously injured his leg in Game 5 of the 1970 Finals, missed Game 6 and dramatically returned in Game 7 to inspire the Knicks to a win over the Lakers:
Reed played excellently in that series, leading the Knicks in total points and ranking second in total rebounds despite missing more than a game due to injury. He was limited to seven points in Game 5 before getting hurt and four points in Game 7, but that shows his incredible impact in the first four games – when he averaged 31.8 points per game. And the emotional lift he provided in Game 7 is undeniable.
Importantly, Reed doesn’t deserve any blame for missing Game 6, which the Knicks lost by 22 – by far, the series’ most lopsided game. He got hurt.
Green is at fault for missing Game 5. Even you think he didn’t deserve a flagrant foul – I thought the decision was fair – he at least gave the league reason to suspend him. Green knew he was one flagrant from suspension, and he still couldn’t restrain himself from slapping at LeBron’s groin.
It’s cliché, but the most important ability is availability, and Green was unavailable to his team for one full game – 14% to 17% of these Finals. I wouldn’t disqualify him for Finals MVP, but that should hurt his case.
I suspect many voters will view it differently, that they’ll emphasize Green’s production when on the court and use his one-game absence to underscore his value. I disagree, but that’s fine.
In this series, with no Golden State player playing excellently across five games, even my point of view could lead to Green being the Warrior most deserving of Finals MVP. Again, I wouldn’t hold losing against LeBron as much as others will. He’s my front-runner for Finals MVP entering Game 6.
But Green, “overcoming” suspension to lead Golden State to a championship is a better story. That’s part of the reason Green could win Finals MVP. It’d be a great narrative, something we’ve seen only once before.
Warriors will give 2016 NBA Finals a record fifth starting lineup
The Warriors won Games 1 and 2 in routs. Kevin Love got hurt, and with Richard Jefferson starting, the Cavaliers turned the tables and won a Game 3 blowout. The teams kept the same starters as Golden State won Game 4. Then, Andre Iguodala started for a suspended Draymond Green and Kevin Love returned to the starting lineup in Cleveland’s Game 5 win.
Now, with Andrew Bogut hurt, the Warriors must again change starters.
That will be the fifth starting lineup in the 2016 NBA Finals, the most on record. Here’s the number of starting lineups in each Finals since 1983 (as far back as Basketball-Reference.com has records), winning or leading team in blue and losing or trailing team in wine:
The Warriors will tie the 1998 Jazz for most starting lineups in a Finals, three. Utah started John Stockton, Jeff Hornacek, Bryon Russell and Karl Malone in all six games. Greg Foster started Games 1 and 2, Greg Ostertag Game 3 and Adam Keefe Games 4, 5 and 6.
Golden State could also set the record for most starting lineups in a Finals by the title-winning team. More than 70% of NBA champions in this span used only one starting lineup in the Finals, and none used more than two.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr has said he doesn’t like to make major changes unless his team is down. Since Game 1 ended, Golden State has led this series. But suspension and injury has forced his hand.
Now, Golden State must again adjust to new starters. Easy? No, but the payoff is high. The Warriors are one win from ending these topsy turvy Finals with a championship.
Report: Cavaliers wanted Draymond Green suspended two games
The Cavs wanted him suspended for two games. I can tell you that. They wanted it to be a flagrant 2 and to have him suspended for Game 5 and Game 6.
The league got it right. The retroactively assigned flagrant 1 triggered a one-game suspension due to Green’s prior playoff flagrants. A flagrant 2, which would’ve triggered a two-game suspension, would’ve been too harsh for Green’s retaliation.
I also suspect the Cavaliers probably knew that. But by pushing for a flagrant 2, they framed a flagrant 1 as a compromise outcome – much the same way Green and Steve Kerr said Green’s flagrant 1 for kicking Steven Adams‘ groin should have been rescinded. The NBA upgraded it to a flagrant 2 – another compromise decision when a straight suspension appeared to be on the table.
Lobbying the NBA on these decisions has become part of a championship pursuit. The Cavs had the advantage of facts on their side, but by aiming high, they successfully framed the argument in their favor – and it paid off in Game 5.
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