First things first, here's LeBron James on what he can do to be better in Game 6 (h/t Adam Reisinger on Twitter):
LeBron on what he can do to be better in Game 6: pic.twitter.com/IWlRTQ4N2F— Adam Reisinger (@AdamReisinger) June 15, 2015
The eyes of the basketball-loving world are on the NBA Finals, and just about everyone, save the most incorrigible dunces among us, understands what's going on. LeBron is carrying a seriously overmatched team against a fully healthy, 67-win juggernaut who emerged from the mighty Western playoffs with a 12-3 record while clicking on all cylinders. In the face of injuries to his best and second-best teammates, LeBron still managed to will Cleveland to two Finals victories. If the Cavaliers are going to win it all, he'll have to get two more, and in a row, one at home on Tuesday and the other back in Oakland on Friday.
But who would expect that? What else could LeBron do? Cleveland converted 32 field goals on Sunday night, 15 by LeBron, 11 others on his assists. The only other person capable of getting his own shot (J.R. Smith) started hot but finished just 5-of-15 from the floor and didn't score in the second half. James Jones couldn't stay in front of his man on defense. Mike Miller played 13 minutes and shot 100 percent from three, but could only find the room or opportunity to get one attempt away. Iman Shumpert and Matthew Dellavedova, the starting backcourt, shot 5-of-18 from the field. Tristan Thompson had fine numbers (19 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks) but didn't provide the type of elite rim protection Mozgov regularly does.
Speaking of Mozgov, he Cavs caught a little bit of heat from some pundits for limiting Timofey Mozgov to nine minutes in Game 5. Mozgov scored a career-high 28 points in Game 4, but it didn't help keep the game close beyond the start of the final quarter. Cleveland's Game 5 adjustment was to try to match the Warriors, small-for-small. If your criteria for judging the merit of making such a drastic adjustment is "winning the game," then you probably feel it didn't "work." If you feel, as I do, that it was worth a try, because turning Game 5 into a facsimile of Game 4 would've been ill-advised, then you're probably cool with what the Cleveland coaching staff tried to do, even though the Cavs don't have the available personnel (duh) to make it really work.
David Blatt and Steve Kerr seem to have come to the conclusion that traditional centers have no real place in this series. Andrew Bogut never saw the floor in Game 5 as Golden State stuck with their small lineups. Blatt countered by doing much the same last night, leaving Thompson at center for much of the game and even playing LeBron at the five for a short spell. And for all the bellyaching about the sea change in Cleveland's approach (feeding Mozgov one game, leaving him on the bench the next), it was still a two point game with five minutes to play. Cleveland just ran out of gas.
On the flip side, Stephen Curry went supernova in the fourth quarter, scoring 17 points while hitting some insane threes. He's the MVP for a reason. The Cavs' defense actually played pretty well, especially considering their lineups. But when Curry gets in one of those zones, no defense can stop it.
The Cavs get to return home for Game 6, though on short rest. No matter; LeBron says he's confident because he's "the best player in the world," and it's pretty damn difficult to argue with that. He needs to be as dazzling as ever tomorrow night, and somebody else needs to hit some shots to help him out. If no one does, the season's over. If anyone else comes through, the Cavs may live to fight one more night. It's that simple. It is what it is.