SAN FRANCISCO – A personal confrontation. An exchange of “too small” taunts. Countless insults and elbows. The first duel between Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green and Phoenix Suns center Jusuf Nurkic since mid-December was as colorful as one could expect.
The last time they met, Green hit Nurkic in the head, resulting in a 12-game suspension and mandatory counseling. To return, the N.B.A said that Green “has completed steps that demonstrate his commitment to adjusting his behavior to the standards expected of NBA players.” Nurkic even said shortly after the incident that he wanted Green to succeed and that he had “no ill feelings or hatred toward him.” opposite”.
However, after the Warriors’ 113-112 win over the Suns on Saturday night, Nurkic expressed a different opinion.
“I mean, it’s sad. He didn’t learn anything,” Nurkic said. “It’s only a matter of time before he blows someone else away again. I take back everything I said. He doesn’t deserve a chance. …His antics. Try hitting people. Just things he shouldn’t do.”
On Saturday, Nurkic finished the loss with six points and six rebounds, while Green had 15 points, nine assists and seven rebounds on 7-of-9 shooting. After learning of Nurkic’s postgame comments, Green responded.
“He tried to get into my head, but it didn’t work,” Green said. “If he wants me to walk around as calmly as he does, I will never do that. Quiet guys don’t win. So yeah, I thought I did pretty good tonight. He can continue to ride the same horse he was riding.” – He can continue riding the same horse here. That does not work.”
Stephen Curry echoed Green’s sentiments, calling Nurkic’s comments “idiotic.”
The atmosphere began in the middle of the first quarter when Green was whistled for a foul on Nurkic and the two players’ arms subsequently became tangled. That led to a direct confrontation before Klay Thompson entered the game and knocked the ball out of Nurkic’s hand, resulting in a technical foul.
On the Suns’ ensuing possession, Green committed an offensive foul as Nurkic attempted to get to the basket. Green ran across the floor screaming and pointing a finger at his head, which he later clarified was intended to indicate that Nurkic was “a fool” for plowing into him.
In the third quarter, Green was assessed his first technical foul since the suspension after arguing a no-call following a layup. On his way back across the court, he collided with Nurkic, causing the Suns center to look toward the officials.
And then there were the taunts. After a jump hook over Green, Nurkic took the “too small” celebration to a new level by hitting the ground twice.
When Green made a left-handed layup over Nurkic on the other end a few minutes later, he was sure he would retaliate by hitting the floor.
“You can’t get bullied a few games later if you want to,” Green said of Nurkic’s celebration. “If you do that, you can’t be a nothing defender. If you do all that, you’ll probably weigh 70 pounds more than me and then you’ll end up in trouble? You have to be more careful.”
At 25-25 and in the final play-in spot in the Western Conference after Saturday’s win, the Warriors have improved significantly since Green’s return from suspension. They have now won six of their last seven games in which Green has a plus-62 mark. For the season, Golden State’s net rating improves by nearly six points per 100 possessions when Green is on the floor.
“Draymond was in his head. Plain and simple,” Curry said of Nurkic after the win over Phoenix. “For Draymond to be able to do that – to know what happened the last time we played them. Give him all the credit.”
“Everyone talks about how much Draymond had to change and figure out what he did during the suspension and so on. Tonight was a perfect example of how to play basketball at a high level. So I love it.”