LeBron James and Kyrie Irving refused to allow their season to end in Game 5. In a mesmerizing display of excellence from a duo, James and Irving each dropped 41 points in a 112-97 win for the Cleveland Cavaliers over the Golden State Warriors. As James was 16-30 from the field and 4-8 from deep, Irving went 17-24 from the field and 5-7 on triples.
With these two stellar performances and Draymond Green sitting due to a suspension, Cleveland shot 53 percent from the floor. Hardly the expected number in a road elimination game. They were 41.7 percent on threes and had 16 turnovers.
The Warriors were 36.4 percent from the floor, 33.3 percent from deep, and had 17 turnovers. Golden State’s efficiency took a massive hit in the second half as they scored just 36 points after putting up 61 in the first 24 minutes. Stephen Curry in particular went cold following a characteristically strong start. To total his 25 points, Curry took 21 shots and went 5-14 on triples.
It appeared for a time that Klay Thompson would carry the Warriors past the Cavaliers to a victory. He dropped 37 points (11-20 from field, 6-11 on threes, 9-9 on free throws) and turned the ball over on just one occasion. Thompson was unable to keep up this pace during the second half, partially the result of rushed shots, and discombobulation on offense.
For all of Thompson’s defensive abilities, however, he and numerous Warriors were shredded by Irving. Granted, Irving was inexplicably lost by the Golden State defense on a couple of transition three-point opportunities, but the majority of his buckets came on his versatile array of offensive moves.
From Irving, there were drives to off-balance layups, step-back jumpers, floaters in the lane, and more. Irving was, without exaggeration, stupendous. But Golden State should be hugely disappointed that its continued nonchalance throughout this contest on defense gave Irving and company comfort. Something they ran with in Game 5.
That stated, it’s likely that Irving’s dominance wouldn’t have arrived without the foundation James laid early on. The last time I can recall James drilling jump shots with the regularity he did in Game 5 was during his Game 6 showing against the Boston Celtics in a 2012 Eastern Finals game. James appeared confident and assured in his shot selection, something that escaped him earlier in the series. As many have pointed out, analysts and common fans alike, the aggression from James seemed to help create a sense of comfort for his teammates.
On a different wavelength, it should be noted how much of a ghost Kevin Love seemed to be in Game 5. Cleveland won, so it’s doubtful any fans will care much about this aspect, but it’s striking. He scored 2 points on 1-5 shooting in nearly 33 minutes of action. A formerly standout offensive player with world class skills has turned into an invisible nomad in Cleveland, at least such was the case in Game 5.
Players who weren’t ghosts for the Cavaliers were Tristan Thompson (15 rebounds in over 40 minutes) and the shocking consistency of Richard Jefferson (8 points in 14 minutes). I point out Jefferson since he’s a player who appeared close to retirement, at least from an eye test perspective, years ago. Now he’s contributing at a high level on a team in the NBA Finals.
On Golden State’s end, this game can’t solely be attributed to allowing stars on the Cavaliers to go off. The Warriors received utterly nothing from its bigs (and Andrew Bogut suffered a knee injury in the second half), Harrison Barnes went 2-14 for 5 points, Shaun Livingston was the highest bench scorer with just 7, and Green’s absence seemed to contribute towards an overall lack of physicality. The Warriors didn’t play a complete game, and Cleveland received monster performances from its two best players.
No matter how it’s sliced, we now have a Game 6. That will go down in Cleveland on Thursday, 6/16 at 9:00 PM ET.
|9:00 PM ET, June 13, 2016
ORACLE Arena, Oakland, California Attendance: 19,596
|C. Frye||DNP — COACH’S DECISION|
|S. Kaun||DNP — INACTIVE|
|J. McRae||DNP — INACTIVE|
|D. Green||DNP — NBA SUSPENSION|
|I. Clark||DNP — INACTIVE|
|K. Looney||DNP — INACTIVE|
Officials: Monty McCutchen, Marc Davis, Derrick Stafford
Time of Game: 2:40