What can we say about LeBron James averaging 41 points, 12 rebounds and 8 assists per game in the NBA Finals other than it has to be the most dominating performance by a player in the NBA Finals in two decades? And what can we say about NBA MVP Steph Curry’s Finals performance thus far other than that he looks about as regular as a bowl of sugar free oatmeal?
Indeed, thus far the NBA Finals has been incredible difficult to gauge and The Shadow League has been hard pressed to predict this most unpredictable NBA Finals.
After losing All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, it was a safe bet to say that most people believed LeBron James would have a great deal of difficulty willing his team to win this series. However, thus far he has turned in one monster performance after another, going into Game Four of the NBA Finals with a 2-1 lead over a Golden State Warriors squad that was heavily favored to win the series even before Irving went down in Game One with a fractured knee cap. Much of that theorizing came with the belief that the Splash Brothers would at least match their regular season averages against a Cavs backcourt that was unheralded with the loss of Irvington, New Jersey’s finest.
Cavs point guard Matthew Dellavedova has been the cause celebre with the sports news corp ever since Game One and is fast gaining a reputation of a top-tier defensive stopper after yet another game in which he hounded Curry; though Steph still managed 27 points on 50 percent shooting from the field. But what has gone underappreciated is the manner in which Dellavedova has knocked down clutch shots in each of their victories, and has made a great number of hustle plays throughout the postseason.
During the regular season and the Conference Finals, this writer has often said that jump shooting NBA teams will never win an NBA Championship. However, after Curry’s performance against the Houston Rockets, I amended that point of view because of the otherworldly abilities of a player capable of shooting above 50 percent from 3-point range.
But the Warriors’ noticeably cold shooting may force me to revisit this theory yet again.
The Cavs are playing bruiser ball against a team that would rather not play that style. Normally it is an offensive faux pas for a player to dominate the basketball in the manner that James is, pounding the rock six or seven times while draining the shot clock. But he’s getting away with it because the Warriors have absolutely nobody that can slow him down, even a little bit (ed. note- maybe the refs from Game 3?). Because of that, the Warriors have had to be creative in defending him- double teaming him after two dribbles in one game and double teaming him immediately in others; but nothing is working.
Tthe Cavs are daring PF Draymond Green, SF Andre Iguodala and SF Harrison Barnes to become transcendent, yet each has been as inconsistent as a Rec League referee. C Andrew Bogut has been a nonfactor versus Cavs center Timofey Mozgov, who is only averaging 13 points and 8 rebounds for the NBA Finals but he’s looking like the Shaq of the Caucus Mountains with the way he has made Bogut look when they’re on the floor together. Additionally, Cavs PF Tristan Thompson has been beasting, averaging 14 rebounds per game. Shooting guards J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert have been up and down throughout the series and, to me, you live with either of them getting hot as long as you can score on the other end.
Bogut’s minutes have been cut significantly in the last two games due to his offensive ineptitude and his absence in the clutch. His absence another large reason why Cleveland has had a conga line to the basket in the fourth quarter. Former All-Star power forward David Lee had been noticeably absent (before game 3) since the emergence of Draymond Green as the starting power forward the entire year, but the Warriors may need to shake things up and bring Green off the bench. Let's face it, he's struggling.
Though Green is a better shooter and perhaps a better rebounder, Lee can put the ball in the basket in a variety of ways. Seeing as though the Warriors seem befuddled by the Cavs physical defense at times, Lee’s abilities in the midrange area could create some angles for Klay Thompson, Curry and Iguodala to get driving lanes to the basket instead of letting the Cavs defense off the hook by playing the chuck-and-duck offense that they have been playing.
Quite simply, Green, Barnes, sometimes Klay Thompson and oftentimes head coach Steve Kerr have been choking.
Additionally, it’s half passed time for the Warriors to clear out and let Steph go ISO against Dellavedova. If the Cavs want to make it a Curry vs. Dellie type of situation then I think the Warriors should oblige them by letting Curry put him on skates instead of running him off screens and cutting. He’s their best player and they need to just give him the ball and get the hell out of the way.
LeBron has been on another level but we’re still waiting on Steph Curry to go all Super Saiyan, and there’s no better time than the present. If Golden State goes down 3-1, the Cavaliers may as well start planning their parade. Steve Kerr is showing us all that he is indeed a rookie head coach in the NBA with his inability to diversify his offense on the fly but I believe that ends in Game Four. I had the Warriors winning the series in seven before the loss of Irving, I still had them winning the series in six after Game Two.
Now with LeBron James doing whatever he pleases and the Warriors struggling to find answers, it’s do or die and I don’t think Golden State is ready to die just yet.
The Warriors win tonight by a score of 100-90 and I still have them winning the series in six. I'm glad that I don't have a gambling impulse or else I'd be in on a chow line by now.