The Phoenix Suns dropped a tough one on Saturday night, as they fell 113-112 to the Golden State Warriors thanks to a game-winning 3-pointer from their superstar Stephen Curry. His 30 points trailing Devin Booker's game-high 32, but when it mattered most, it was Curry who nailed the decisive shot.
These are the kind of tough losses that all teams endure over the course of a long season - and at only 5.5 games back on the one seed after a tough start to the season - this defeat was not a cause for major concern either. Although the Warriors have struggled this season, beating them on their patch is still tough.
As has so often been the case this season though, the antics of Draymond Green did little to add to the game, with Suns' center Jusuf Nurkic finally having had enough.
It was Green who struck Nurkic when the sides met earlier in the season, which was the catalyst in Green spending some time away from the team, and the league as a whole, to try and straighten himself out. When that happened, Nurkic seemed symapathetic towards Green, saying at the time;
"What’s going on him? I don’t know. Personally, I feel like that brother needs help. I’m glad he did not try to choke me but at the same time, it has nothing to do with basketball. Man, I’m just out there trying to play basketball and (Green) swinging. I think we saw that often but I hope whatever he got in his life, he gets better."- Jusuf Nurkic
So it looked like this was all water under the bridge between the two, but Green seemed to have other ideas on Saturday. Midway through the first-quarter, Green seemed to go at Nurkic in a bid to get a reaction, with Klay Thompson also getting involved by knocking the ball out of Nurkic's hand as things got chippy.
The initial contact from Green wasn't overly excessive - at least that was how it looked in the moment - but given the history between the two, things looked like they could quickly get out of control. To Nurkic's credit he remained calm, although in going at Green in the subsequent play he may have been goaded into committing a needless foul.
From there, the two players exchanged "too small" gestures on one another, with Curry ultimately ensuring Green and the Warriors had the last laugh. Was Nurkic as understanding of Green when speaking to the media after the game? Far from it, with his tone towards the Warriors player changing considerably.
"It's sad, he didn't learn anything, man. Just a matter of time. He's going to knock somebody else again. Take everything back what I said. He don't deserve a chance."- Jusuf Nurkic
This time though, Green cut a more composed figure as he took to the podium to speak to the media in San Francisco, coming across like a player who mentally got the better of his opponent to help his team win. It is always hard to tell with Green - and certainly his past doesn't make it any easier - but this was perhaps the edge the Warriors have needed and which he has provided in the past.
Nurkic wasn't finished dishing out his thoughts either, going on to say;
"Just his antics. Try to hit people. The stuff he shouldn’t do, but I don’t care. At the end of the day, he tried to play that way. No one is worried about him. They got the win tonight. We’ll see what happens in a few games."- Jusuf Nurkic
Green did also mention how it was Nurkic who started the back-and-forth on this occasion, getting mouthy when a foul was called on a postup. The kind of moment that can often provide a spark for Green, and he said as much himself in saying of their coming together that "I’m never backing down from that. I like that type of action."
Given that Green would go on to point to his head when moving away from Nurkic, it does look like Green got one over on Nurkic on this occasion. Not that the Suns or Nurkic himself will care. They lost the game, they move on, end of story. But with these two players having been at the center of the last two meetings between the Suns and Warriors, all eyes will be on their next meeting.
Nurkic clearly is never going to give Green the benefit of the doubt again either, and is sure to give his best when matched up against him. To have not reacted in a fiery way on this occasion though, is further proof that the Suns have a player with the right demeanour from here until the end of the season.