OAKLAND — The Warriors coach and players did not want to risk getting fined.
They were not happy with the league’s ruling against Draymond Green — giving him a Flagrant 1 for hitting LeBron James below the belt, which led to a one-game suspension for cumulative flagrants during the playoffs — but they tapped danced around questioning the league.
Well, except Andrew Bogut.
“It’s just, when you compare it to what went on earlier in the series (referring to Matthew Dellavedova hitting Andre Iguodala below the belt), what’s the difference?” Bogut asked. “Is there a difference? I don’t think there is; I think the other one was just as bad. The ball really was on the other side.”
The league saw that as a basketball play (Dellavedova was reaching for a steal), that’s not how they saw what Green did. Bogut added he thought Green’s playoff resume added to this decision, but that reputation — and who you hit, would the league have made the same decision if this were Tristan Thompson instead of LeBron? — should not matter.
The rest of the Warriors fell back on their “strengths in numbers” motto.
“We had a next-man-up approach all year,” Klay Thompson said. “Draymond, we know it’s going to kill him not being there, but we’re going to go out there and do it as a team and win for him. Go out there and try to make a statement on our home floor….
“We obviously can make up for it, but we’ve got to do it collectively. Nobody can make up what Draymond does individually. Luckily for us, we’ve got such a deep, talented team, we can really do it, and we believe it 1,000 percent.”
Warriors coach Steve Kerr said he learned of the suspension after practice had already started, he pulled Green aside and told him (Green went through practice with the team but did not address the media). Kerr added that, as expected, Green was disappointed.
Kerr said he has not yet figured out who will replace Green in the starting lineup (smart money is on Andre Iguodala or Brandon Rush), but said expect the Warriors to throw a lot of different lineups at the wall and see what sticks.
“Then as far as the game itself, we’re going to play a lot of people and we’ll give a lot of different looks and we’ll compete like crazy, and I think we’ll give ourselves a great chance to win,” Kerr said.
“Yeah, we were surprised,” Stephen Curry said of the Green suspension. “You know, it’s an unfortunate situation and him getting caught with LeBron on top of him. I don’t think his intention was to try to hurt anybody. He was protecting himself.
“But it’s an unfortunate situation for our team. But, like you said, we’re still confident and we know we have the personnel and the depth to come out and get a win, and that’s all that really matters. It honestly doesn’t matter what we think about what he did or didn’t do. The situation is what it is, and we’ve got to win.”
Kerr also pointed to history.
“Not as a player or as a coach, but as a Laker fan growing up, Kareem did not play in Game 6 in 1980, and Magic had 42 points, 19  rebounds, and 15  assists,” Kerr said (the correct totals are in the parenthesis).
The Cavaliers players were quick to emphasize Green wasn’t suspended for this one play, but rather the accumulation of flagrant fouls throughout the playoffs. For the Warriors, that’s the other edge of the sword.
“Yeah, we thrive off of Draymond’s competitiveness and his edge, and it’s been very important for us this year, and maybe that same quality has led him to this point, just his competitiveness and his passion,” Kerr said.
The Cavs still noted to a man they had to win a game in Oracle Arena anyway, and if they let up because of the suspension it will cost them.
“I mean, it doesn’t mean anything because he’s suspended,” Cavaliers’ coach Tyronn Lue said. “They still have a great team, and we have to come out and play basketball. We can’t worry about the suspension.”
No Warriors players were unhappy with Green because of this.
“His success is based on playing like that,” Bogut said of how Green plays. “He plays physical, chippy, he’s a talker and physical and that makes him who he is. It’s hard to tone that down when you’ve got it in you.”
While the door is cracked open for the Cavaliers with the suspension, they know that the Warriors have won this postseason without Curry, and one hot shooting night from the Splash Brothers — or a let up from the Cavaliers — and this series ends Monday.
“I think the consensus is we’re supposed to lose because we lost an All-Star player, but we’re competitors and we have other guys who can step up that aren’t really on the scouting report and can make an impact in the game,” Shaun Livingston said. “Our motto has been strength in numbers, and we have another chance to prove that tomorrow.”
“It is devastating, but I’m sure if you ask Draymond he’d rather have us win tomorrow than come back in Game 6, you never know what could happen after that,” Bogut said.