Cavaliers

Cavaliers Kept At Bay: NBA Finals Game 5 Behind the Box Score

Golden State Warriors – 129
Cleveland Cavaliers – 120
[Box Score]

It’s hard to appreciate at the end of a disappointing season, but the Cavaliers’ squad of the last three years will likely go down as one of Cleveland fans’ very favorite teams of all time. LeBron James’ return and the subsequent trade for Kevin Love ushered in an era of winning that, if we’re honest, was fairly unprecedented in Cleveland. The image of Kyrie Irving’s game-winning shot in last year’s Finals, or of a shirtless J.R. Smith at the championship parade will be ones that won’t be forgotten for a long time, if ever. But those images felt ancient on Monday night, as the Cavaliers’ season came to an end, falling 129-120 and losing the NBA Finals 4-1 to the Golden State Warriors. With the fate of General Manager David Griffin uncertain and the constant pressure that James puts on the team to compete for championships, it’s possible this was the last run of the core as we have come to know it.

The Cavaliers came out strong, jumping out to a 20-12 lead early in the first and then extending the lead to eight again in the second with ten minutes remaining. From there, the Warriors hit them with a massive 30-8 run, burying the Cavaliers in elite playmaking and defense. When the Warriors are rolling, there’s no answer. You can pick at the Cavaliers’ defense and point to individual mistakes, but in the end, the Warriors’ collection of talent and the decisions they force a defense to make are simply too much.

When you lose a series 4-1 and most of the losses aren’t close, it’s hard to point at the ‘what ifs.” In Game 5, James broke away from a dunk and was hit in the face by Kevin Durant with no foul call. The foul would’ve been Durant’s third and likely forced him to the bench.

This doesn’t mean the refs were bias against Cleveland or cost them the game. There are dozens of missed calls every game. This one came back to bite the Cavaliers.

James was fantastic because No. 23 IS fantastic. He scored 41 points on 30 shots, adding 13 rebounds and eight assists. He is truly a marvel and a joy to watch every night. The fact that the Cavaliers pushed this loaded Warriors team in the last three games is a testament to his greatness. It hurts to watch a James season end without a ring, but it is still incredible to watch the King wear your colors.

The Warriors got fantastic showings from Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry. Durant scored 39 points on only 20 shots and seemed to make a twisting, contested shot every time the Cavaliers were able to cut their lead to a manageable distance. He certainly left the impression that the Warriors needed him more than he needed the Warriors. Curry had a slow start but ended with 34 points and 10 assists. He was able to play off of Durant’s greatness and sprinkle in big shots when needed. Two MVPs on one team is a tough matchup.

The Cavaliers didn’t go without a fight. After a tie-up for the ball between the Warriors’ David West and Cavaliers’ Irving, tempers flared. West shoved Irving and Smith and Tristan Thompson immediately came to their teammates’ aid. West, Smith, and Thompson were assessed technical fouls.

J.R. Smith did everything he could in this one. I’ve harped on this previously, but Smith should be a cult hero in Cleveland for as long as he lives. It was his quick scoring spurt in Game 7 of last year’s Finals that brought the Cavs back into the game. It was Smith that highlighted the parade and weeks of celebration after. Smith battled injuries and unthinkable personal heartache to still remain one of the Cavaliers’ key components throughout the playoffs this year. It was his shotmaking in this game that kept the Cavaliers in it, scoring 25 points on 11 shots, going 7-8 from three-point range.

And now the questions mount. General Manager David Griffin remains unsigned. The bench is old or mediocre, including Richard Jefferson, Kyle Korver, Deron Williams, Channing Frye, James Jones, Dahntay Jones, and Derrick Williams. Only Jefferson and Frye are under contract next year. There’s also the bigger question of trading a larger piece in an effort to get better. LeBron James knows the Cavs need more firepower to compete, and there’s only so many avenues to acquire that talent. Be prepared for Kevin Love trade rumors to again populate the sports media world.

But those are questions for another day. Let’s look behind the box score at Game 5:

42 – Rebounds for Golden State compared to 40 for the Cavaliers. The Cavs were simply unable to rebound at a high rate all series, and it let Golden State have too many scoring opportunities.

