Game Six of the NBA Finals is upon us and, unfortunately for LeBron and the Cavaliers, the series momentum has shifted in favor of the Golden State Warriors over the course of the last 10 quarters, beginning with Steph Curry heating up in the fourth quarter of the Game Three loss against the Cavs. Throughout most of the series, Coach David Blatt of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Coach Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors have been scratching their heads trying to figure out how to guard the various lineups sent out by their counterpart.
Indeed, at first it looked like David Blatt was winning this battle as the Cavs reeled off two straight victories after being beaten in Game One by the Warriors. For some heretofore impossible to comprehend reason, the Warriors refused to commit to double teaming LeBron James in a strategic manner, rather than as an intermittent tactic, in the first three games. Because of that James was averaging over 40 points along with 11 rebounds and 8 assists per game.
Man, talk about putting in work. His numbers have cooled off some, but no greater amount of work has ever been put in during the NBA Finals.
There is even an ongoing chorus singing the praises of LeBron James for MVP regardless of the Finals outcome. But there’s a beige-skinned brother wearing blue and gold that has a lot to say about that.
Golden State's Steph Curry scorched the anoited defensive stopper Matthew Dellevadova to the tune of 37 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists in the Warriors’ Game Five victory over the Cavs. For the series, Curry is averaging 26 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists on 44 percent shooting from the field and 40 percent shooting from three-point range.
In addition, his team is the favorite to win the series. If he does, there’s absolutely no reason whatsoever that Curry shouldn’t be named MVP. Prior to the start of the NBA Finals I had the Golden State Warriors winning the series in seven games. However, I ratcheted that prediction down a bit after the loss of Kyrie Irving during the first game. Since that time I have watched with ever increasing interest as James has put on a show for the ages. So, to that end, I’m pained to almost make yet another adjustment to my earlier predictions.
But the fact that LeBron James is getting zero help on the offensive end gives me great pause.
I remember watching J.R. Smith getting hot in the 1st quarter of Game Five and thinking, “Uh-oh” but that quickly turned to “Oh-No” as Smith finished the game with 14 points on 33 percent shooting from the floor. Tristan Thompson finished the game with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Not bad at all, but if Tristan Thompson is scoring points and your team still loses by double-digits then that means the backcourt of Shumpert and Dellavedova is struggling offensively.
The Warriors Andre Igoudala has been much maligned by novice basketball fans the entire season because of the dramatic dip in his offensive production since being sent to the bench by coach Steve Kerr, but Iggy has quickly shown that he is the second most versatile player in this series behind James himself after being inserted into the starting line up in Game Three. He continued bringing the East Bay funk in Game Five with 14 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 steals, his play demanding that former starter Andrew Bogut be banished to the bench.
When the Cavs went small in Game Five the immediate and glaringly apparent result was that Draymond Green was forced to guard LeBron-and he did a stank-booty awful job at it. However, the small ball lineup also meant that Iggy could get out on the break and make things happen. Indeed, small ball has proven to be something of a double-edged sword for the Cavaliers. Yes, LeBron thrives playing small ball but Golden State kills at it.
It would be a good idea for coach David Blatt to incorporate more of a traditional line up while intermittently toying with the small ball lineup at certain points throughout the game. Timofey Mozgov is no Wilt Chamberlain, but there’s no better back to the basket player in these Finals. Also, when he and Tristan Thompson get all lathered into a rebounding fervor there’s nothing the Warriors can do other than respond by inserting the bumbling, stumbling Bogut to hack away at cutters. But Bogut, at one time considered a top ten center in the league, has been so useless I feel like it would be better to give the faster, more athletic but admittedly less skilled Festus Ezeli Bogut’s minutes.
Although Klay Thompson is averaging a very respectable 18 points in the NBA Finals, I’m still waiting for both he and Steph to get it going at the same time. The Splash Brothers have been looking more like the Splash Step-Cousins. Thompson and Curry getting dropping 25 points at the same time would put Cleveland in a bind on the defensive end. Picking one’s poison is a daunting task; whether cyanide or anthrax, the result is still the same- you’re dead.
Leandro Barbosa has been a luxury coming off the bench for the Warriors, and his 13 points in Game Five are testament to that. Also, the insertion of David Lee into the rotation for the Warriors has proven to be something of a quandary for the Cavs defensive rotation as well. He’s quicker than Mozgov, can hit the midrange shot from distances that Tristan Thompson dare not tread and he’s a pretty decent rebounder as well.
Although the Golden State Warriors have everything it takes to win Game Six, LeBron James appears capable of scoring 60 points in the Finals, which has me hedging a bit. I have the Golden State winning this series in six games, but it wouldn’t shock me at all to see this series to go seven games.
As basketball fans enjoying an exciting series, let's hope it does.