Warriors cash in on their fatigue advantage in Game 4

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Draymond Green doesn’t have history of getting along with opposing coaches, but on at least one question, he and David Blatt see eye to eye:

Were the Cavaliers tired in Game 4 of the NBA Finals?

“Yes, “Blatt said. “Tonight was the third game in five days, including the trip back from the West Coast, and it seemed to have an impact on us, yes.”

Said Green: “Absolutely. And that’s one thing we’ve been preaching the whole series, that we wanted to wear them down.”

Cleveland used a shorter rotation than the Warriors through the series’ first three games.

The result: The Cavaliers’ eight most-used players had played the third-most minutes through three games of the NBA Finals in the last 31 years (as far back as Basketball-Reference.com data went back(:

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Only the 1993 Bulls and 1993 Suns, who had a triple-overtime Game 3, had their top eight players on the court more through three games.

Of course, the Cavaliers played two overtime periods in this series (one in Game 1, one in Game 2) – but so did the Warriors. Golden State – even considering its bigger rotation – ranks 10th of 62 teams on this list.

To a certain degree, it doesn’t matter how tired the Cavs are. It matters how much more tired they are than the Warriors.

So, here’s the same stat sorted by the difference between the two teams:

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Cleveland’s top eight players played 42 more minutes than Golden State’s in the first three games. That might not seem like a lot, but it’s a pretty large difference for modern times. Only the 2006 Finals – which featured the Heat’s top eight players on the court 44 minutes more than the Mavericks’ – had a larger gap in the last 24 years.

In Game 4, a Golden State blowout, Steve Kerr shortened his rotation to basically match Cleveland’s.

It’s easy to say now that we know the result, but that seemed like the right move.

As Blatt said, this was the third game in five days. There are two days off before Game 5, which would give the Cavaliers a chance to rest.

If the Warriors were going to capitalize on their rest advantage – by playing their best players more, knowing they were better rested than Cleveland’s best players – Game 4 was a great opportunity.

The fatigue factor should at least somewhat even entering Sunday’s Game 5, both due to the additional day of rest and Golden State shortening its rotation last night.

Kerr has frequently spoken of the Warriors’ depth working in their favor. Though it certainly wasn’t the only factor in last night’s result, I think it mattered in Game 4 more than at any point this series so far.

This should continue to help Golden State going forward, but there’s a decent chance last night will be the game it mattered most.