“I absolutely love it,” Green told ESPN after the Warriors overcame a 17-point deficit to defeat the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday 119-113 and take a commanding 3-0 series lead. “I’ve been doing this for a very long time. There’s an art to trash-talking.”
Green finished the evening with an impressive stat line of nine points, eight rebounds, seven assists, two steals and a game-high six blocks, but his verbal psychological edge was just as effective.
Trail Blazers swingman Maurice Harkless has been on the receiving end of the two-time All-Star’s verbal taunts this series, and it appears to be working.
Green does his homework.
Harkless obtained a $500,000 bonus for shooting 35 percent or higher from 3-point distance this season. How he earned the extra cash made headlines. With four games remaining in the regular season, he was stuck at 35.1 percent. He cleverly didn’t attempt a 3-pointer in the final three games he played, securing the bonus.
Knowing this factoid, Green used it to his advantage. At one point during Game 2, while he was guarding Harkless along the perimeter, Green baited his opponent to hoist a 3.
“You ain’t gonna shoot it. You’re still chasing that petty-ass change,” Green yelled to Harkless, sources told ESPN.
In 20 minutes of play in Game 3, Harkless went 0-for-4 from the field and had a plus/minus of minus-7, the lowest ratio among Portland’s starters. All four of his shot attempts were from under the basket, and of those four misses, Green was the primary defender on three possessions.
With less than five minutes remaining in the second quarter, on a designed out-of-bounds play, Harkless had Green sealed on his back in the paint and received the ball, took a hard dribble to his left, pump-faked and elevated for a layup -- but Green viciously swatted the shot away.
“Get that weak s--- out of here,” Green was heard saying, according to a source who was close to the play.
Green dared Harkless to let it fly from deep, to no avail.
“If you hit this, I might think about contesting the next one,” he told Harkless, according to sources.
“He backs it up, especially on defense,” Warriors center JaVale McGee said. “He damn near had a quadruple-double. He really eats off of [talking trash] and he really thrives off of that. The way that he just talks smack to the other team, we got his back, so it’s good."
In the first half, Trail Blazers forward Al-Farouq Aminu drained a long right corner jumper near Portland’s bench. He intended it to be a 3-pointer, but his foot was slightly on the line.
Green raced over to challenge the shot, but he was too late to bother it. With Green in the territory of the opponents’ bench, Harkless hopped out of his seat, and sources said he shouted something to the effect of, Take that, Dray.
But Green was seen shrugging his shoulders, with a comeback remark along the lines of, So … we want him taking those shots.
Aminu is a career 33 percent shooter from beyond the arc.
“Draymond, when he talks, you can’t say anything about it because they’ve won all three games and you’ve got to respect it,” Blazers star Damian Lillard said. “I think it elevates the level of the game, because any true competitor, if somebody said you can’t shoot, or don’t bring that in here, you’re going to want to bring it back in there and finish the play and show them this is what I do. I think it elevates the level of the game.
"The only time it’s like, 'Man, be quiet,’ is when you hear people at the end of the bench yelling out stuff when they’re not the ones in the fire. They know they’re not going to have to jump out there unless it's a blowout one way or the other. So, it’s respected on both sides.”
Green’s defensive tenacity and vocal dominance has taken over this series, and it’s causing all sorts of problems for the Trail Blazers.
After the game Wednesday at Oracle Arena, Green passed by Lillard in the corridors of the arena. Lillard glanced over at Green and made eye contact.
“What? I didn’t say much tonight,” Green said, followed by laughter as he continued walking en route to addressing the media. Green knew he was fibbing.
All Lillard could do was smile in return. Regardless of Green’s trash-talking, the respect is mutual.