The Cleveland Cavaliers live to fight another day.
It took two virtuoso performances, one from LeBron James, the other from Kyrie Irving to get it done, but there will be a Game 6 of The NBA Finals on Thursday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
Some people will pooh-pooh the win, because of the absence of Draymond Green due to suspension, but the wine and gold got it done, basically because two of their stars carried them to this point.
And one last comment on Green. He was not suspended for the altercation with James on Friday night, he was out last night because of repeated incidents throughout the playoffs. Whether it is fair or not, those were the rules set forth by the NBA.
Now, back to the game.
The Cavs played a lot of isolation basketball last night, and it worked because they were making shots. When Irving makes 17 out of 24 attempts, then playing that way works. The problem is, when he shoots 8 for 20, it doesn’t look good.
Tyronn Lue’s squad was tied at halftime at 61, but we had a good feeling because they survived an onslaught of three point shots by Klay Thompson, who scored 25 points in the first half.
Even though Thompson was on fire, Cleveland didn’t allow any of the 12-1 or 16-2 runs that Golden State is famous for putting on its opponents. For every Thompson make, either Irving or James answered.
As for the officiating, Golden State still shot more free throws for the game, hitting 19 of 26 compared to the Cavaliers’ 14 of 23, and when you consider six of those attempts came from the deliberate fouling of Tristan Thompson in the third quarter, you can see the Warriors still received the benefit of the doubt from the refs.
As hot as the home team was in the first half from behind the arc, they were cold after halftime, winding up making 14 of 42 for 33%. Green’s absence could be a reason for that because he is such a good passer, and can also make threes. Our guess is the Warriors will shoot better on Thursday.
With Green returning for Game 6, the Cavs are going to need contributions from others. JR Smith was the only other Cleveland player to reach double digits last night, with 10 points.
Lue will need one of these three players, Kevin Love, Iman Shumpert, and/or Channing Frye to step up and make some shots on Friday.
Frye didn’t play last night, and the other two combined for just six points. There is no doubt Steve Kerr is going to attempt to stop the two guys who hurt his team last night, so someone needs to step up.
Although Love will be hammered today in the media (because that’s what they do, he’s the whipping boy), he was plus 18 last night, so even though he didn’t have a big game, he didn’t screw anything up either.
We understand that’s setting the bar low, but the fact is Love isn’t a good match up against the defending champs. However, he is a major contributor against everyone else.
This is redundant, but the Cavs will need to lift their game to an even higher level to win Thursday and force a game seven in Oakland. Fortunately, they will have two full days of rest before the next game.
No team has ever come back from down 3-1 in The Finals. That doesn’t mean it is never going to happen. That’s what the Cavaliers have to hold on to.