OAKLAND — The Cavaliers felt they finally played like themselves in Game 4. The Warriors thought they had an off game that let the Cavaliers get up a head of steam, but they can correct it. Which is it? We find out Monday night, here are three things to watch for in Game 5.
1) Can the Cavaliers knock down threes like that again? On the road? The Cavaliers set a new NBA record hitting 24 threes in Game 4, and doing it on just 45 shots. They were 6-of-9 from the left corner, they were killing it above the break, and particularly when uncontested (as a team the Cavaliers shot 63 percent overall in the game on uncontested looks).
Can they replicate that?
The Cavs believe they can. They said that this is who they are and this is why they play with pace.
The Warriors think they helped Cleveland get rolling.
“Those 24, I would say probably 10 of them were just mental breakdowns and giving them open looks,” Stephen Curry said. “And they’re obviously great three-point shooters. If you give them open looks, they’re capable of making it, and they can make them in furies. So just staying connected to bodies, trying to stay close on screens, on switches, making sure we’re talking and communicating. And the biggest thing is early in the game you can’t let them get going, because they feed off of that.”
“So we saw a lot of things on tape,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “Most of the stuff I already mentioned. Not boxing out, not handling one-on-one defense very well, a lot of breakdowns communication-wise. You see all that stuff. And then it’s a lot easier for the team to look at it on film, and you go over your game plan, you remind them of what you’re trying to do, and you go from there.”
I expect a more focused Warriors defense. Cleveland is capable of beating that, but they’re going to be challenged more in this game.
2) Stephen Curry can’t be 4-of-13 overall and 2-of-9 from three. Kevin Durant was the Warriors MVP through the first three games (so much for that “he’s riding the Warriors’ coattails” to a title, he’s asserted himself) but Curry was right on his heels. In those games, Curry had 28, 31, and 31 points, and shot a combined 14-of-29 from three. His image had taken a hit last Finals, and he was making up for it.
Then in Game 4 he had 14 points on 4-of-13 shooting, and he was 0-of-5 on uncontested shots.
“They did a good job on him in Game 4,” Kerr said. “We ran a lot of on-ball stuff in the first half, we ran a lot of off-ball stuff in the second half. Hardest thing is playing from behind. No matter what, it’s difficult. We were down 20 right away in the first quarter. And so playing from behind is a difficult proposition, and you start searching for some things. And we were scattered the rest of the game. But there’s some things we can do to free him up, and we’ll try that tomorrow.”
“Well, he’s dangerous, so we just wanted to limit his shots, take the ball out of his hands. And we did a good job of that in Game 4,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. We have to try to do it again in Game 5.”
With Durant — not to mention Klay Thompson — in the fold, Curry doesn’t have to carry the offense, but he’s got to be assertive and have his moments in Game 5. Another poor outing and he will need to pack for a flight to Cleveland.
3) Does anyone get in foul trouble? Which is a kind way of saying. “please basketball gods, let this game be officiated better than the disaster that was Game 4.” The Cavs would have won anyway, but last game the officials were inconsistent, they let the game get away from them, then they tried to reel it back in by calling technicals.
In the wake of that mess, expect the Game 5 officials to call things a little tighter and try to establish a clear line early. Which may not be ideal for a Cleveland team that needs to be physical to throw Golden State off its game. Here is what Kyrie Irving said about what the Cavs need to continue from Game 4.
“Just our physicality,” Irving said. “I thought we brought a physicality to the game. I thought our defensive mindset was really good, and I thought offensively we really played with a pace. We shared the basketball. We moved bodies, and it was very effective for us. So we have to have a carry over to Game 5.”
Will the officials let them? Or will someone, from either team, get in early foul trouble and alter the course of this game?
I just hope we’re not talking about the officiating postgame again.