The question the Cavs had to answer was could they win a game when the Splash Brothers showed up? Did they have enough depth and ball movement and energy to go at Steph Curry and Klay Thompson a full 48? Were they able to make in game adjustments to neutralize the Warriors backcourt and get enough out of their guards to make the competition feel even?
No. No. Hell no.
The night Steph Curry introduced himself (and his game) to the NBA Finals is the same night LeBron James saw his legacy take a thunderous hit. Going down in the series 3-1 put LeBron on the fast track for another Finals defeat, his third year in a row to be a loser.
One of the knocks on LeBron is his performance under pressure when he seemingly doesn’t want to do everything. It gives his game the texture of a ghost. It is a contradiction and creates this enigma around James. We have seen better from him. We have seen worse. Last year, he did everything. So scrap the tired excuse, he is capable.
But something happens to LeBron when he has talent on the floor next to him. He has a tendency to trust them a little too much, to not be LeBron James, best player on the floor. He willingly puts the balance of the game into players hands that haven’t earned that high level of trust because they have never won a title. There is no Dwyane Wade out there.
LeBron James good wasn’t good enough in game 4 because his fourth quarter was ridiculously passive. Yes, he gave a good effort in the first three quarters being the facilitator, but this was a do or die game. The season was on the line. LeBron’s energy was small enough to put on the size of a penny and that was Ty Lue, rookie head coach in the Finals, biggest mistake.
Lue has accepted and been resigned to the fact that the only way he can win is with the ball in LeBron’s hands or in Kyrie Irving’s hands. It is a far cry from when Lue got the job and promised a faster pace and ball movement and player movement.
In the 4th quarter, the Cavs over dribbled, ran the shot clock down, and iso-ed the hell out the ball. Except, the Warriors knew what was coming.
When in adversity, you fall back on bad habits. The Thunder did it with their two man game of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. And now it was the Cavs turn to fall on their iso sword.
Every Cavs iso was met with multiple defenders, shot blockers, ball strippers, rebound hustlers. The Warriors were in perpetual motion while the Cavs were standing still watching LeBron or Kyrie. The Warriors wanted to go up 3-1 more than the Cavs wanted to tie the series 2-2.
Steph didn’t make an appearance in the 4th quarter until four and a half minutes had gone by so it was Shaun Livingston organizing the Warriors and Andre Iguodala in the passing lanes and Klay Thompson on the wing and Harrison Barnes playing utility.
The Cavs had their heavy hitters in there. LeBron James. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love
This was their first five minutes:
- Love jumpshot, 79-79
- LeBron layup, 81-79 Cavs
- Kyrie miss
- LeBron dunk, 83-81 Cavs
- LeBron shot blocked. LeBron three clanking off rim. Shumpert passing turnover. Tristan Thompson 2 free throw misses. Kyrie miss. LeBron turnover. Kyrie missed free throw. Kyrie missed three.
- Warriors 88-84
In five minutes, the Cavs scored seven points. Their only lead of the quarter would come at the 10:21 mark and would last 12 seconds.
In the first ten minutes of the quarter, LeBron James was 2-6, had 2 rebounds and 2 turnovers. The Cavs as a team had one assist in the quarter and that came at the 2 minute mark so it was iso Cavs which translates into losing Cavs.
As much as we want to talk about how the Warriors have revolutionized the game, three of the four participants in the conference finals, the Cavs, Raptors and Thunder, are iso teams. The Warriors are not.
The Warriors have the chance to wrap up back-to-back titles on Monday. The last team to do that was the 2013 Miami Heat. It was the last time LeBron James won in the NBA Finals and it took a miracle Ray Allen shot in game 6, and a Tim Duncan layup miss in game 7 to get LeBron his second finals win. Three years have come and gone without a LeBron James title.
On Monday night 2-5 is staring him in the face.
photo via llannaba