Golden State found what they needed to find in the last two games to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers, or, to put it more succinctly, to beat LeBron James. Perhaps there was no bigger example of this than in game 5 on Sunday when late in the fourth quarter, James hit a three-point shot. It could have marked a Cavs comeback. Instead, Stephen Curry got the ball and sank his own three just seconds later.
James came back and missed a three and Golden State went back up the court and hit another from downtown. They would sink at least one more within the next minute or so, putting the final nail in Cleveland’s coffin for that night. But more so what that sequence of shots revealed was that the Warriors were fine with James tossing up threes. Chances were he’d miss, and chances were they’d come down the court and hit. It was Golden State letting the Cavs use one of their weakest elements, their outside game, while the Warriors did what they did best, exploit the perimeter.
Tuesday Night Showdown
The next game will be played in Cleveland on Tuesday. And despite the fact that the Cavs are at home it’s Golden State that has the advantage and for a few reasons. The first is the Warriors are on top and need to win one of two. The second has to do with the fact that State has figured out how to play its game and the brand of basketball they are playing simply wears down teams, as the push the ball up the court after a quick transition and find the basket.
The third reason has to do with the fact that Team LeBron is tired. It’s been a Herculean effort on his part, but it’s tough for one guy to beat a team as deep as the Warriors. In the last two games, as predicted, by the time James got to the fourth quarter he was dragging. Add to his fatigue factor the fact that there’s only one-day, a travel day, between game 5 and 6 and Golden State has a huge advantage on Tuesday night.
If there is a game 7, the Cavs will have an extra day to rest. The seventh game of the series is scheduled for Friday and it will be played in Oakland on Golden State’s home court. There is a very good chance that State will wrap it up on Tuesday. If they do not and they leave the door open, then expect a close game 7. That is, until the fourth quarter. The fourth will most likely be won by the Warriors and, so too, the NBA Championship.
Who gets the MVP for the playoffs? The argument, and it’s a good one, is for it to go to James. He has put up astounding numbers and the award is for individual effort. Curry is a candidate, but the fact is his efforts have been overshadowed by the fact that he actually has a team that’s working together and healthy. If there were an award for best team then certainly Golden State has earned that. (There is, of course, it’s called the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy and it goes to the club that wins the NBA title.) But best player, MVP, certainly seems to be James.
The Final Game(s)
Getting to this point in this series has been quite an adventure. The first two games went into OT and Cleveland managed to steal one in Oakland, which meant they now had neutralized Golden State’s home court advantage. Then the Cavs convincingly beat the Warriors in game 3 in Cleveland. They were in control for a moment.
The big turn around happened in game 4 when the Warriors figured out how to beat Cleveland and regained home court, making it a three-game series. The proof that they had Cleveland’s number came in game 5. Golden State took complete control in the fourth quarter, and there was nothing that the Cavs or James could do about it.
In considering the rest of the series, look at Cleveland and with what they have to work. Can they make any type of adjustment to countermand what Golden State has done? If so, can they sustain it? Additionally, look at what the Warriors bring to the court. How able are they do deal with any adjustments the Cavs may make? In the end, as was noted before this series began, Golden State has a lot more depth which they may use to react to anything that Cleveland send their way. Then again, James is close to being superhuman.