In the wake of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 137-116 win over Golden State on Friday night – the Cavs were also in an 0-3 hole to the Warriors at the start of that game – does anyone now doubt last year’s champs can stage a similar comeback to those 2004 BoSox?
“This year’s a totally different year”. That stung ever since, and even Durant understood, because he gave up the same lead to the Warriors a round earlier with Oklahoma City.
The Warriors winning the title doesn’t feel like a shock and some would even argue it’s not great for the National Basketball Association. Win or lose against the Warriors, he’s often fantastic regardless.
That ended Sunday in Oakland in advance of Game 5. They lost game five at home past year on the way to dropping the series.
LeBron James said his teammate is built for the drama of an NBA Finals elimination game, a trait the Golden State Warriors have learned all too well these past two years.
Gathered at home, that scoring momentum followed him to Oracle where, in that crucial series-altering Game 5, Irving delivered the most important performance of his career to this point: 41 points on 17-of-24 shooting. “I thought we did so in the first three games, and in that game, he got away from us”. After his stunning seven points-in-63-seconds show in Game 3, Durant came back and scored 35 points when the rest of the Warriors were suffering whiplash watching the Cavs race past.
Cleveland has won four straight Finals elimination games, rallying from a 3-1 series deficit to win the championship a year ago and then winning 137-116 in Game 4 on Friday night to extend this series. He has a unique game.
“Yeah, thank God I get to play on Monday”, he said.
“When we’re making shots and playing with pace we’re a tough team to beat”. We have to manage him better. Kyrie Irving added 26 points and J.R. Smith chipped in with 25. The reigning NBA Coach of the Year returned for Game 2 of the Finals following a six-week absence from the bench. He’s been an absolute savage, posting 34.3 points per game in his first championship appearance since 2012. “Then, all of a sudden, you get smacked in the face, and it’s like: Whoa”. How was your defense?
Uncharacteristically bad, both Adams and coach Steve Kerr said.
Draymond Green, one of the tone setters in the Warriors lineup in terms of setting the physicality standard said he got exactly what he was expecting from the Cavs in Game 4 and doesn’t see that changing in Game 5. “We got separated from bodies a little too much and let them toe up on the 3-point line“. “But when he’s extending the floor and hitting those threes, it widens the whole floor for everybody”. “When he’s getting 39 points off 2s, you can live with that”.
The Warriors started the game lackluster and trailed at the end of the first quarter. “But listen, at the end of the day we just got some resilient guys”. These are fine for the Warriors. “So I think game four, talking trash, being physical, whatever you got to do to try to get that edge to win, you got to do it”. And Irving has that look, the same one the Warriors have seen before. The impetus is on the Warriors to close the series out, but as Obi Wan told Anakin Skywalker, we have the high ground here. And instead of rotating out toward Green’s man, McGee first tried to recover back to Jefferson, leaving Kevin Love in the corner by himself. There was more than a touch of pay-back Monday night. “That’s nothing strategic, that’s more competitive-wise”. He has done a decent job in small doses this series.
With two on the ball, Jefferson’s roll to the basket drew help from Green out of the left corner. “It’s hard to take the ball out of his hands”, Adams said. “Because a lot of his scoring isn’t coming off of ball screens. It’s going 1-on-1”.
As McGee stepped out to stop Irving, Jefferson quickly rolled to the hoop and caught a pass from Irving. “I’ve won one on the road”.