Friday, June 17, 2016

Game 6 - LeBron Legend

With Draymond Green back, the Golden State Warriors expected to have more fight in Game 6. It didn't work out that way. Cleveland raced out to a big lead and ended the first quarter with a 31-11 lead. The 11 points were the fewest in a quarter for Golden State all season.

Cleveland got help from their role players at home once again. J.R. Smith scored 14. Richard Jefferson had some unsung plays. Tristan Thompson was especially good with stunning dunks. He scored 15 and grabbed 16 rebounds.

But the Cavs thrived because of LeBron James. He scored 41 points, only the fifth player ever to score 40 or more in consecutive Finals games. Not only did he shoot well, but he added 11 assists and 8 rebounds. He was nearly the entire offensive until the competitive portion of the game ended. He also added 4 steals and 3 blocks. One of his blocks was on a Stephen Curry layup attempt. After the swat, LeBron talked a little trash out of the side of his mouth, reminded the two-time MVP who's still the best.

Curry scored 30 and shot well from both the line and beyond the arc. But he didn't play well. He was in constant foul trouble. He hoisted a deep three when the Warriors had cut the deficit to eight int he second quarter. That shot took Golden State out of its offense again. The Cavs went into the half with a 16 point lead.

In the 4th, Curry fouled out on a dubious call. He threw his mouthpiece, which hit a fan. and was ejected. He had already received his sixth foul, but the ejection cost the Warriors another point. Draymond Green was solid all around, but was also frustrated by foul trouble. Klay Thompson scored 25, but didn't make enough threes. Andre Iguodala, starting for the injured Andrew Bogut, was hampered by back spasm. Harrison Barnes didn't even score. Only Leandro Barbosa played well for the Warriors; he scored 14.

The Cavs won 115-101 to force a Game 7. They're only the third team in NBA Finals history to force a Game 7 after trailing 3-1.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Game 5 - Flagrant Disregard for His Teammates

The story heading into Game 5 was Draymond Green's one game suspension because he exceeded the limit of allotted flagrant fouls during the postseason. He's close to doing the same thing with technical fouls too.

Green has a tremendous amount of passion and toughness, but there are limits and Green has consistently crossed the line this playoffs. His personal vendettas hurt his team and his absence in Game 5 hindered Golden State's championship chances.

Kyrie Irving and LeBron James took advantage of the All Star's absence. They became the first duo of teammates to score 40 or more points in a Finals game. Irving scored 41 on 24 field goals and made 5 for 7 from three point range. Only he and Wilt Chamberlain have scored at least 40 points and shot at least 70% from the field in a Finals game.

While Irving's incredible shooting performance won't soon be forgotten, LeBron's game shouldn't be overlooked in the annals of history. To his 41 points, he added 16 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals, and 3 blocks. Kyrie and LeBron combined for 82 points; the rest of the Cavs had just 30.

Klay Thompson tried to keep Golden State in the game. The game was tied at 61 at halftime. Klay ended with 37 points, but faded in the fourth. Stephen Curry added 25, but couldn't find his shot. Andre Iguodala did his best Green impression with 15 points, 11 rebounds and 6 assists, but no one did their best Andre Iguodala impression. Shaun Livingston ended with 7 including a vicious dunk on Richard Jefferson.

Cleveland pulled away int he 3rd thanks to the brilliance of their two best players. With Green out, the Warriors lack their usual depth. The Cavs scored 93 through three quarters and took a nine point lead into the fourth. Golden State fought back, but never got close enough to put the result in doubt.

Cleveland won 112-97 to bring the series to 3-2 Golden State.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Game 4 - Second Half Outburst

The big story heading into Game 4 was whether or not Cleveland's head coach Tyronn Lue would start Kevin Love, who has suffered a concussion in Game 4. Love was cleared to play minutes before Game 4 started, but Lue chose to start Richard Jefferson, who had filled in for Love in Cleveland's 30 point Game 3 victory.

Jefferson preceded to begin the game on fire, but not in the way Lue had hopped. Harrison Barnes torched Jefferson, scoring 8 points in the first two minutes of the game. Jefferson finished the game with 3 points.

At one point in the first, Jefferson accepted the challenge to guard the struggling two-time MVP, Stephen Curry. Curry nailed a three and it only took that one shot for him to get into the groove. By the end of the game, Curry quieted the critics with a game high 38 points.

Love's benching didn't help Kevin either. He finished with 11 points and 5 rebounds in 25 minutes. Still, Cleveland kept things close and even entered halftime with a five point lead. Warriors' assistant coach Luke Walton received a technical foul at the end of the half for arguing a call where Andre Iguodala was clearly fouled on a buzzer beater attempt. Cleveland started the second half up six.

Golden State moved past the refs' blown call- one of many tonight- and quickly rushed back. Curry and backcourt mate Klay Thompson were the catalysts. Thompson, who scored his first first quarter points in Game 4, finished with 25. Head coach Steve Kerr went with James Michael McAdoo for the first time in the series and he provided some much needed energy. Anderson Varejao, the first player ever to play for both Finals teams in the same season, also did the same.

The Warriors entered the fourth quarter with a lead. Halfway through the final period, the Warriors' offense exploded. Cleveland had no answers and their offense became stagnant. Cleveland inched closer in the last few minutes, but never really threatened.

