Just as Stephen A. Smith predicted, “the Warriors are going to treat Game 5 as Game 7.” And this comment was perfectly accurate. The Cavs did show some flashes of excellence early on in the game, and it could only help that the Warriors started off sloppy and unfocused. However, after ending the quarter 37-33, the Warriors came back in the second half, outscoring the Cavs 38-23 thanks to some crucial shots by Curry and Durant. The next two quarters were very close with each team winning by just a few points in each one.
As you check the stats, you see that the Cavs put up a fight, but in the end, it comes down to simple math: 3 is worth more than 2. A major category where the Warriors dominated in was the net average of points, with Kyrie Irving being the only starter with a positive net average of 4. On the contrary, the Warrior’s starters who had a positive net average were D. Green ( 19), K. Durant ( 18), S. Curry ( 3), along with some bench players who also made an impact, such as D. West ( 16) and A. Iguodala ( 18).
The NBA is a place where nothing is given… except for free throws. And, if you are down 3-1 in the Finals and are playing at your rival’s home court, you can’t shoot 65.2% from the line. The Cavs lost points 8 points right there, which would have given them a much better chance of winning in the closing minutes.
Who Showed Up?
Many players showed up to compete (Iguodala, Thompson, Green, etc.), but only a few left a mark. First of all, last year’s unanimous MVP winner, Stephen Curry, had a good game, pulling through to make some key shots in key moments. He wasn’t a monster outside the arc (2-9), but he made his presence felt by shooting an outstanding 10-20 in FG range. Secondly, the King was absurdly close to a triple-double with a 41-13-8 and was the best player on either team (led both teams on each of the latter categories). And finally, the Finals MVP, Kevin Durant, was going off inside and outside the arc with a 5-8 from 3-point range and 14-20 inside. He was the clear leader of this Warriors team and showed that if he is willing to take a pay cut, the Warriors could be one of the greatest teams to exist, period. Another honorable mention is J.R. Smith, who played 41 minutes (1 less than Irving and 5 less than James) and made an unheard 87.5% beyond the arc (7-8) and many of the shots being highly contested.
Who Didn’t Show Up?
The Cavs needed to be near perfect to win on Monday, and sadly, some of their key players didn’t show up. To start off, Kevin Love went from 23 points and 5 rebounds to 6 points and 10 rebounds, with his first basket coming in the third quarter. However, the worst part was that he played for 30 minutes, even though he had the lowest net average with -23. This next one might be a tad unfair, but let me explain why Kyrie Irving is on here. Yes, he did score 26 points, and yes, he was perfect on FTs, but the Cavs needed Game 3 and 4. Instead, they got the average ‘away game’ Kyrie. His numbers aren’t terrible like Love’s, but 9-22 FG, 1-2 3PTS, and 6 AST aren’t the type of stats that a star point guard who’s playing an elimination game should have. Overall, he did a decent job, but he did not have quite the same influence that he did in Game 4. Lastly, I have to talk about a Warrior’s player, Zaza Pachulia. He was virtually non-existent, and after starting and playing for 10 minutes in which he had 0-3-1, the Warriors went with their small lineup. While this was probably the best idea at the time, it impacted the game because it allowed LeBron to bully almost everyone on the court. In my opinion, the Warriors should have just gone with the small lineup when LeBron was off the court, and when LeBron was on, put 7-footer Javale McGee in.
Kevin Durant was the clear MVP, not only for averaging 35.2-8-5.4, but also proving to be the essential addition to this Warriors team. Without him, many believe that the Finals would have been much more interesting and that the Warriors and Cavs would have had an equal chance to win it all. KD’s super performance still brings up some questions, such as, “Can the Warriors can keep the band together with Curry’s upcoming pay-day?” “Kevin came to the Warriors to win a ring, could he go elsewhere now if the Warriors don’t have the budget?” “Now that KD has won big is his move from Thunder to the Warriors justified?”
And finally, “Will there be a repeat next season?”
Special thanks to Alvaro Fernandez for contributing this article.