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After a Game 1 dud led to questions about whether Draymond Green could actually help the Warriors in the NBA Finals, the Golden State forward got back to doing what he does best in Game 2.
That means bully ball — getting into the bodies and minds of his Boston Celtics opponents. Green pushed, prodded and chirped at Celtics players on Sunday, and his physicality played a big role in Golden State's dominant win to even the series. It also led to questions about whether he went too far — and if he received preferential treatment from officials in a spot that could have easily led to his ejection.
Early technical puts Draymond Green's status in peril
Green left himself vulnerable to ejection when he drew a technical foul at 4:47 in the first quarter. Leaving no doubt about his intentions for Game 2, Green bulldozed Celtics forward Grant Williams to the ground during a Warriors offensive set. To the dismay of neutral observers with functioning eyesight, Williams somehow drew a whistle on the play for a personal foul.
During the stoppage in play, Green and Williams kept at it. The whistle blew again, this time for a technical foul on Green.
The technical didn't divert Green from his course of action. He continued to badger Celtics players, with Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart among his targets. Late in the second quarter, Green's game plan almost got him tossed.
Should this have led to Draymond's ejection?
With 55 seconds remaining before halftime, Green reached out to contest a Brown 3-point shot. After Brown released the ball, Green fell backward into him, sending both players tumbling to the court. Green left his legs sprawled over Brown's body, prompting Brown to shove him off. Green shoved back.
Brown then reached his feet and stood over Green, which, of course, Green did not take to kindly. He grabbed Brown's shorts — prompting Brown to cry that Green "tried to pull my pants down" — and pulled himself up before players and officials separated the two.
This is standard double-technical foul fare. A no-brainer in any normal game situation for officials to restore order in a game that's getting out of hand. This being Game 2 of the NBA Finals with Green already having accrued a technical foul does not qualify as a normal game situation. Officials initially assessed Green with a personal foul, then hit the replay monitor to review the altercation.
'You have to consider, one player has a technical foul'
During the review, ABC cameras cut to officiating analyst and ex-NBA referee Steve Javie, who argued that despite the obvious double-technical situation, officials should turn a blind eye because Green already had a technical foul.
"You have to consider, one player has a technical foul," Javie said. "Is this enough to call a double T and eject the one player? Personally, I would say nothing, and I would just let it diffuse as that.
"I think that's part of good officiating. You have to know who has the technical fouls. In this situation, one of the players does. Is this enough to warrant an ejection?"
As Javie concluded his analysis, officials reached the same conclusion. No technicals were assessed, and Green played the remainder of the game as Golden State converted a 52-50 halftime edge into a 107-88 blowout.
This raised obvious and glaring questions about how Green was officiated. Most notably, should he have been ejected?
Precedent says Green should have been tossed
Kristaps Porzingis would like to know where these standards were during the 2020 postseason. The then-Dallas Mavericks forward found himself ejected from a playoff game under similar circumstances. In a Game 1 loss to the Clippers in a series Los Angeles went on to win, Porzingis was tossed early in the third quarter for picking up his second technical foul during a scuffle that was arguably less eventful than Sunday's between Green and Brown.
Dallas led 71-66 at the time of his ejection before losing the game 118-110. Porzingis and his Mavericks teammates were understandably upset. Especially considering that this "air punch" resulted in Porzingis' first technical.
Officials that day applied the strict letter of the law to Porzingis, with referee Kane Fitzgerald explaining after the game that they did not consider that Porzingis already had a technical when assessing his second.
"No, we applied the standards at replay," Fitzgerald said when asked if officials considered the situation when assessing his second technical.
Green: 'I've earned differential treatment'
This was clearly not the standard applied to Green on Sunday. Green acknowledged that and told "SportsCenter" after the game that he's "earned differential treatment."
"Not at all," Green said when asked if he was concerned about picking up a second technical. ... "I've earned differential treatment. I enjoy that. I embrace that."
Green later expounded on his podcast that "it makes sense" that officials looked the other way on an otherwise standard technical foul.
"The reality is, that makes sense," Green said. "People want to make it out to be a controversy. That makes sense. Nobody’s paying to watch this stuff to see guys get thrown out of the game and you’re not seeing the game you wanted to watch. I understand and agree.
"Yes, if there’s something egregious, I’m gonna get thrown out. As we know. Nobody’s sparing me. Nor do I expect to get spared. Nor do I want to be spared. But if it’s something that’s not egregious, probably shouldn’t be thrown out of a game."
What should the NBA do?
On one hand, Green has a point. Nobody likes it when officials make an imprint on the game. Had he been ejected, the game would have been impacted and the uproar would have been louder.
But the NBA owes it to its players to set a standard here and run with it. Ejections and outcomes of playoff games shouldn't be up to the whims of any given officiating or replay crew. If a second technical foul warrants a higher standard, then that needs to be formalized and applied across the board.
Meanwhile, if Green can truly play without fear of a second technical, consider the Finals open season on the Celtics. There's no reason for him to stop doing what he does best. And Boston will need to find a counter.
That sounds like a role Marcus Smart might be interested in.