SAN FRANCISCO – Facing second-stint LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers or facing the 2021-22 Boston Celtics? Well, that’s not exactly the question Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green was asked, but he was asked to compare the mental challenge of facing the two teams.
With the Warriors and Celtics preparing for what could be the last game of the NBA season, both teams are making final preparations for Game 6 on Thursday night. By now, both teams are very familiar with one another. Through five games, Golden State and Boston have played a relatively even series, despite the Warriors leading 3-2.
Boston seemed to take control numerous times in this series, stealing Game 1 on the road as well as taking a 2-1 lead heading into Game 4 at home. Both times, the warriors have responded, their discipline and mental toughness on full display.
Draymond Green was a member of the Warriors teams that took on LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals from 2015 to 2018. Across those four matchups, Green’s Warriors won three of them to bring home championships.
“It doesn’t compare to mentally playing against LeBron James, who I think is arguably the smartest guy to ever play this game,” Green responded when asked to compare the two matchups. “Not *one* of, he *is* arguably the smartest guy to set foot on a basketball court. To say that it compares to that, it’s disrespectful to LeBron and it’s a lie to you.”
Draymond Green was asked the mental challenge of facing Celtics vs. LeBron James:
“It doesn’t compare. He is arguably the smartest guy to set foot on a basketball court. To say that it compares to that, it’s disrespectful to LeBron & it’s a lie to you.”pic.twitter.com/jXCyULdW29
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) June 15, 2022
The Celtics, however, have other attributes that make them an equally tough opponent for the Warriors.
“Now, in saying that, it’s a challenge mentally because these guys are super athletic,” Green continued.” They are super young and fast and strong, and all the things that we know and have heard throughout the course of this series. They are those things. And then obviously they are super talented, and so when you are facing that, you have to try to out-think a guy. If a guy is faster than me, how can I beat him to a spot? I have to anticipate and I have to think. I have to try to understand what he’s trying to get to. So I think that’s been huge in this series from a mental standpoint and just trying to understand and be a step ahead of them.”
The Warriors saw everything when facing LeBron James’ teams. In four matchups, a series was decided in four, five, six, and seven games. Players were suspended due to a flagrant foul point accumulation or injured. None of that made facing James easier, outside of possibly adding Kevin Durant to the best team in basketball.
“[This is] not as much of a chess match as it is when you’re playing LeBron, who is dissecting every play in that computer of his, like in real time. Like that’s just a skill that not many people possess. Not many people can come and sit here and find a random stretch from seven minutes to four minutes in the second quarter and give you every play like to the T and not miss a beat. There’s not many people that can do that.”
Draymond Green was incredibly complimentary of Celtics guard Marcus Smart, who had a very consistent Finals series.
“They do have a guy over there in Marcus Smart who is extremely smart, who it’s like a chess match going up against him. He is kind of the brain of that team. I think every team you kind of have that guy, that’s the brain of that team, and they have that in Marcus Smart, a guy who I have a tremendous amount of respect for and his basketball IQ. So it’s a challenge for sure. Ime is extremely smart. We know his pedigree.”
Draymond Green perfectly explained the mental challenge of facing the Celtics vs. facing LeBron James-led teams in the past 💯
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) June 15, 2022
The Boston Celtics entered this series with zero games of NBA Finals experience. Compare that to LeBron James, who is not only the best basketball player of this generation, but was in the midst of eight consecutive NBA Finals appearances between the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers. It’s just two different animals.
“The challenge is there, but you can’t put it up there against LeBron’s. Like I said, he’s probably the smartest guy we’ve ever seen play basketball.”
The Warriors themselves are appearing in their sixth NBA Finals in eight seasons. On Thursday night, they’ll try to make it four NBA Championships since 2015. Game 6 tips off at 6PM PST.