Kyrie Irving and LeBron James kept Cleveland in it as long as they could. Irving scored 34 points and James posted 25 with 13 rebounds and 9 assists, but added 7 turnovers. Cleveland got some help from J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson, who both added ten points, but neither played particularly well. Smith shot 3 for 10 fromt he field and Thompson, Cleveland's starting center, grabbed five very quick offensive rebounds, but only two total rebounds the rest of the game.

Golden State's offensive should it was more explosive, their coaching is better, and theuyy have more fight. In the fourth, Draymond Green stood up to LeBron after LeBron shoved down Green and stepped over him. By the end of the encounter, LeBron was the one who had lost his poise as Green, quickly becoming the man opponents love to hate, simply smiled.

Golden State won 108-97 to take a 3-1 lead headed home for Game 5.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Game 3 - Home Cooking

The Cavs responded to a return to Cleveland and an 0-2 deficit. The home team jumped on Golden State from the get-go. Cleveland scored the first six, marking their biggest lead of the Finals, and hardly looked back.

Many will point to the absence of Kevin Love due to concussion protocol and the insertion of Richard Jefferson in the starting lineup as the key to Cleveland's blowout victory. But Cleveland thrived because their role players played well at home, as role players are wont to do.

J.R. Smith shot over 50% from the field, nailed five threes, and scored 20 points. Smith had 8 total points in the two games in Oakland and shot 33%. It wasn't as if the game plan was any better in Game 3, Smith just hit tough shots in an arena in which he feels comfortable. Tristan Thompson averaged 9.5 pts and 8.5 rebs per game in Oakland, but 14 points and 13 rebounds in Game 3. Jefferson had 7 total rebounds, 1 steals, and zero rebounds in Oakland, but 8 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 assists in one game in Cleveland.

Kyrie Irving also played much better, again by making tough shots in his home arena. He set a personal Finals scoring record with 30 points. He shot 33% from the field in Oakland and was one for seven from distance, but made 48% of his field goals in Cleveland and went three for seven from the outside in Game 3.

Meanwhile, the Warriors were flat. Neither Stephen Curry nor Klay Thompson scored a point until nearly 18 minutes into the game. The All Star trio of Curry, Thompson, and Draymond Green scored their fewest points the entire season. Curry did heat up a bit int he third quarter, but Cleveland still maintained a double digit lead.

Harrison Barnes (18 points), Andre Iguodala (11 points), and Leandro Barbosa (8 points) were bright spots in an otherwise dim game game for the Warriors.

Cleveland didn't win 120-90 because of Kevin Love's absence. Love scored 17 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in Game 1 and neither of the Warriors' forwards dominated the game. In Game 2, however, Cleveland's fortunes deteriorated as soon as Love was elbowed in the back of the head. Draymond Green exploded with Love out. Barnes played well in Game 3 with Love out. Home cooking, not Love's absence allowed Cleveland to pull a game closer to Golden State in Game 3.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Game 2 - Bay Blitz

Unfortunately for Cleveland, NBA games aren't twelve minutes long. The Cavs actually held the lead after the first following a competitive first quarter. When Harrison Barnes accidentally elbowed Kevin love in the back of the head, the competitive phase of Game 2 ended quickly.

Golden State shot over 50% from the field and 45.5% from three point land. The starters and the bench played well. Draymond Green led the team with 28 points on 5-8 from three point range. He added 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Listed at 6'7", he played center for an extended period of time during the game. Stephan Curry added 18 and Klay Thompson came in with 17.

Cleveland didn't help themselves offensively either. The Cavs shot 35.4% from the field and 21.7% from long distance. LeBron scored 19, grabbed 8 rebounds, and dished 9 assists, but shot only 7 for 17. The rest of the Cavs were worse. Kyrie Irving's 10 points were two less than Richard Jefferson- the veteran came off the bench to finish second on the team in scoring. J.R. Smith has been M.I.A. during Finals thus far and Tristan Thompson grabbed only 5 rebounds.

The Warriors were up eight at the half and took control in the second half. Golden State was off to the races early in the third and the Cavs had no answer.

Golden State won 110-77 to take a 2-0 lead. Last year, Cleveland captured homecourt in Game 2 in Oakland and went up 2-1 in Game 3 without the services of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. Since Golden State's main guys are the same, either Matthew Dellavedova and Timofey Mozgov are better than Irving and Love, or there's another reason for their disappointing performance int heis year's Finals... perhaps coaching.

Friday, June 03, 2016

Game 1 - Balanced Warriors

Seven Warriors scored in double figures. Two-time NBA MVP Stephan Curry was the seventh Warrior to achieve the feat and his fellow Splash Brother and one of the best shooters in the game, Klay Thompson, finished with nine points. Sure, the Warriors have three All Stars, but their strength is in their numbers.

Cleveland kept the game close until the fourth quarter. LeBron James was his usual incredible self. One assist away from a triple double, he scored 23 and grabbed 12 boards. He was the focus of the Warriors defense and still made some amazing plays, including a one handed catch and pass over the defender's hands and into Kyrie Irving's. Irving scored 26 himself, a game high. Kevin Love scored 17, took in 13 rebounds. Tristan Thompson had half of his 12 rebounds on the offensive glass. He had a double double.

But Cleveland's other players struggled. Golden State's bench outscored the Cavs' 45 to 10. At one point int he middle of the fourth, the Warriors took a twenty point lead. The Cavs didn't give in and scored the next nine. But the hill was too steep to climb. Golden State, led by their chalkboard crushing head coach Steve Kerr, won with a 104-89 score.