Have the Golden State Warriors figured the NBA Finals out and it’s a foregone conclusion how this series ends?
Or will LeBron James finally get a little help and be able to force a Game 7?
It feels more like the former to me, and that’s one of the many topics we cover in today’s edition of the PBT Podcast. We’ve got PBT’s Kurt Helin and Brett Pollakoff breaking down Game 5 and talking about what it portends for Game 6. We also get into the Finals MVP debate. Can you imagine how awkward it would be to give it to LeBron in a losing effort?
LeBron scored 40 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and dished out 11 assists Sunday night. He scored or assisted on all but six of Cleveland’s 32 baskets. When Cavaliers coach David Blatt decided to match the Warriors’ small lineup LeBron played a lot of strong defense in the paint, trying to protect the rim.
That small lineup was part of an effort to find other offense, but the Warriors shut that down. In the end, the Cavaliers had to go back to LeBron isolations. That was the only thing that worked.
As he has done virtually all playoffs, he’s carried a banged up, flawed roster farther than anyone else in the game could have. He carried them to the point that Game 5 was a one-point game with just more than five minutes remaining.
“LeBron has been tremendous is even an understatement for how he’s played in the series,” Cavaliers’ coach David Blatt said. “And he had another one of those days today.Under the current set of circumstances, that’s what we’ve got to get, and he’s bringing it. You don’t see that every day, what he’s doing.You’ve got to take your hat off to him too.”
LeBron’s critics — a vocal and misguided group who flock to Twitter — will point out that he wasn’t efficient. LeBron was 6-of-8 shooting at the rim but 6-of-18 from outside the restricted area out to the three-point line. (He was 3-of-8 from three.)
But LeBron finished the night with a solid true shooting percentage of 52.7 percent — actually, solid is an understatement considering his 41 percent usage rate.
The Warriors who have to defend LeBron get it. All they hope to do is wear him down.
“You’re not going to shut him down,” Draymond Green said. “But if you continue to make him work hard for each and every bucket that he gets, it takes a toll on his body. He does a lot for this ballclub, on top of it he’s not a guy who takes the defensive end of the court off. He’s constantly working, constantly working. You just want to make him take tough shots and make him work for those baskets that he gets.
“If he gets 40, he gets 40. Like I said, that’s why he’s LeBron James. You can go throw a triple-team at him, and he’ll probably still get 40, but as long as you make him work for those 40, then you’ve got to be satisfied with what you do.
“He took 34 shots and got 40. I mean, 15 for 34 is still a great percentage, but that’s kind of what it’s been this entire series. He’s going to be aggressive and score. Especially with some of the guys they have out, and we understand that. If he’s hitting shots, he’s hitting shots. You’ve got to live with it and continue to make him take tough ones.”
LeBron was hitting shots, from at the rim to ridiculous 34-foot threes. He was clearly gassed again at the end of the game and it started to show. So how does he cope with that kind of effort that still leads to a loss.
“Well, you cope with it by understanding it’s just one game and looking at the opportunity we have on Tuesday to force a Game 7,” LeBron said. “Obviously, for myself, I want to do whatever it takes to help our team win, and I haven’t been able to do that the last two. So hopefully I can do a better job coming in on Tuesday.We all as a unit can do a better job, and we’ll be fine.”
It doesn’t look like they will be fine. It looks like the Warriors — the deeper, better team — has figured the series out. They know how to win it now.
But that’s not going to diminish LeBron’s swagger.
With his performance Sunday, LeBron joined Jerry West as the only players to have a 40+ point triple double in the NBA Finals. That would be the same West who was the last guy to win the Finals MVP on a losing team.
Something that could happen for LeBron. And he’ll likely feel about it the same way West does — he doesn’t like to talk about it because all West remembers is the loss.
That didn’t impact his swagger either. LeBron and West have that in common, too.
Despite LeBron James’ brilliance, Golden State wins Game 5 to come within one win of title
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.
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)
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.