NBA Finals: 5 Things to Watch for in Game 5
The 2017 NBA Finals have been, in a word, weird.
We're not casting aspersions here, and we don't mean weird in a negative sense. On the contrary. There've been plenty of immortal moments in the third consecutive Finals featuring the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers: LeBron James' ridonkulous Game 4 off-the-backboard pass to himself, Draymond Green's epic Cleveland dis, and, of course, Kevin Durant's Game 3 dagger.
But the results? The numbers? The vibe? Kinda weird.
Golden State's 113-91 beatdown in Game 1 wasn't necessarily weird in and of itself -- considering how the Warriors manhandled the Western Conference on the way to the Finals, it was probably to be expected -- but the fact that LeBron coughed up the ball eight times, and his plus/minus was a team-worst -22? Weird.
In Game 2, the Dubs smacked around the Cavs big-time, winning 132-113 -- this despite a foul-plagued Draymond Green being on the court for a mere 24 minutes. Weird.
In Game 3 -- a night that Clevelanders, thanks to the aforementioned cold-blooded Durant trey, will file right next to The Shot, The Fumble, and The Decision -- the Warriors allowed a paltry 19 points in the fourth quarter after getting smoked for 32, 29, and 33 in the first three. Weird.
And then in Game 4, the Cavs broke an NBA Finals record, pouring in 49 first quarter points against a team who finished the regular season ranked second in defensive rating. Really weird.
So what kind of weirdness, if any, can we expect in Game 5, a home closeout game for Stephen Curry et al? It'll depend, in part, on what we see from the following five bullet points:
1. Golden State's D
As noted, during the regular season, the Warriors defensive efficiency was top-notch, to the tune of 101.1, as per NBA.com. They've followed suit in the playoffs, coming into Game 5 with a nearly identical efficiency rating of 101.8.
And that's all fine and good, but after holding the Cavs to 91 points in Game 1, they've been distinctly mortal, allowing an average of 121.0 in Games 2 through 4.
Pay attention to what kind of ball-stopping the Dubs do in the fourth quarter tonight, a quarter during which, over the first four games, they've allowed an average of 22.5 points, after giving up 29.8 over the first three frames.
If this trend holds, as long as the Dubs are within sniffing distance come the final 12 minutes, the Cavs and this series could well be toast.
2. The Cavs Bench
Cleveland's backups have been distinctly blah during the Finals, averaging just 23.5 points a night...and that's taking into account their extended garbage time in Game 4.
Considering the team's less-than-good late game performance (see above), coach Tyronn Lue's charges will need some production from the Iman Shumperts and the Richard Jeffersons of the world if James and Kyrie Irving -- who are both averaging 41 minutes a night -- are to have something left in the tank for the fourth quarter.
3. The Dubs Starters
Golden State, on the other hand, has done just fine without any notable offensive production from their bench. In the four Finals games, we've only seen three instances of a Warrior hitting double figures in scoring, those being Shaun Livingston and Ian Clark in Game 2, then Livingston again in Game 4.
Relying on their starters has proven to be a successful formula for the Warriors thus far, so it's fair to say that if Golden State starts relying on their second unit, something ain't right.
4. The Refs
In the Warriors' Game 4 defeat, Curry, Thompson, and Green all got into early foul trouble, each picking up two in the first quarter.
It's possible, just possible, that their early-game foul issues messed with their flow and led to their downfall. It's also possible that Cleveland's 52.9% shooting from the field and 53.3% shooting from beyond the arc led to their downfall.
At any rate, if this is a tightly-called game, pay attention to how (and if) the Warriors can adjust.
5. The Klay Factor
A good night from Klay Thompson doesn't guarantee a Golden State avalanche -- he had a brutal Game 1, managing just 6 points on 3 of 16 shooting, and things worked out pretty well for the Dubs there -- but it sure helps.
In Game 3, Thompson's best performance of the series, the Warriors needed each of his 30 points (18 of which came from three-land), and if he gets off to a similar hot start, Ohioans will not be psyched.
And finally, here's what the numberFire odds posse has to say about the remainder of the series:
|Golden State Warriors win in 5:||70.18%|
|Golden State Warriors win in 6||16.57%|
|Golden State Warriors win in 7||8.99%|
|Golden State Warriors win series||95.74%|
|Cleveland Cavaliers win in 7||4.26%|
|Cleveland Cavaliers win series||4.26%|
So it's possible -- 4.26% possible, to be exact -- that the Cavs will come back and take the 2017 NBA Finals.
Now that would be weird.