My NBA Finals prediction that the Golden State Warriors would win in five games over the Cleveland Cavaliers failed to come to pass on Monday, thanks to heroic efforts by both LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. I did not think that the Cavs could win in California, and between Draymond Green's suspension and LeBron remembering how to shoot jumpers for a night, they proved that wrong. Tonight, the teams move back to Cleveland for Game 6, and the Warriors get their second chance to clinch their second consecutive title.
Here are some things that I am curious about going into the game tonight.
- Was LeBron's rediscovery of his jumper permanent?
James has struggled with his shot throughout the season, with opponents frequently daring him to shoot and sagging off of him to prevent him from driving. Entering Game 5, he was shooting 42.7% from the field and 30% from 3 in the Finals. His 41 points on 16-30 (4-8 from 3) broke some of the ways the Warriors had been defending him, with his ability to hit threes late in the shot clock, even while well defended, changing some of the perception. James will need to continue shooting well to force the Warriors to cover him more closely on the perimeter.
- Can Kyrie Irving continue playing this well?
It didn't feel like Kyrie could miss a shot for large swaths of Game 5. Irving's 41 points tie for the fourth most he's ever scored in a game in his career, and only once before had he scored more than 40 points playing with LeBron (his career best of 57 in March 2015). Irving's crafty movement with the ball to create open shots and layups, and to continue making shots even when Golden State throws a better defender than Stephen Curry at him, is Cleveland's ticket to pushing the series to a seventh game.
- Can Stephen Curry continue playing this poorly?
Something just isn't right with Stephen Curry. He has gotten lost on defensive rotations that hadn't given him trouble all season. He commits foolish turnovers that break any semblance of momentum the Warriors have. He's shooting better than it feels like from beyond the arc (42.3% on the series), but hasn't been able to get nearly as much from inside the arc (42.4% from 2 on the series). The Warriors only need him to look like the MVP for one more game, but Cleveland drew blood on Monday.
- What will Kevin Love's role in Game 6 be?
I wish that the nation was seeing the dominant All-Star Kevin Love on the biggest stage, not whatever this is. Whatever happens over tonight's game and the possible seventh game of the series, Love just doesn't look like he fits with how the Cavaliers want to play, and the Warriors are such a bad matchup for his weaknesses on the defensive end of the floor within the Cavaliers' lineups. I don't think he will sit the entire game, but I hope that Tyronn Lue can find a role for him, perhaps against some of Golden State's weaker lineups.
I will stick to my thoughts before the series and take the Warriors to close the series tonight. I think that Draymond Green will be motivated to actually play basketball well to atone for his absence on Monday evening, and I think that the Cavaliers will not get 40 points from two different players again. But, if the Cavaliers win, we get one more game of NBA basketball before the long summer!
A topic of discussion: I think that the Wolves should see what it would take to free Love from Cleveland (and yes, I realize that it's likely totally unrealistic). While this is true for many players, I'd love to see what playing next to a center like Karl-Anthony Towns as opposed to a Timofey Mozgov or (bless him) Nikola Pekovic could do for his game.
Not much else on the Wolves' side of things today. The draft continues to approach, and no one knows anything for certain. The Lynx remain undefeated and next play on Sunday evening in Seattle. Enjoy your Thursday.