6 – Points for Kevin Love, who was awful in this game. Love had found ways to impact every game before this, with his rebounding in Game 1, scoring in Game 2, defense in Game 3, and shooting in Game 4. He impacted Game 5 as well, but not in a positive way.

29 – Points averaged by Kyrie Irving in the NBA Finals. Irving is incredible, and as he enters the prime of his career we’ll hopefully see him find the consistency and passing that could launch him into MVP conversations.

1 – Championship already won by this Cavs team. And no matter how bad this loss hurt, Game 7 of last year’s Finals is still available on iTunes for $2.99. Download it. Watch it. Get ready for next year. Because the Cavaliers still have LeBron James, and they’ll be back.

  • Eric G

    Some reason no one wants to talk about Curry being absent the whole series and then celebrating like he won the game with a minute to go, his team up 12, when he hits a 3 to go 2/9.

    I’m quite loathesome right now. And bitter. Apologies.

    Love this team though. I got to see a championship in my lifetime. Nothing but praise

  • Steve

    26.8/9.4/8.0 on .619 TS% is a helluva “being absent”. I wouldn’t mind our flashy PG to average nearly double digit assists and rebounds and lead the series in steals when his shooting apparently isn’t good enough to impress.

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  • RGB

    Is it just me or does Zuzu Petalschulia have a fistful of jersey on Every. Single. Play.

  • JNeids

    Forget Durant. Patchouli (makes me think of incense, quite fitting) was the perfect off-season signing because he fit right into GS’s dark side defense.

  • Harv

    Your overarching feeling mirrors mine, Nom. Not sad this morning at all, as the outcome was logical. A few, starting with the most important:

    – Durant grabbed the series by the throat. He didn’t get intimidated, he hit everything he needed to and many he shouldn’t have. In the 4 GS wins he doused almost every Cavs hope by himself. He played like a champ. And like quite the Harrison Barnes upgrade.

    – The Cavs didn’t ever fully “flip the switch” on defense – at least not enough to hang in the Finals. They will need something or someone else to beat the Warriors next year, or a few things. Maybe someone to set a fierce defensive presence, a Delly type with higher skill level or someone stronger. A change in coaching focus. LeBron taking a more … um, never mind that. Can’t ask LeBron to be the greatest active player and be the greatest defensive player in the world.

    – What I would ask of LeBron is this: accept regular season growing pains from young, promising players Griffin (or his replacement) might dig up. Aging February-March ring seeking acquisitions may have run their course. I wish Lue would have traded one Williams’ minutes for another Williams, at least experimentally, for an infusion of the energy and effort. Korver had great moments in earlier series but they will need someone who plays with arrogance, deserved or not.

    – This team, which today feels like a band of lovable brothers, could implode in 3 weeks. If that happens, I trust Griff to engineer it and attempt the restructure. Please, Gilbert, listen to the league, look how many teams want this guy. Know what you don’t know.

  • JNeids

    Have to admit, I slept like a baby last night. Not happy with the way it ended, but happy that it’s over. I said it after game 1 or 2 – sometimes you tun into Michael Jordan, and sometimes you run into the next best team who added the next best player.

    I loved this team. Hope they know how good they were and how great the season was despite how it ended.

    Not sure where to go from here. Need to get younger and more athletic. I’m looking at you, Deron. Shump clearly was a product of playing with the starters and let it go to his head – if I never see him jack up another 20 footer off the dribble it will be too soon. Kyle, Kyle, Kyle…I loved you, and you made me pay for it – just couldn’t knock down shots you usually make when it counted the most (I’d still bring you back though). RJ/Frye – while I would certainly miss the pod, is it worth keeping two guys around when one can’t find the court in the Finals and the other really only steps up during it? Speaking of two guys one job – how bad is the locker room if you need both Champ and Dahntay?

    As for the starters – I think I keep it together unless the right offer is presented. Lebron and Kyrie are untouchable. You’re not getting Butler or PG for Love, so stop right there. While I wouldn’t mind moving JR to the bench, my fear is that like Shump, his game elevates with the starters. Can he provide that spark as a reserve? I’m willing to find out…I think. And if you’re calling for TT’s head after the Finals, please don’t respond to my comment. I hate the Kardashians as much as the next, and every time he lost a rebound to Sloth I died a little, but he’s still worth every penny.

