Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Cavaliers - Warriors Game Five: The Limits Of Small

Wrong Room
Tonight in Oakland, the Cavaliers extended the NBA Finals behind two of the best old-school hero ball games you'll ever see. LeBron James and Kyrie Irving were insane tonight, much of it from flat out isolation sets that made the ESPN announcing crew swoon. Both men had 41, making up for the fact that there really wasn't a third best Cav tonight (J.R. Smith was OK in the first, and Tristan Thompson had some moments, but otherwise, well, meh).

This was the game where you remembered that, oh yeah, LeBron James with a functioning jump shot is the most terrifying basketball player on the planet. For all of the flack this guy gets, and all of the artificial huddles under mics and bullspit antics in the final minutes of Game Four, he's still probably your best choice for Guy To Start A Franchise With, because he's just a freaking beast. Tonight he had everything going for him, from makes behind the arc to old-time chasedown blocks, and he didn't lose fire in the final quarter. Maybe he doesn't get off like this if Green's on the floor, but give the man his due. One of the best players in the history of the game had one of his best games ever. You should win when that happens.

Irving was another matter. I've never loved his game -- too much hero-ball and too many miss moments on defense to be worthy of his numbers, and he's learned some bad habits on bad teams early in his career -- but when it's working, man, he's talented. Time and again in the second half, Irving would just take and make bad shots, looking as good as any guard has against the Warriors since Damian Lillard in the early rounds. I don't know if he can do it again, but when you get 41 on the road in an elimination game, give it up. Two more games of that, and the Cavs have a prayer of getting one of the more improbable titles in NBA history.

The first half of this game was the best hoop we've seen in the Finals. 61-all, with James, Irving, Klay Thompson, Stephen Curry and Shaun Livingston all taking turns to make the hoop special. My thought in watching it was that it was unlikely that James and Irving would be able to keep up the pace in the close, with Cavs' coach Ty Lue continuing to have very curious ideas about the use of a bench... but with starting center Andrew Bogut going off with a knee injury and possible series MVP Draymond Green suspended under suspicious circumstances, the Cavs were able to get away with Hero Ball all night long. It's a 3-2 series, with Game Six in Cleveland on Thursday.

What happens next? Well, Cleveland Fan marks out for Green as much as Oakland Fan marked out for James. Steve Kerr might have to figure out some other way to guard James and Irving, because while it's unlikely that they do that for 8 more quarters, it's also unlikely that Kevin Love will be a total non-factor in a home game. For whatever reason, the Dubs were not able to make the Cavs pay on switches with ball movement -- maybe because their best passer due to size and the way the offense works was across the street at the A's game -- when the Cavs put weak defenders on the floor.

About the only problem I've got with this game was, that, well, yet again we didn't have a close game late, because that's just what the NBA playoffs are this year. Fifteen point wins might qualify as watchable in the thin gruel we've been getting this year, and that first half was giving me flashbacks to the heroin hoop of Thunder - Warriors... but dammit, this has been frustrating. I want to live and die with these games, want to lose myself in the action, want to do more than read my Twitter feed for entertainment when the game gets to closing time. Instead, we get Garbage. Guh.

Oh well. Maybe on Thursday. The season either ends then, or on Sunday. Hopefully with a good game; it's a long, long time until October.

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