This is the moment of truth for the Cleveland Cavaliers. If they go down 3-2 to the Warriors, they will not technically be dead. But road teams are 0-6 in Game 7s of the NBA Finals since the last time a road team won one, which was in 1978. It would be much better for the Cavs to have a chance to clinch the series in Game 6 rather than have to rely on trying to win Game 7 back in Oakland.
Who: Cavs at Warriors
What: NBA Finals, Game 5 (series tied 2-2)
Where: Oracle Arena, Oakland, California
When: Sunday, 8 pm Eastern
Here are some things the Cavs have to do to pull it off:
Get back to controlling the pace. Through the first three games of the series, both teams played mostly slow and ugly basketball. On Thursday night, the Warriors took Andrew Bogut out of the lineup and got back to playing at the speed they like. Cleveland's defense had no answer for it. Not only is a faster pace bad for the Cavs because the Warriors' offense is so much better playing that style, but also because it will further wear down their shorthanded rotation.
Pound them inside. If the Warriors aren't going to play Bogut, the one advantage the Cavs have is down low. Timofey Mozgov did manage to have his best game of the Finals on Thursday night: 28 points and 10 boards. Feeding him, especially later in possessions, can help control the pace and may force the Warriors to adjust.
Find J.R. Smith. I think we're all still waiting for J.R. to have that one game where he goes crazy (in a good way).
Continue to keep Stephen Curry in check. Cavs fans are waiting for the big J.R. game, but Warriors fans have to feel kind of the same about Curry. He still hasn't had one of the monster games he's capable of. Back at home, with Matthew Dellavedova likely the most tired he's ever been, will Game 5 finally be the night he goes off? If it is, I'm not sure how the Cavs will be able to overcome that.
LeBron. Throughout his career, LeBron has been defined by Game 5s at various points in his postseason career. This has been a well-covered subject in many places, including here. In this Game 5, he'll once again face an opportunity to shape how he'll be remembered. With a loss, he will probably face a round of criticism that he doesn't deserve. If he finds a way to win, he'll be one game away from his most improbable and greatest accomplishment.