The Golden State Warriors took Game 5 of the NBA Finals by a 104-91 score. This stands as the textbook “final score not indicative of the overall game” type of contest. Golden State and the Cleveland Cavaliers swapped leads throughout, Cleveland doing most of its work because of a mammoth LeBron James effort. Turning it over just two times on 15-for-34 shooting, James had 40 points, 14 rebounds, and 11 assists. He and Curry went back and forth in the fourth quarter as the MVP finally seemed to shake Matthew Dellavedova. Curry finished with 37 points and seven boards. He was 13-for-23 from the floor and 7-of-13 on triples.
Cleveland had positive trends early on. J.R. Smith hit multiple three-pointers in the first quarter, an occurrence that seemed to end Smith’s inconsistency. He cooled significantly in finishing Game 5 on 5-of-15 shooting, however, going 4-of-14 on threes. Tristan Thompson put up 19 points and 10 boards. Aside from Smith’s initial outburst and Thompson’s intermittent put-backs, James received little help. Timofey Mozgov shockingly only played nine minutes. David Blatt inexplicably fed into Golden State’s small-ball style by removing a significant matchup problem for the Warriors. For as great as James was in Game 5, he had to carry too heavy of a burden. Such is the theme of this series.
Beyond Curry, the Warriors were the recipients of another quality Andre Iguodala performance. Despite going an astonishing and embarrassing 2-of-11 on free throws, Iguodala was able to post 14 points, eight rebounds, and seven dimes without committing any turnovers. Draymond Green was similarly well-rounded with a line of 16-9-6. Harrison Barnes only totaled eight points, but had 10 rebounds and an offensive move that included a left-handed dunk over both Mozgov and Mike Miller. Game 5 of the NBA Finals can’t be discussed without mentioning Leandro Barbosa. He put up 13 points on 4-of-5 shooting in just 17 minutes of action. Other notes include Andrew Bogut not appearing at all, and Klay Thompson scoring only 12 points.
Game 5 is rather easy to analyze. We had excitement and competiveness, but nothing that occurred was shocking. Curry went bonkers in MVP fashion. James shouldered the weight of his franchise in spite of ineptitude around him. Cleveland’s role players were strong during the game’s beginning, they fell off toward the end. In contrast, the Iguodala, Green, and Barbosa type of background players for Golden State didn’t fade. Aside from being more efficient from the floor, James can almost literally not do more for his team. Even his below average shooting numbers by his standards are due to weakness around him. Essentially every Cleveland possession is a James isolation or a James drive and kick out.
For Game 6, it will be interesting to see if Golden State steps on Cleveland’s throat. This will represent a Warriors’ opportunity to eliminate the Cavs before an “anything can happen” Game 7 occurs. With James playing at such a legendary level, it would be foolish to count out the Cavs in Game 7 solely because the game would be in Oakland. That said, we’ve learned one thing throughout these five contests: James can win games by himself, he can’t win this series by himself. To take two straight victories against the best team in the NBA, Cleveland needs a 25-point performance from Smith. They’ll require an 18-point, 4-of-6 on threes kind of game from Iman Shumpert. Dellavedova will have to go 5-of-9 instead of 2-for-9. Everyone in the basketball world recognizes how much James needs help. For the Warriors, it’s a squad effort. On Cleveland’s end, the effort is there, but the production is coming from merely one man.
With the series standing 3-2 in Golden State’s favor, Cleveland will host Game 6 on Tuesday, 6/16 at 9:00 pm ET.