1. Well, they definitely defended the land…….for now. Using a 49 point first quarter which gave them a 16 point lead at the end of it and set the tone for their NBA Finals record 86 point first half Cleveland was able to claim the victory at the Q to stay alive in the series and earn a trip back to the Oracle in hopes of keeping their title chances at least remotely within reach. The first half not only blew the Warriors away and put the game comfortably in the Cavs’ hands, it was their best half of basketball they’ve played all season and was personally the finest half I’ve witnessed all year.
While numerous Cavs had plus performances and Lebron had a masterful game the maestro of this masterpiece was none other than Kyrie Irving. Irving finished with 40 points, 7 boards and 4 dimes in a performance that absolutely shredded a Golden State squad that had so astutely defended him through the first three games. His 28 first half points especially sent a message that they were on and that there was precious little the Dubs could do about it. Boy how right was he. This just served as a huge reminder that an efficient Kyrie is about as good as anything on this basketball Earth. And if his 15 of 27 from the floor and 7 of 12 from deep showing is something that can be duplicated then we may very well have a series on our hands. I mean, if memory serves us right it’s not at all an impossibility right?
To say LeBron James took a backseat because of Irving’s outburst would be shortsighted at best and downright idiotic at worst. Bron Bron’s fingerprints were all over this one as he messed around and got a triple double going for 31-10-11. In the first half especially he and Kyrie played so well off of each other that if they weren’t converting off of their great looks they were either setting other guys up (who actually converted those opportunities tonight but more on that later) or running a conga to the free throw line (the Cavs got 24 attempts in the first half alone).
But for everything he did from a measurables stand point I think what James did better than anything tonight was help keep his teammates confident and aggressive. Tonight was far chippier and tense than any game this series and that was not a coincidence at all. Cleveland succeeds best when playing in the muck and goading the Dubs to four technical fouls tonight they finally drug Golden State down to their level, at least for tonight.
2. As mentioned up top the rotation guys finally came through tonight. And I think we can all agree that when their bench mob is hitting it’s usually a done deal. But where we have to start here is with Kevin Love. Love’s 24 points more than made up for his putrid performance in game three. He was hot as Hades from downtown hitting 6 of his 8 attempts and played some rather impressive defense garnering two steals and a block.
J.R. “The Pipe” Smith strung together his second straight plus game in the series putting up 15 points all off threes (surprise surprise) on 50% shooting and Tristan “TrashGawd” Thompson-Kardashian finally decided to grace us with his presence toughing his way to 5 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists. I gotta admit, it was nice seeing these guys getting in on the action.
The bench was especially on tonight. They only produced 23 points but were able to do so on an impressive 6 of 11 shooting. This is when the Cavs are at their best, when they can dial up one these guys’ number and they convert. Richard “Two Days from Retirement” Jefferson led the unit with 8 points but it was his defense (specifically on Durant and Thompson in stretches) that really highlighted his night. Iman Shumpert played well on the defensive end as well while Kyle Korver and Deron Williams were able to come in and play their very specific parts. And there you have it, the Cavs played one hell of a complete game. That’s all you gave to do, shoot over 50% both from floor as well as from three, defend on an otherworldly level and pray for rain. Oh yeah, and in this case do it three more times.
3. And boy were their prayers answered. But instead of forty days and forty nights it rained for 48 minutes. Unfortunately for the Golden State Warriors that was all it took for them to squander their first opportunity to close this series out. It seems like by the time J.R. Smith hit his second of five threes at the 9:22 mark in the first quarter (causing their first timeout to be called) the Cavs knew they were rolling and the Dubs knew they were sunk tonight. It sounds strange but it was just a feeling I had.
However, while Cleveland was making fire alarms go off with their shooting the Warriors fell behind early and never got into the groove. They shot an extremely uncharacteristic 11 of 39 from beyond the arc which includes Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry combining for an anemic 4 of 18. Not even Golden State can survive a 28% showing from three in the finals. Just saying.
Kevin Durant was able to string together another strong night. KD finished with 35 despite his aforementioned horrible deep shooting. His 15 of 16 from the charity stripe sorta made up for it but it wasn’t nearly enough realistically keep them in it. The Splash Brothers on the other hand……..yikes. Steph finished with 14-5-10 on a paltry 4 of 13 shooting while Klay Thompson put up 13 points on a slightly less disappointing 4 of 11. But the biggest let down of Thompson was his lack of impact on defense.
One of the few things that went well (on paper at least) was Draymond Green. His 16 and 14 was encouraging, him acting out and showing that the Cavs can still get under his skin wasn’t. And to be quite honest, aside from Shaun Livingston’s 10 points on 5 of 7 shooting there were no real bright spots here. In a nutshell they started cold and they never recovered. It happens, NO it really does. But the only thing they have to do is prevent this from happening three more times. Good thing they have absolutely no negative recollections about this in their past.