• Complete coverage: 2022 NBA Finals
SAN FRANCISCO— As he struggled throughout his NBA Finals debut, Golden State Warriors third-year guard Jordan Poole heard searing criticism from a source far more important than what he may have seen on television and social media.
Warriors forward Draymond Green appeared unhappy with Poole while he labored through the Warriors’ 120-108 loss to the Boston Celtics on Thursday in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. But since finishing with nine points on 2-of-7 shooting and four turnovers, Poole has heard Green offer a different message and tone entering Game 2 on Sunday (8 ET, ABC).
“’Just stick with it. It’s basketball,’” Green recalled telling Poole to NBA.com. “’It’s one game. He’ll bounce back.”
Green expressed similar optimism on his own ability to bounce back after finishing Game 1 with only four points along with three turnovers and six fouls.
Unprompted, Green blamed himself both after the Warriors’ Game 1 loss and after practice on Saturday for a specific reason.
“If I can’t hold myself accountable, I can’t hold Jordan Poole accountable,” Green said. “I can’t hold anyone else, for that matter, accountable if I can’t look in the mirror and hold myself accountable.”
Therefore, Green spit out truth serum about his own play. No doubt, Green vowed to shoot better than his 2-for-12 clip showed. But he maintained he liked his aggressiveness, indicated by his field-goal attempts. To reduce his turnovers, Green outlined the need “not to make mental mistakes.” And with the Celtics overcoming a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter, Green blamed himself for the Warriors’ poor defense.
Overall, Green concluded he needs to “completely raise my play a couple more notches.”
The Warriors have leaned on Green playing at his best through three NBA championship runs in five Finals appearances. But during that time, he has had extensive history with blaming himself after poor performances before rectifying it.
After finishing with a combined 4 of 17 shooting in Games 2 and 3 of the 2015 NBA Finals against Cleveland, Green improved to a combined 14 of 32 in Games 4 through 6. Following a combined 2 of 16 performance in Games 3 and 4 in the 2016 Western Conference semifinals against Oklahoma City, Green shot 4 of 10 in the Warriors’ following two wins. After shooting 2 of 9 in the Warriors’ Game 1 loss of the 2019 NBA Finals against Toronto, Green responded with 12 points on a 6-of-12 shooting in a Game 2 victory.
No wonder the Warriors view Green’s Game 1 slip-up as a foreshadowing of his Game 2 highlight reel.
“No other scenario where I see playing out any differently than him coming out with great energy and focus,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said of Green. “He takes all that stuff personally in terms of his standard and what he knows he can do out there on the floor. When he doesn’t meet that, he’s usually pretty honest and accountable to himself to the team.”
Why does Green follow that approach? Not only does it elevate his own game. He believes it lifts others, too. At the end of the Warriors’ practice, Green tried to spark a loose and competitive environment. He showed excitement after making a handful of 3-pointers. He also talked trash and encouraged his teammates while they took shots from the free-throw line.
“One thing I hate is leaders who, when everything is good, it’s all them. They’re doing it all. They’re making everything happen. And when stuff hits the fan, it’s everybody else’s fault,” Green said. “We call those frontrunners, and we don’t do that. We take it on the chin. That’s what I’ve always been taught my entire life. I understand that ultimately, if I play well, we win.”
Rest of Warriors’ vets are also encouraging Poole
Green has not been the only one that has offered Poole both encouragement and constructive feedback. Curry, Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala have all grabbed a ticket at the deli counter so they can share their two cents.
Curry has encouraged Poole to “be yourself,” while Thompson has told Poole to “relax and not be too hard on yourself.” Nevertheless, Curry and Iguodala have also offered tactical feedback.
Iguodala scolded Poole after committing one of his four turnovers in Game 1. Since then, Iguodala said the two talked about “how we can mitigate some things that may be thrown at us.” As for Curry?
“Remember what it felt like in terms of your adrenaline and your emotions coming out in the game to try to get yourself asserted,” Curry said. “Maybe slow down just a little bit to see the pictures a little bit better. But he doesn’t have to change anything about the way he plays, the way he attacks or where he feels the most confident in terms of making an impact on the game. You just have to be able to bottle up those emotions.”
It sounds like Poole has listened. The Warriors praised his preparation habits with asking questions, studying game footage and practicing hard. To clear his mind, Pool has spent downtime watching movies, playing music and napping. “I’ll find ways to continue to be aggressive,” Poole said.
The Warriors believe he will.
“It was a tough night for him,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said, “But I have full confidence that tomorrow will be much better.”
Celtics bring awareness to WNBA star Brittney Griner
The Celtics are not just looking to make a statement with their play. They are looking to make a statement with their gestures.
Before Saturday’s practice, the Celtics all wore T-shirts with the message, “We are BG.” The Celtics did so to bring more awareness to WNBA star Brittney Griner, whom the Russian government has detained since Feb. 17 on drug charges.
“We wanted to come out and show our support for Brittney Griner,” Celtics guard Jaylen Brown said. “She’s been over there for an extended amount of time, and we feel like enough is enough.”
#FreeBrittneyGriner ? https://t.co/NilQSP8giS pic.twitter.com/6tw5S3dwAL
—Boston Celtics (@celtics) June 4, 2022
Celtics forward Grant Williams, vice president of the National Basketball Players Association, recently came up with the idea for the team to wear T-Shirts in hopes of expediting her return. Initially, the NBA and WNBA had a low-key approach amid concerns about tensions between the United State and Russia since it invaded Ukraine. But the approach changed last month after the State Department determined on May 3 that Griner had been “wrongfully detained.”
Before Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Commissioner Adam Silver said that “we are working in lockstep with the US government and outside experts on trying to expedite her release in any way we can.” The Celtics also tweeted a link to the “We are BG” Web site, which has a Change.org petition that calls for the White House and the Biden administration “to bring Brittney home swiftly and safely.”
“We just wanted to show that togetherness and love that we have throughout not only the NBA but the WNBA,” Williams said. “She’s been a vital part of the WNBA over years past, college, and in the amount of impact she’s had on young female athletes, USA and overseas. We hope to have her back in the US and reunited with her family and do what she loves and bring that love and tenacity she always plays with on the court.”
Celtics shrug off Green’s scouting report
As he scanned the box score following the Warriors’ Game 1 loss, Green focused on the Celtics’ 3-point shooting led by Marcus Smart (4-for-7), Al Horford (6-for-8) and Derrick White (5 -for-8). Green shrugged his shoulders and said, “we’ll be fine.”
The not-so-subtle implication: the Warriors don’t believe Horford and White can maintain those prolific outside shooting numbers. Green said so on his own podcast.
“We knew what their game plan was going in, so it’s just up to us to make shots,” White said. “He said what he said. Just going into Game 2, we just have the right mindset with doing whatever it takes to help us win games.”
Will Payton play in Game 2?
The Warriors finally cleared Gary Payton II to play in Game 1, ending an eight-game absence while nursing a fractured left elbow. Still, Payton stayed on the bench as a healthy scratch.
“I didn’t feel comfortable playing him significant minutes yet,” Kerr said. “I thought and the training staff felt like he needed a little more time. I anticipate that he will be available for more than that tomorrow.”
Kerr said that he had considered inserting Payton for “a late-game stop.” Though Kerr said that Payton’s conditioning has stayed sharp, Kerr had also harbored concerns about Payton’s shooting and ball handling since he suffered the elbow injury on his dominant arm.
Nevertheless, Payton said that he remains “available” and “ready to go.”
“I try to tell him I’m ready every day,” Payton said of Kerr. “Hopefully it sinks in sooner or later.”
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Mark Medina is a senior writer/analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
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