The NBA Finals have been highly entertaining and competitive so far. The series' pattern of gritty, back-and-forth games was broken last night with the Warriors defeating the Cavaliers by 21 points. The first three quarters saw a close contest as Golden State lead by only six at 76-70. The final quarter was a bloodbath though, as Cleveland was outscored 27-12 and ended up losing by a final of 103-82.
The last stretch of the game saw a total breakdown by the Cavs as they simply could not sustain their efforts from the first three quarters, and the first three games, for that matter. So what exactly changed? Well, there were a number of factors.
Credit is first due to coach Steve Kerr for making the bold decision to bench center Andrew Bogut to start the game in place of veteran wing Andre Iguodala. William Bohl of fearthesword.com writes that much of the Warriors' success can be credited to not only starting Iggy but shortening the rotation to basically seven guys. The quicker squads succeeded in running the break, spreading the floor on offense, and getting out on shooters on defense.
In going small, of course the team struggled with containing the massive Russian Timofey Mozgov who scored a game-high 28 points on 9-16 shooting. Despite his career game, Golden State contained virtually everyone else, particularly Aussie Matthew Dellavedova (3-14 FGs) and streaky scorer J.R. Smith (2-12 FGs). The man himself, LeBron James also labored from persistent defense mainly from Iguodala, finishing the game with 20 points on 7-22 shooting from the field.
Coach Kerr picked the perfect time to utilize a more athletic lineup, as the Cavs were totally and completely gassed. It was only a matter of time until the heavy minutes coach David Blatt had been playing his seven guys at added up, and it seemed like things came to a head in that regard last night. One would think that having Kyrie Irving re-injure his knee after playing 44 minutes would get Blatt thinking. If not that, maybe Dellavedova getting transported to the hospital immediately following Game 3 for dehydration and exhaustion may get something to click.
But no, Blatt elected to continue running his short-handed rotation into the ground, playing LeBron for 41 minutes as well as Tristan Thompson 38 and Shumpert 39.
I'd be remiss not to mention the catastrophic fall LeBron took into the camera under the basket. This may have effected his play and subpar second half performance, but his play in the fourth did not deviate much from the norm. James went scoreless in the entire fourth quarter and expressed visible frustration overall through complaints to the refs as well as a questionably hard foul on Shaun Livingston. His fall gave him a scrape that bled a little but he was tended to and back on the court almost immediately.
The series of events was odd, as Andrew Bogut delivered a clean, hard foul on a LeBron baseline drive. As you can see LeBron took the hard foul but decided not to try to catch his fall, resulting in him crashing into a cameraman. The natural reaction from any fan after seeing blood was to hope for the best. After watching the replay though, it was pretty clear LeBron kind of let himself just crash. Bogut was asked after the game about what he thought of the sequence:
I thought he jumped into the cameraman. If you look at the replay, you can see the two steps being taken and then him falling into the camera. That's what we saw on replay, and that's what my teammates saw.
Clearly Bogut believes the fall was at least slightly dramatized. And according to him, so do his teammates. I don't know what to believe, and at this point I don't really care. I'm glad LeBron didn't get seriously hurt. I'm also glad we now have a series, and I'm glad Golden State is playing like they want it. Game 5 should not disappoint.
Photo via: AP Photo/Ben Margot
Follow Sam on Twitter @bosgreenroom Sam DuBois 6/12/2015 08:34:00 PM Tweet Edit