As Game 5 approaches and we are all here thinking up the possibilities one thing is certain. It’s win or go home for the Cavs tonight in Golden State. After a dominating 137-116 win over the Warriors in Game 4 including a 49 point first quarter performance the Cavs have righted the ship, for now. People are asking can Cleveland duplicate their performance and continue on the series? Well no they won’t but they don’t need to in order to continue the series. Let me explain and highlight the keys to a Game 5 win for Cleveland.
First off the notion that they have to duplicate the performance in order to win is ridiculous. Let me remind you they won by 21 points and were up by no less than 11 in that second half. It was pure domination. They will have to play great, but not that great. 86 points in the first half and 49 in the first has never been done before and it won’t be tonight.
LeBron is LeBron he will bring it every night, we know this. For me what it comes down to offensively is the 3 point shooting for Cleveland, specifically Kyrie, Love, and Smith. Kyrie has been electric in the paint but where he really improved in Game 4 was from three. Irving was 0-7 in Game 3 from deep, which is the real reason they lost, he makes just one more shot and that game is essentially over. Game 4 though he was a blazing 7-12, which causes Klay to guard him tighter opening up the lane. Love was just 1-7 from three in Game 3 as well, but 6-8 in Game 4. They don’t need to shoot these percentages but they can’t be shooting below 33% from deep if they wanna win.
JR Smith, welcome to the Finals. Nobody really understands JR, maybe LeBron does but even that is up in the air. All I know is my dude is hot now. Going 10-19 from three over the last two he is feeling it. He is streaky and it seems like he’s gonna go on a run. Look for the first play of the game like Game 4 for Thompson to set a screen and free up Smith from deep. Smith is ridiculous, he is cocky, but when he’s clicking he’s one of the best perimeter shooters in the league. These three shooters need to keep firing and they need to go in for Cleveland to have a chance.
Another key to this game is turnovers, which can not be understated enough. Especially versing a team that is so lethal in the open court like the Warriors. The combination of Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry being able to pull up from basically anywhere makes them a near impossible guard in the open court. Then you have Klay Tompson slithering in behind them spotting up. Also, Draymond Green who is a floor general and runner. Yikes. The way to stop that? Don’t turn the ball over. Keep an eye on the turnover total during tonight’s festivities. Cleveland played very well in Game 3 and only turned it over 12 times, then 11 in 4. My number for them will be 12 turnovers if they’re under or very near that number they will have a shot. If not State in 5.
Another key to this game is not letting Klay and Steph get open looks, especially from three. They’re outstanding shooters but when these guys get open looks they’re ten times better. You can limit them however with contested jump shots, sure they’ll make some but they’ll miss more than they make. Other than one game Klay hasn’t been very good and Curry is coming off a 2-9 shooting performance from deep in which they only gave up one open shot. That’s the formula, limiting Klay and Curry’s barrage of three-pointers. Durant is a lethal shooter who is so tall it really doesn’t matter about a contest, he’s gonna get his. He has every game but the keys are preventing the Splash Brothers from getting open.
I also think it goes back to down low which I wrote on in my preview. I don’t know what happened to Tristan Thompson in games 1-3 but that wasn’t him. Game 4 he had 5 points, 10 boards, and 5 assists. More importantly, he showed toughness and was pissed off. He played pissed off with composure. He needs to be active and be a bully down low to clean up the offensive glass. Also, needs to continue to be a facilitator from the post and kickout to the corner for open threes after the defense caves in on him.
I don’t think this series is over. Call me crazy but they’ve done it before down 3-1 yes it’s 3-0 but if anyone can it’s LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. These guys are as good as anyone in the world in elimination games, they just bring it. As I watched Game 4 I saw toughness and composure throughout the game. Even at the end they looked confident but knew that they had much work ahead of them in order to get this done. Part of being able to come back from 3-0 is the belief and I truly think that after last year they believe they can take this to 7 and make it a one-game playoff.
Richard Jefferson said it best saying the pressure is not on the Cavs but on the Warriors who added an MVP to a 73-win team. He also proclaimed “I could just tell you this…a lot of people didn’t believe we’d want to get on a plane and come back here. I can guarantee you they don’t want to get on a plane and go back to Cleveland because they will probably be getting on a plane to come back.”
I couldn’t agree more with this. If Cleveland plays great and wins, they won’t lose Game 6 at home I can tell you that. State will be freaking out “oh shit, oh shit, here we go again.” Then we have Game 7 in Golden State repeat of last year. But in order for that to happen Cleveland needs to play smart, efficent basketball and shoot well from deep while containing the splash brothers.