    Great season guys. Keep your heads up. And hope to see you at an Indians game soon! Just because you didn’t kick off another magical run doesn’t mean your neighbors and their fans don’t get a boost from your support, genuine or not.

  • Eric G

    I never let facts get in the way of my hatred

  • Harv

    agree w/virtually all of above. Re Shump, I’ve thought this is the one guy Griffin signed to a long-term who did not react well to his first money, who wasn’t impressed by LeBron’s example of ceaselessly working to develop your game. Seemed to float much of the last two years; he still gets some defensive strips, he hasn’t been first-to-the-floor after 50/50 balls or fiercely seeking rebounds since 2015. Shump could have been our Iggy, a bench player the opponent fears and must account for.

  • JNeids

    Yeah Shump’s easily been the biggest disappointment because of his age/potential. He really needed to focus on becoming a better 3/D guy, but he’d rather be the playmaker. There’s a Kanye connection somewhere in here…

  • mddawg

    Is Derrick Williams under contract next year?

  • Noah.caldwell

    Half his points in that game did come from free throws

  • tsm

    Iggy and Livingston were critical to GSW success in this series, especially compared to our first off the bench guys. We need a significant upgrade to our bench, and we also need to get younger and more athletic, as has already been pointed out. I would like to see a couple of young defensive minded guys 6’7″ – 6’9″ to help LeBron and defend some of the other teams top wings. I don’t know if Osman can be one, but we need to pick up a free agent who can help. Assuming that Griffin stays, he will have a real challenge on his hands. I agree that LeBron must sign off on letting some young guys experience growing pains next year during the regular season. We don’t need a top seed to win the East, but we need to develop young talent.

  • Steve

    Do those suddenly not count anymore? Do we diminish Lebron for being talented at getting to the hoop and drawing fouls too?

  • Steve

    “accept regular season growing pains from young, promising players Griffin (or his replacement) might dig up”

    Amen. Though this works a lot better when its the 2015 young guy who now has a few season under his belt and built up some veteran savviness. I’m afraid were going to double down on the vets at this stage, and do something really dumb like Carmelo.

  • CBiscuit

    “Durant grabbed the series by the throat. He didn’t get intimidated, he hit everything he needed to and many he shouldn’t have.”

    Agree he didn’t choke this time, but man the first two games in particular when the D was ummmm non-existent side, the guy had wide open lane drives…as in literally no one in arm’s reach around him. He hit the shots he should have hit, but he never really had to work that hard for his shots, so I think the stats he got and the recognition are overblown.

    Being as objective as I can, he was his usual great self, but the success was the product of an amazing team. Lebron peddled twice as hard as Durant did and played more like “a champ” and yet walks away without the ring. So it goes.

  • Harv

    hear you but that’s just not what I saw. Sure, the Cavs’ Game 1 total passivity may have helped if Durant had any early jitters, but he was the guy they absolutely couldn’t stop. It was Durant – not Curry, not Klay – wielding the dagger in Game 3 and last night, every time the Cavs stormed back or just tried to hang on. He hit every big shot he took, and seemed eager to take them. Meanwhile, on our side, there was more than a little shot allergy going around in every game but Friday. Last night Curry was good, not great. Klay wasn’t much of an offensive factor. I can’t minimize Durant’s great performance. Anything less than a ring would have made him an object of derision, and he knew it. And he was clearly their best player.

  • CBiscuit

    Fair enough…agree to disagree. And impossible to prove, other than looking at history (how he looked on OKC when he was in the Lebron role of carrying the team vs. last night in the beneficiary role). The Andre Iguodalas of the world seem to have big nights on great teams. Pretty sure if he was on our team last night, he would’ve looked a little more like Iman Shumpert. Oh well, it’s all academic at this point…and Durant is a great player who got his ring.

  • Harv

    I even disagree somewhat here that Durant is the same player this year as he was last. LeBron sure grew between his passive 2011 Finals disaster and the way he grabbed 2012 by the throat. You’re right – our individual perceptions are what they are.

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