Kurt Helin

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Despite LeBron James’ brilliance, Golden State wins Game 5 to come within one win of title

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OAKLAND — LeBron James played the single best game of these NBA Finals Sunday in Oakland. He was otherworldly — he scored or assisted on 26 of the 32 Cleveland buckets. He had 40 points, 11 assists and 14 rebounds, plus played good defense inside. He carried the Cavaliers as far as any player could have. It was an epic Finals effort for the ages.

And it wasn’t enough.

Stephen Curry had his best game of the Finals scoring 36 and taking over late in the fourth dropping 17 in the frame; Andre Iguodala continued his fantastic play all series, and the small ball lineup of the Golden State Warriors got them the pace they wanted. In fact, the Cavaliers had to go small to match them just to stay in the game.

“It’s the way we had to play to have a chance to win the game,” Cavaliers coach David Blatt said, noting that lineup kept them close until late while their big lineups were getting torched.

It still didn’t work.

Golden State won Game 5 104-91 and now lead the best-of-seven NBA Finals 3-2. The Warriors can close out the series on the road Tuesday night in Cleveland.

source: Getty Images
Getty Images

But you can bet LeBron is not going to let that be easy.

“We’re not getting ahead of ourselves,” Curry said. “The locker room, if you walked in there, was the exact same as after a regular-season win.”

The Cavaliers hung around this one because of LeBron, but in the final five minutes the Warriors pulled away — because of the jump shot.

In answer to a LeBron three that was closer to the half court line than the three point arc (34 feet, according to NBA.com), Curry showed off a shake-and-bake move to create space and drain a three. Then after a stop, Klay Thompson hit a 29 footer, and the Warriors were up five. The Cavs would not quit, they would not let the Warriors run away as they had done so often during the season. LeBron answered with a bucket and, after a stop, he drove and assisted Tristan Thompson for a bucket that made it a one-point game again. LeBron would not let the game go.

But the Warriors’ threes kept raining. Iguodala from the corner. Then Iguodala on the old-school and-one three after an offensive board. That had the lead up to seven.

LeBron drove and drew a foul, but he was clearly gassed at this point. His shots started to come up short, his drives lacking just that little bit of power he had earlier.

Soon came another Curry shake-and-bake three, and the lead was up to 10.

Eventually came another Curry three with 1:24 left that was the dagger, after another ridiculous move.

“It was an incredible play and I enjoyed watching it from my front-row seat,” Draymond Green said. Yet both he and Curry refused to call it a signature play because only the team holding the trophy has those, and they are not holding yet.

But Curry found his groove and the narrative that Matthew Dellavedova was a Curry stopper finally died.

“From the very beginning, when they went small, had their shooters out there, I thought, ‘This is Steph’s night,’” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.

Curry finished with 36 points on 13-of-23 shooting and hit 7-of-13 from three. After that, the Warriors had balance: 16 points from Draymond Green, 14 from Iguodala, 13 from Leandro Barbosa, 12 from Klay Thompson. The Warriors played their game all around.

“(Curry’s shooting) not why we lost.  We gave up 18 fast breakpoints.  We gave up 15 second-chance points,” LeBron said. “Steph was special, obviously, but him hitting those step-back threes is not why we lost the game.”

In the first half, it was the LeBron James show.

“He’s phenomenal, he’s doing everything,” Kerr said of LeBron James. “But I’m not enjoying the marveling (at his play).”

After starting 0-of-3, the Warriors hit the next 4-of-5 as they attacked the rim for dunks. They were getting out in transition and getting to the rim with Mozgov pulled out on the perimeter and unsure what to do (and in no position to recover).

The Cavaliers decided to match the Warriors by going small, and it mostly worked. Because of LeBron. — he was otherworldly in the first half.

LeBron had 20 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in the first 24 minutes. He scored or assisted on all but one of the Cavaliers buckets in the first half. He got them to 50 (with JR Smith pitching in and hitting some threes). He also did a good job in the paint protecting the rim.

But all that left the Cavaliers one short after a Harrison Barnes putback dunk, the Warriors were up 51-50 at the break. The Warriors shot 54.1 percent and hit 5-of-10 from three in the first half, Stephen Curry had 15 points hitting 3-of-4 from three.

The third quarter saw LeBron struggle some, getting four points and an assist, as he started to wear down and was missing shots outside the paint. The Cavaliers were getting great play inside from Tristan Thompson, who kept making plays at the rim.

Stephen Curry is within range (always), drains key three (VIDEO)

Stephen Curry
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OAKLAND — Stephen Curry’s range extends roughly to the Bay Bridge.

He was showing that off in the third quarter (he was 4-of-8 from three through three quarters) and this was one of those shots.

Curry had the Warriors up by six entering the fourth.

Harrison Barnes with putback dunk over LeBron James (VIDEO)

BASKET-NBA-FINALS-WARRIORS-CAVALIERS
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OAKLAND — LeBron James was nothing short of brilliant in the first half for the Cavaliers — 20 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. He scored or assisted on all but one of the Cavaliers buckets in the first half.

But Cleveland trailed 51-50 at the break because Harrison Barnes came in and threw this dunk down on him.

The Warriors shot 54.1 percent and hit 5-of-10 from three in the first half. They would have been far ahead, had it not been for the play of LeBron.

Draymond Green with the drive, dunk for Golden State (VIDEO)

Memphis Grizzlies v Golden State Warriors - Game One
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OAKLAND — The Golden State Warriors opened Game 5 0-for-3 shooting and looking a little nervous or out of synch.

Then they started driving the ball to the basket and hit four of their next five shots — highlighted by this dunk by Draymond Green.

After this play, the Cavaliers called timeout and sat Timofey Mozgov, who was struggling with the small Warriors lineup.

Report: Stephen Curry annoyed by attention, credit Matthew Dellavedova has gotten

2015 NBA Finals - Game Four
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OAKLAND — There is always a little-known role player who, thanks to a good matchup and strong play, makes a name for himself at the NBA Finals.

This year it is Matthew Dellavedova of the Cavaliers.

LeBron James has praised him, saying Curry’s struggles were because of Delly’s defense. David Blatt has praised Dellavedova at every turn, as have the ABC broadcasters. Walking around Cleveland he was the second most popular guy on the team still playing (Kyrie Irving might normally occupy that slot). ESPN is running features on him, as is PBT and just about everyone else. Delly is loved.

That has annoyed Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors, reports Chris Haynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Sources within the Warriors’ organization say they were “pissed off” and “irked” by the media attention Dellavedova was receiving and the narrative of the Australian “locking down” the league’s MVP.

As for Curry, he was annoyed too, I’m told.

“People have lit a fire under Steph, which is good thing,” Andrew Bogut told NEOMG. “It’s something that you don’t want to do. It worked out well. We know Delly is a great defender, but we know he’s not a Curry stopper.”

Curry, of course, is too polished to talk about this publicly, although he did say his run-ins with Delly have featured some trash talk not suitable for younger viewers. It’s also very much like the great NBA players to find something, anything to use as fuel for motivation.

In Game 4, Curry changed how he attacked Dellavedova, attacking off the dribble quickly before the double team came. Combine that with a dead-legged Dellavedova who was not moving as quickly and you ended up with Curry getting past him and more open looks than he had in the first three games.

It will be interesting in Game 5 to see how things go with a more rested Dellavedova.