BOSTON — Sunday night was a big one for Gary Payton II. The 29-year-old returned to the floor after missing a month due to a broken elbow suffered in the Warriors’ series against Memphis, and he was welcomed back with a standing ovation from the Golden State crowd.
He ended up going 3-for-3 from the field, finishing the night with seven points, three rebounds and three assists in 25:19 on the floor.
Perhaps the biggest of those shots came late in the first quarter, when the Celtics were trying to hold on to their early lead. Not long after missing both of his free throws (from the phantom foul call on Jaylen Brown), Payton set up camp in front of the Celtics’ bench and received a pass from Stephen Curry, who drew attention while driving to the basket before faking a pass to Kevon Looney and finding a wide-open Payton in the corner.
With Marcus Smart and the rest of the Celtics’ bench barking in his ear, Payton confidently drained the shot, cutting Boston’s lead to just a single point. Payton made sure to spin around to say something to the Boston bench.
After the game — which Golden State won, 107-88, to tie the NBA Finals at one game apiece — Draymond Green talked about Payton on his podcast. The veteran forward (who knows a thing or two about trash talk) also explained what happens in those situations in NBA games.
The description was rather colorful.
His next shot is the corner three, which he responds and makes the corner three right in front of their bench. Now, for those that are listening that have played in the NBA — which is not very many people because not many people have played in the NBA — when you’re in front of an opposing team’s bench and you’re shooting that corner three, the things that are coming out of that bench is the reason why you see everyone, when they hit a corner three in front of someone’s bench, they turn and look. They turn and say something. Because the things that are coming from that bench, we will not repeat here. And you know, we talk some s*** on The Draymond Green Show. We will not repeat the things that come away from the benches when you’re shooting right in front of an opposing team’s bench.
Clearly, Green came away feeling mighty impressed with the performance of his teammate.
“So, to miss the two free throws, have a short-term memory, and can that corner three — it was a very timely three, by the way — that really shows you and embodies who Gary Payton II is,” Green said. “And like I said, he had his hands all over that win. You could feel the impact, and it was so great to have him out there. I mean, his defense was … he’s GP. He defends. And his defense, it looked like he hadn’t missed a month.”
Green also took some time on his podcast to address what he dubbed “the small technical foul controversy,” where the referees and/or the league decided not to assess matching technical fouls for Jaylen Brown and Green for their mini-skirmish near the end of the first half. Considering Green had already picked up a technical foul, another tech would have sent him to the locker room for the rest of the game. The broadcast crew — which included former referee Steve Javie — suggested that those implications would prevent the officials from assessing that second technical foul. That ended up being the case.
Green, unsurprisingly, agreed with that line of thinking.
“I saw where Javie said you’re making the decision, like if someone [already] has a tech or not, and the reality is, is that makes sense. Like, you know, people want to make it out to be a controversy, that makes sense. Like, nobody’s paying to watch this stuff, to see guys get thrown out of the game and you’re not seeing the game that you want to watch. And so, I understand and agree,” Green said. “Like, yes, if there is some egregious [act], I’m gonna get thrown out. I 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, you probably shouldn’t get thrown out of a game. So I had no clue that people thought I was even that close to being thrown out. Because I don’t play the game worried about getting thrown out or not. I play the game ultimately chasing the level of physicality that I want the game to be at. And however you gotta get that done, you get that done.”
Green stated that he doesn’t change his approach after picking up a technical foul, and that he really believes he can only play the game the way he knows how to play the game.
“If I’m gonna tread carefully and walk lightly, then I may as well get thrown out anyway. Because that’s not gonna help my team win,” he said. “So I have to be me for my team, and I thought that was very important. I’m always gonna be me.”
Green will get his next chance to be himself on Wednesday night, when the series moves to Boston for Game 3, with a 2-1 series lead on the line.