It’s almost time for the Cavs first Game 5 of the NBA Finals in franchise history!
But don’t expect LeBron James, David Blatt and the rest of Team Intravenous Fluids to be content resting at this cozy mountain base camp when there’s still the rest of the mountain to climb. Here’s some things to look for going into this critical game against the Warriors safely back in their Golden State:
1.) Much of the narrative following the Warriors 103-82 Game 4 victory over the Cavaliers was that the Warriors had finally “figured out” the Cavs defense. How much that lopsided win had to do with the Warriors cracking the schemes that had been frustrating them through the first three games and how much it was the Cavs exhaustion that prevented the Cleveland players from being as effective against Golden State remains to be seen. The Warriors made some adjustments — particularly the insertion of Andre Iguodala into the starting lineup, relegating Andrew Bogut to just a foul-plagued cameo — that gave the Cavs problems, and the team was still only down by one point with under a minute to go in the third… despite their collective legs joining Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love in street clothes. Eventually, the Warriors hit some shots, while the Cavs couldn’t get anything outside the paint to drop — and that’s a narrative that could describe a million different basketball losses more than it sounds like one about a clearly superior team jumpstarting a Midas touch that had mysteriously gone missing for the previous two games. We’ll see.
The Cavs’ game plan throughout this series has been to shut down the Splash Bros., and let the Warrior’s role players beat them. Well, they got exactly what they asked for tonight. Steve Kerr switched up his starting lineup for this pivotal game four, and it worked out perfectly. He put Andrew Bogut on the bench and started Andre Iguodala at the four. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson combined to shoot 12-26 for just 31 points. However, Iggy, Harrison Barnes, and Draymond Green combined to go 18-35 for 52 points. They were 10-21 from beyond the arc.
Steve Kerr also started to double-team LeBron James when he was in the post, and trapped him on pick and rolls. LeBron made the correct passes tonight, but it just didn’t matter. The Cavs went 4-27 from 3-point land. Tonight wasn’t one to remember, but let’s remember it anyways.
I want to get very specific. Everyone watching the Cavs sort of shutdown the Warriors can recognize what’s going on: the Cavs are protecting the ball, limiting 3-point makes, slowing the game’s pace, making role players perform, and marching the NBA back to a time where games had less than 200 combined points and more than 200 combined hand-checks. Let’s check out some numbers from these playoffs to get a better appreciation for the Cavs 2-1 series lead. Read the rest of this entry »
Since Robert’s on vacation this week, I’m filling in to author this week’s Point Four-ward: four things I’m thinking about as the Cleveland Cavaliers are just a couple wins from an NBA championship.
1) Matthew Dellavedova belongs to all of us now. “On Wednesday, Dellavedova had the best-selling NBA player jersey on Fanatics, the nation’s largest licensed online sports retailer,” ESPN.com reported. Dellymania has reached fever pitch.
The first Finals game at The Q in eight years was a star studded affair. Rascal Flatts sang the national anthem, and Ohio sports legends Urban Meyer, Jim Brown, Mark Price, Jim Thome, and Larry Nance were in attendance. The boys in wine and gold didn’t disappoint as they led from the opening tip until the final buzzer sounded.
WHAT A GAME. Tom Pestak, EvilGenius, and I just had to talk about it. It was intense: from Delly’s defense and late game scoring to Steph Curry and his 24 points in the fourth. But the Cavs controlled and ultimately triumphed, behind another herculean effort from LeBron and an amazing and unexpected performance from Matthew Dellavedova. Man, that was fun.
The Cavaliers did what they had to do to snag a game at Oracle Arena, and return to Cleveland with a 1-1 split. They now have seized home court advantage in the series as they get set to face the Warriors in a pivotal Game 3 at the Q, a place where LeBron and Company have a formidable 26-2 record since the King returned from his mid-season fort-night sabbatical.
With a victory tonight, the Cavs can take a firm grasp on the momentum of this see-saw battle of a Finals, and put the favored Warriors in a tenuous position. They know it won’t be easy, however, with a Golden State team that ripped off a league-high 28 games on the road during the regular season and another five in the playoffs. They also have league MVP, Steph Curry, who will be looking to get a grip on his shooting game that went south (or in this case… “down under”) in Game 2.
Though it’s likely that Curry will shoot better than the last time out, it’s also likely that the Cavs will better their 32% shooting as well, especially in the more familiar confines of home. LeBron James and his band of gritty, “grown-ass men” also seem galvanized by getting their hands on the franchise’s first Finals win ever. They will be prepared with plenty more non-cute, unsexy, grindhouse basketball, not to mention some secret motivation that is driving Bron. And as long as he can avoid the clutches of the Warrior defenders (see above photo that Dan Gilbert used to have fun at their expense), he should once again have the Cavs right there in the end.
We couldn’t podcast Sunday night. Our voices were all too ragged from shouting our way through the GREATEST CAVALIERS VICTORY OF ALL TIME. A day later, Ben Werth, Tom Pestak and I stocked up on Earl Grey with honey and stepped into the podcast studio for a bull session worthy of the Cavs’ GOAT game (so far). We discussed our game two experience, the adjustments that both teams can make going into game three, the Delly factor, Steph Curry, Cleveland’s offense, Tristan Thompson, the Buzz in northeast Ohio, David Blatt holding his own against the NBA coaching Golden Boy, LeBron Raymone James, and — of course — memes. Enjoy.
We can be heard above, on Soundcloud, or on iTunes. We’re three games away, folks, and because I didn’t say it on the pod, Go Cavs!
I stopped checking out the media on Friday. I stopped talking to most of my fellow Cavs fans. I couldn’t take the negativity, the self pity, and the inevitable sense of doom so many had with regards to the Cavs and their finals chances. Fortunately, it seems the Cavs ignored all that too. In the junkiest finals game in NBA finals history, the Cavs beat the Golden State Warriors on their home court to capture home field advantage and go back to Cleveland, tied 1-1. The Cavs have won their first NBA finals game in franchise history.
In case you didn’t check out EvilGenius’ superior piece from earlier today, “On Determination,” it should get you sufficiently pumped and in the right mindset for tonight’s game. After that, check out this Uninterrupted video about LeBron’s mindset for game two. Then, note that Delly’s starting tonight.
Cavs not likely to deviate from defensive scheme. CLE felt they executed in Game 1 & had a chance to win. #NBAFinals
Let’s finish that off with the greatest motivational speech in the history of motivational speeches. I’m not talking the Gipper either. Here’s the final verse of Alfred, Lord Tenyson’s Ulysses, the poem of an aging King, older, home, and returning to the sea to take on new quests with his wizened mariners, the outcomes of which are unknown.
Nate Smith is an Associate Editor. He grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, and moved to NE Ohio in 2000. He adopted the Cavs in 2003 and graduated from Kent State in 2009 with a BA in English. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or @oldseaminer on Twitter.
Tom Pestak is an Associate Editor. He's from the west side of Cleveland and lives and (mostly) dies by the success and (mostly) failures of his beloved teams. You can watch his fanaticism during Cavs games @tompestak.
Robert Attenweiler is a Staff Writer. Originally from OH, he's long made his home in NYC where he writes plays and screenplays (www.disgracedproductions.com) some of which end up being about Ohio, basketball or both. He has also written for The Classical and the blog Raising the Cadavalier. You can contact him at email@example.com or @cadavalier.
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