Saturday, June 10, 2017

Game 4 - Horrific Defense Leads to a Game 5

Cleveland gave up another gigantic first quarter. This time, Golden State erupted for 33 points. The only difference was thew Cavs set a Finals record for most points in any quarter with 49. It felt more akin to an All Star Game than an NBA Finals. Cleveland set a Finals record for most points in a half with 86. At one point, LeBron James, who had a 31-point triple double, actually threw the ball off the backboard, caught it, and dunked it.

Cleveland held a large lead for nearly the entire game and coasted to a victory to keep the Finals alive. The Cavs had some displays of brilliance on offense. Most game from Kyrie Irving against Klay Thompson, who was actually trying to play defense. Irving's handles are the best in the league. His ability to finish is close to the top. He is also a streaky shooter. He doesn't do much else well, but those first two attributes sure are fun to watch. He finished with 40 points on 15 for 27 shooting, including 7 for 12 from three. The point guard has 16 assists and 12 turnovers through the first four games of the Finals.

Kevin Love had a strong game with 23 points and 3 steals doing most of his work int he first half. J.R. Smith added 15 points by chucking threes. Richard Jefferson has had a nice Finals thus far. Tristan Thompson was finally valuable with 10 rebounds and 5 assists. And Iman Shumpert added something rarely seen in this Finals: hustle.

For the first time in this Finals, Cleveland got solid performances from someone other than their stars. That reality finally exposed Golden State's weak defense. Throughout the Finals, only Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala have played consistently effective defense. In Game 4, Golden State's disinterest in defense and lack of rim protection finally came back to haunt them in record setting fashion

Before the game, head coach Steve Kerr spoke to his Warriors as if this contest was to be a coronation. Instead it was a comeuppance. The Warriors succeed partly because of talent and partly because of attention to detail. The latter was no where to be found Friday night. While Kevin Durant had his fourth straight game of at least 30 points, no one else played particularly well. And Durant's positive play was only on one side of the ball.

Stephen Curry, Thompson, and Draymond Green all scored in the teens and shot under 40%. Green had 214 rebound and Curry had 10 assists. Shaun Livingston scored 10 points, but his team was -15 while he was on the floor. Only Iguodala had a positive plus-minus ratio.

Cleveland won 137-116 to force a Game 5 back in California. While the two teams have been increasingly testy, one hopes that feistiness extends to the defensive side of the ball. In the first four games, the winner has scored at least 113 points, which isn't a bad thing if they were earned and not given.

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