The Golden Importance of Game 5
LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers put on a record-breaking performance in their 137-116 Game 4 victory against the Golden State Warriors. They set a number of NBA Finals records, including most points in a quarter (49), most points in a half (86) and most three pointers in a game (24). The Cavs were firing on all cylinders with Kyrie Irving leading the way with a 40-point performance. The win put the breaks on the Warriors’ perfect 16-0 playoff run and sends the series back to the Oracle for a decisive Game 5.
The victory puts the Cavs in a familiar 3-1 series deficit. Now, Game 5 carries significant importance for both teams. The pressure is now all on the Warriors. They must close out the series in five or else the team’s boiling point will continue to rise.
In Game 4, Stephen Curry struggled scoring 14 points on 4-13 shooting. The Cavaliers bullied him around and did not allow him to settle and become comfortable. At home, he must perform like the unanimous MVP from a year ago. Kevin Durant is doing all he can averaging 34.3 points per game; however, he needs support if the Warriors are going to end the series in five. A Game 5 win would allow the team to celebrate on their home court and send Warrior fans home happy. The close out would also cement the Warriors place in the history books tying them with the 2000-01 Los Angeles Lakers for the best record in postseason history, 16-1.
Cleveland players should be playing pressure free. Just imagine LeBron collecting his 10th career Finals triple-double, which would add to his NBA Finals record, in another Game 5 victory on the road. Now the series would head back to Cleveland, with all the momentum in hand. Déjà vu from last year’s 3-1 collapse would begin to take effect. In Cleveland, fans will be exceptionally loud after Draymond Green said they “Don’t seem to be the sharpest people around.” Heading into Game 6, the team’s confidence would be through the roof with the crowd behind them.
As NBA fans, we deserve a seven game series. The regular season was a complete dud with players resting more than usual, causing controversy and off-court drama dominating the headlines. The playoffs were even worse with both teams bulldozing their way through weaker opponents like the Utah Jazz and Toronto Raptors (Sorry Drake).
The epic Warriors and Cavaliers trilogy ending in five games would feel lackluster. Similar to Hollywood, the third film of a trilogy is often considered the weakest of the three (ex: Back to the Future III and the Godfather Part III). Please do not let that be the case in the NBA.
The series ending on Monday would also hurt LeBron’s legacy. Critics will once again question his “greatness.” The loss would bring his NBA finals record to 3-5. The “Chosen One” will again be knocked down for not “doing enough” or being “outplayed on the grandest stage.” After the Game 3, former NBA player Paul Pierce said Kevin Durant had surpassed LeBron as the league’s best player. As great of a player Pierce was, he is out of his mind as an analyst. The problem with the media today is they view players under a microscope and zoom in on their careers instead of analyzing them as a whole. Yes, KD is a top 3 player in the league and will be remembered as a great player. Yes, a victory would award him his first championship ring and likely his first Finals MVP award. But to say he has passed LeBron because of his performance in the Finals is mind-boggling.
If James is able to push the series to six or even seven games, he will be credited a little more for pushing his team further than expected after losing the first three games of the Finals against an offensive juggernaut. Imagine for a second, if fans and the media believe LeBron and the Cavaliers could become the first team to overcome a 3-0 series deficit. Even if he comes close and still loses it will not matter. He will continue to be scrutinized.
The Battle at the Bay on Monday will either solidify the Warriors place in NBA history or continue to give the team headaches. If I’m the Warriors, I do not want to prolong the series and send it back to the Q for Game 6. Something LeBron and company would certainly love is to continue to raise the temperature just a few degrees at a time.
Stats and info courtesy of ESPN, Basketball Reference