The door to the 2017 NBA Finals has still yet to be closed as the Cleveland Cavaliers stole a series-clinching win at home against the Golden State Warriors. After falling apart in the second half of both Games 1 and 2 followed by a heart-wrenching loss in Game 3, the Cavs have kept their title hopes alive. The Cavs are slowly diminishing the gap that separates them from the Golden State Warriors and head back to Oracle Arena in Oakland for what has potential to be the most exciting game of the entire 2016-17 season. The Cavs have improved their game overall game consistently throughout the course of the first four games and they finally got that first win they so desperately needed. Now down 3-1 in the series, the jokes from last year are already in full force and a momentum changing win in Game 5 will have this series feeling oddly familiar to last season.
The pressure is now on more for the Warriors more than it has been all series and if the Cavs shot better from three by even the slimmest of margins (only 27 percent in Game 3), this series could be a lot more interesting than it already is. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case and the Cavs are still in a huge whole that will take two at least two wins on the road to overcome. The team (and fans) need to take everything one quarter at a time. A Game 5 win for Cleveland would bring the series back home with all the momentum needed to push this thing to seven games (Yeah, yeah, I’m looking ahead even though I literally just said not to, but the idea of what could happen pulses through my mind every second of the day).
For the Cavs to try and pry away a victory on the road, a lot of what happened in Game 4 has to be repeated. First off, elimination Kyrie Irving needs to continue play like elimination Kyrie Irving.
Kyrie averages 32.5 pts/5 rebs/ 3.5 asts/1.5 stls/1blk per game in elimination games.— Justin Rowan (@Cavsanada) June 10, 2017
All in the NBA Finals.
When it matters most, Kyrie locks in and consistently plays like the player we all know he can be when he’s at the top of his game. Even at only 25 years old, Kyrie has never backed down from the spotlight, rather he embraces it and it ultimately leads to him winning games for the Cavs. Kyrie has to continue to play with the elimination mentality for hopefully another three games if the Cavs want a chance to repeat. We all know that LeBron is great enough to win games by himself, but against the supreme talent that the Warriors hold, Kyrie has to shed some of the attention off of LeBron and onto himself.
We finally saw the role players come alive in Game 4, mainly because they were doing exactly what was asked of them. They didn’t overcomplicate things, they made the right plays on both offense and defense and it allowed the Big 3 more space to do what make them special. J.R. Smith was knocking down threes (5-9 from downtown in Game 4) and Tristan Thompson finally started to bang with the opposing bigs down low, pulling down 10 rebounds while adding five points and five assists. Deron Williams actually hit a shot (two, actually), Richard Jefferson was relentless when guarding Kevin Durant while also executing well on offense, and Iman Shumpert provided valuable minutes where he did less shooting and played more intense defense. Kyle Korver was still absent from Game 4 as he hit just one three and his ability to shoot with no space is a key component to how the Cavs spread the floor. If there is similar production from these same guys plus a little more from Korver, the Cavs should pick up exactly where they left on in Game 4. Still no Channing Frye in Game 4, either. However, if RJ continues his solid defense and keeps making shots, Frye will probably remain on the bench for the foreseeable future.
Odds are, Steph Curry won’t play as poorly as he did in Game 4. The traps were working when the Cavs brought them, but he missed several open shots that are usually automatic. With how often last game was stalled due to whatever questionable call the officials decided to make, Curry will most likely find his rhythm. This obviously isn’t a great situation, but it isn’t as troubling as one would think. As I said earlier, the Cavs have slowly been chipping away at the Warriors as each game has gotten closer and closer. The Cavs took a huge leap from Games 3 to 4, taking the Warriors out early and never allowing them to cut the lead all the way back. They maintained a 15-plus point lead for practically the entirety of Game 4 with only Curry playing below his postseason standards. Obviously, Durant is going to get his 30. The way the Cavs defend him allows him more free reign as LeBron is usually matched up on a non-shooter which allows him to play free safety and exert more energy on offense. Draymond Green has struggled with foul trouble all series it seems like and even when he does play, Kevin Love has been taking him to work. Love has been the unspoken hero throughout the Finals as he has consistency played at a high level against one of the league’s two best defenders.
For the Cavs to take Game 5 in what will inevitably be a rowdy environment, a lot of the same from Game 4 has to happen again. Knocking down open shots will be their key to success as we’ve seen through all four games that the Cavs will have plenty of open shots that they just need to hit, simple as that. The Cavs are not out of this series, not by a long shot, we should know better than that after last year. The Cavs have to come out hot and firing to start the game, because I guarantee the Warriors will too. The Cavs need to take this game shot by shot, play by play. They can’t get ahead of themselves or the Warriors will do what they’ve done all season long when their opponents let their guard down.
One game at a time.