After Golden State took command in Game 5, here are some other observations & storylines heading into Tuesday’s Game 6:
#KingMe. LeBron has balled out all series long for a severely undermanned Cavs squad. Game 5 was no exception, as he nearly played ALL 5 positions and posted 40 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists. Only Jerry West has put up such numbers in a Finals game. Coincidentally (or not), West was the only Finals MVP to ever come from a losing team.
LeBron’s magnificent numbers and overall dominance gives him an inside track on the MVP. But if Steph Curry (37 points, 7 threes in Game 5) has another prime time performance in Game 6, it’s his trophy to lose.
#SizeMatters. Coach Blatt deviated from his big frontline after Timofey Mozgov struggled to defend the P&R. Yeah…that’s EXACTLY what the Dubs were hoping for. Despite having the advantage inside, Blatt went away from what got him there and played right into their hands. The Warriors’ swing guys are versatile enough to defend LeBron and co. off of switches and the Cavs don’t have enough offensive weapons to counter on the other end.
Without Mozgov getting some post-ups and easy buckets, it’s literally a LeBron ISO almost every time down the floor.
#TOOMANYPLAYMAKERS. Delly & Shump needed to step up for Cleveland to grab the series lead. For that to happen, they had to actually create some action via the P&R and/or drive hard to the cup to possibly collapse the defense. Ohh that’s right…neither one of them is able to do so!
Golden State, on the other hand, is getting offense from all over the place. Draymond Green (7 assists) constantly made the right pass after Curry was trapped up top, Iguodala (7 assists) continued to push the pace and also found his teammates after penetration, and Steph was Steph. But perhaps the most “surprising” playmaker was Leandro Barbosa.
Whenever the Cavs started to gain momentum, Barbosa responded with a floater in the lane or jumper off the bounce.
#WeightOfANation. Without LeBron in the lineup, Cleveland has no one to create easy offense…which is an understatement. It’s a MUST that he touches the ball and initiates the set on every possession. If not, Cleveland becomes disjointed, flustered and hoists up a very difficult look.
Steve Kerr made incredible adjustments by having the Dubs double on each LeBron post catch. Though he found shooters like Smith and Shumpert for easy threes off of skip passes at times, neither of them was consistent enough for Kerr to switch up the strategy.
#CurryV.LeBron. We all knew the LeBron-Curry showdown was the main draw coming into the series. After Kyrie Irving went down in Game 1, you figured LeBron would go full God-mode to try and make up for his talented PG’s tremendous production.
And after “struggling” for some of the series, Steph rebounded in Game 5 with 37 points, 17 of them coming in the 4th quarter. During that sequence, he and LeBron traded incredible triples, via isolations, and looked unstoppable in the process. LeBron’s nowhere near the shooter Steph is but his “hero shots” are a result of him being the “best player on the planet.”
Make no bones about it, we are truly witnessing the league’s top two players duke it out on the biggest stage.
With the minutes piling up for Cleveland, Golden State could capture their first title since 1975 in Game 6. Returning to the raucous Quicken Loans Arena could propel role players like Smith, Shumpert and Dellavedova but the small ball offense is too overwhelming to overcome. Let’s face it, we’re one Klay Thompson or Steph explosion away from the end of the series.
Hopefully, another LeBron-Steph showdown is in the cards but don’t expect it to extend back to Oakland for Game 7!