OAKLAND — Players don’t typically need much motivation when it comes to bringing their best effort in the playoffs. While it can be hard (some would argue it’s impossible) to “get up” for every game of an 82-game regular season schedule, no such issue exists once postseason play begins. Every every possession, let alone every game, takes on a heightened importance in the playoffs, and the players, at least the players who have what it takes to make it to the NBA, tend to respond accordingly.
And when the teams facing off in the postseason are also willing to exchange barbs, both lighthearted and otherwise, it all but assures maximum effort, as the intensity already associated with playoff basketball is only exacerbated by property executed trash talk. Such was the case Sunday afternoon in Game One of the one-eight first-round playoff matchup between the Warriors and Trail Blazers, a game that was tied going into the fourth before Golden State pulled away for the 121-109 victory at Oracle Arena.
Between eliminating the Trail Blazers from the postseason in 2016, the Warriors sweeping the season series in the regular season and Damian Lillard’s out-of-context prediction, the stage was already set for their to be some quality jawing in Game One Sunday afternoon.
But that eventually was accelerated thanks to Draymond Green, the undisputed champion of NBA trash talk, and CJ McCollum, one of the most prolific low-key trash talkers in the league, both having great performances from start to finish in Game One.
The first instance seemed to occur after the first timeout, in which Green took the opportunity to lob a few choice comments at a couple Portland players during a purposefully lackadaisical stride to the Golden State bench.
“We were talking back and forth the entire game, but that’s just a part of the game,” said Green. “It’s mutual respect both ways. We’ve played those guys last year in the series, but quite a bit over the last four or five years where you kind of know them, they know you.”
It was on from there, with McCollum letting Green and any other Golden State players in the vicinity know about it every time he scored, something he did early and often in the first half Sunday afternoon.
“I’ve known Draymond Green since he was at Michigan State,” said McCollum. “He was a little chubbier then at Michigan State. He’s done really well with himself. He’s worked hard. If I have something I want to say, I’m going to say it. He’s going to do the same thing.”
And while McCollum and Green might have started the debate in Game One, their teammates were quick to join in as well, whether on their own behalf or or in defense of their compatriots.
“I’m just not going to let somebody say something to me or any of my teammates.” said Maurice Harkless, who noted the trash talk in Game One was typical of a playoff game. “Guys are competing, guys want to win and guys are going to talk. It’s a part of the game. If you’re out there just gonna let a guy say something to you then you probably shouldn’t really be out there. That’s just part of being competitive.”
There was McCollum smiling and nodding at the Golden State bench as the teams went into the half tied 58-58. And then it was Harkless jawing with Green, who then said something to Evan Turner, who then said something to Kevin Durant, which prompted Harkless to crack back with another comment. Then there was Green blocking a Damian Lillard dunk attempt, which Green was in no hurry to let him forget.
“I think having a guy like that on the floor, I think it raises the level of the game,” said Lillard of Green. “Because I don’t even talk trash, and he was saying so much out there that I had a whole lot to say tonight. I think that’s just good for the game.”
But while Green and the Warriors came away with the most important thing — the win and a 1-0 advantage in the best-of-seven series — it might have been McCollum who got in the best dig of the night. After Green got rim-checked on a wide open dunk attempt, McCollum noted he might benefit from some exercises targets on a specific muscle group.
“(McCollum) told me I need to do more calf raises,” said Green. “We all know each other off the floor as well. It’s not like there’s anyone out there being disrespectful towards another. It’s fun. You hit a shot, he’s talking to us. I hit a shot, I’m talking to them. I miss the dunk, he’s telling me I need to do calf raises. It was good back and forth, it makes the game a lot more fun, that’s for sure.”
Which seemed to be the takeaway for both teams. While it’s always possible that the tenor of such comments changes as the series goes on and both teams get more and more annoyed with one another, at least in Game One, the trash talk was simply another enjoyable element of an already entertaining contest.
“It’s a game we all love,” said McCollum. “We come out here, represent our teams, representing our hometowns where everybody’s from, and where I’m from, if you talk trash, then I’m going to talk trash to you. It’s not disrespectful. We’re not talking about nobody’s mamas or nothing bad.”