Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers, GSW leads series 3-2 (9pm ET Thursday, ABC)
Monday was LeBron James’ turn to find another gear, and with his back to the wall, he responded, leading the all players in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks, as Cleveland took a must-win a game on the road, 112-97.
James was scoreless for the first five and a half minutes of the game, as the Warriors built a 12-5 lead, but then he caught fire, hitting 4 of his next 5 shots and grabbing 3 rebounds to finish the first quarter with the Cavs only down 32-29.
The second quarter found James in a shootout with Klay Thompson, as James scored 13 on 6-of-11 shooting, while Thompson hit 5 of 5 from the floor, including 4 from downtown, and 4 of 4 from the line, for 18. Kyrie Irving also made his presence felt in the second, hitting 5 of 6 for 11 points, as the Cavs tied things up at 61-61 going into halftime.
The Warriors had to take the floor without the services of their best defender, Draymond Green, who was suspended for a game after taking a swing at James’ groin in Game 4. And though the Warriors weathered his absence in the first half, they would suffer a loss that would tip the balance of power in the second. Less than two minutes after the half, JR Smith drove the left side of the lane for a layup, only to be blocked by Andrew Bogut. But as Smith came down, he crashed into Bogut, the side of his torso hitting Bogut on the knee, sending him to the floor writhing in pain. Bogut would check out of the game never to return, and an MRI revealed bone bruises that will keep him sidelined for the remainder of the Finals. The Warriors will likely start Draymond Green at center, with Andre Iguodola at forward, or start backup center Festus Ezeli, reports ESPN. The Warriors were 11-1 in games in which Bogut did not play this past season.
Bogut obviously isn’t a great player, or even a very good one, but with the Warriors already missing Green, the loss of Bogut was tough. The Warriors’ backup big men – Andre Iguodala, Anderson Varejao, James Michael McAdoo, Brandon Rush, Festus Ezeli, and Marreese Speights – combined for just 20 points on 7-of-23 shooting.
Bogut departed as Klay Thompson was going to the line to shoot, both of which he made, to pull Golden State to within one at 67-66. But over the next two minutes, the Warriors shot 0-for-6 from the floor and missed a pair of free throws, while Irving and James scored a quick 7 points to bring the score to 74-66 midway through the quarter. The Cavs would go up by as much as 12 in the third, but a final bucket by Harrison Barnes would make it 93-84.
The wear and tear of chasing Irving and James started to show on the Warriors in the fourth, with Thompson confessing afterward that Irving “had my number”. With Golden State down 9, and just 12 minutes from a another title, their offense couldn’t get off the ground. The Warriors hit on just 5 of 19 from the floor in the fourth, while Irving again threw the Cavs on his back, scoring 11 points of Cleveland’s 19 points.
At 41 points apiece, James and Irving made history as the first teammates ever to score 40+ in the same game. Add in the fact that they combined to assist on 15 other points, and the duo had a hand in as many points as the entire Warriors team, and according to Game Score, it was the greatest two-man performance in NBA Finals history. The Cavs can’t count on a repeat performance, as the return of Draymond Green simply won’t allow it, but with Bogut, the Warriors’ second-best rebounder and shot blocker, out of the picture, they shouldn’t need it. And what are the Chances Kevin Love will again post a 2-3-1 on 1-of-5 shooting?
Curry finished the game with 25 points on 8-of-21 shooting, and Thompson added 37 on 11-of-20 shooting, but the Warriors got too many minutes from the likes of Marreese Speights (0 points, 0-for-6), and Harrison Barnes was simply too bad (5 points, 2-of-14) for it to matter. Despite the Game 5 loss, Golden State can take comfort in the fact that Green will be back for Game 6, that there’s no way the Cavs will again outshoot them 53% to 36%, and that Game 7, if necessary, will be in Oakland.
Watch Game 6 of the Golden State Warriors vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers at 9pm ET Thursday on ABC with Broadcast Extra where available, or login to WatchESPN with your Sling TV credentials.