OAKLAND — When the Warriors went small in Game 4, the Cavaliers got sucked into the Warriors style of play for stretches.
“I think we allowed their lineup to get us out of what we did in Games 1, 2, and 3, and that was control the pace and put the ball into the post,” LeBron James said Saturday before the Cavaliers’ practice. “We shot 27 threes. So I would say half of those or even more than half were some good shots, but a few of them we wish we could have back.”
While the Cavaliers were not about to talk specifics of their adjustments for Game 5, LeBron said the starting lineup would remain the same. Speaking to players and coaches, the theme that came up again and again was getting back to what worked — playing big and slowing down the game.
Go big. Then the Cavaliers go home for Game 6 and hope to be in a position to finish the series off.
“We took some quick shots last game, and they got the game off the pace.” James Jones said. “But overall when we sit back and we look at it, that game defensively was still in reach for us…. So they played fast, and we tried to play fast. And for some parts of the game we played too fast and for other parts of the game we slowed them down, which was to our advantage.”
At points in Game 4 the Cavaliers did try to counter the Warriors small lineup by pounding the ball inside more. Timofey Mozgov had 28 points as a result. He did a fantastic job doing his work early, getting deep position and sealing off Draymond Green or another defender, then finishing. Expect to see more of that.
Which is something the Warriors may be willing to live with.
“Mozgov scored 28 and he’s a good player, but we’d rather have Mozgov beat you than LeBron, who’s proven time-and-time again, year-after-year that he can beat you,” Draymond Green said.
The Cavaliers will go back to the LeBron in the post well more in Game 5. The Warriors doubled that more in Game 4, LeBron made the right passes out of it, but then the Cavs missed those looks.
That’s where some extra rest may come in. The Cavs players all said that having the extra day off between games has them feeling more rested, which should help their shooting — the Cavaliers were 6-of-29 on uncontested looks in Game 4. They expect that changes in Game 5.
The challenge with Mozgov and Tristan Thompson being on the floor together when the Warriors go small is on defense — Mozgov doesn’t like to stray far from the paint, yet he had to chase Iguodala out to the three point line. Then he couldn’t recover to protect the rim the same way. If you’re going to see significant adjustments from Cleveland, look for them on that end of the floor.
“Certainly we’ve got to do a better job getting out and contesting shots and matching up in the ways we want to match up with so that the advantage plays well for us at both ends,” Blatt said.
Blatt is going big, in part because he’s not flush with other options. While we may see a little more of Shawn Marion or Mike Miller in Game 5, the bottom line is that Steve Kerr just has far more versatility at his disposal. If small isn’t working for him in Game 5, Kerr can put Andrew Bogut back in the mix.
If he does, it’s because the Cavaliers went big and it worked.