No Draymond Green, no problem...for the Cavs that is. Led by Kyrie Irving and LeBron James, the road team came out of the Oracle Arena with an impressive Game 5 win, 112-97, cutting the series deficit, three games to two.
The Warriors were outgunned by the visitors as the former played without the versatile Green, who was serving a suspension for his Game 4 love-tap on LeBron's nuts. The handicap, however, is no reason to dismiss the Cavaliers' winning performance, especially the herculean efforts from King James and Uncle Drew. The two was a veritable Batman and Batman tandem. There were no sidekicks. The two superstars got 41 markers a piece—a first in NBA Finals history —as they combined for an extremely efficient 33 of 54 shooting clip.
It was sick. But the ridiculousness didn't end there. LeBron brought the aggression we've been waiting to see from him all series long and he looked indestructible. Not to be outdone, Kyrie only missed seven times out of 24 tries, as he buried the Dubs with a dagger basket after another in the second half. In reaching the 40-point mark on 70 percent shooting, Kyrie accomplished a feat only the mythical Wilt Chamberlain was able to do. You can pick up your jaws now.
But what other things went right for the Cavs? Let's take a look at the winning factors for them and what they might carry over to Game 6, going down this Friday (Manila time).
If not for the homecourt advantage, it would be foolish to think that the Warriors stood a chance against the Cavs with Draymond watching the game in a nearby bar. In losing their All Star forward, GSW easily lost their most well-rounded two-way player. It's no secret that Green is one of the Dub's chief playmakers and its toughest defender as well. Plus, he's probably the team's top rebounder. His suspension undoubtedly left a huge hole in the Warriors' makeup.
The credit goes to the Cavs for capitalizing on the opportunity in spectacular fashion, doing it by sustaining an aggressive rim assault and by figuring out the Warriors' offensive patterns. Upon Green's return, he'll surely face a dangerous Cavs team with renewed confidence.
Already outmanned inside given Green's one-game exile, seeing Andrew Bogut go down in the third quarter with what seemed to be a hyperextended left knee must've felt like taking a well-placed punch to the liver for the defending champs. With the towering Aussie sidelined, LeBron and Kyrie's eyes got bigger as they continued their offensive onslaught. Even old man Richard Jefferson took liberties scoring in the Bogut-less paint.
The way Andrew coiled up in pain in that period, it looks like he won't be suiting up for Friday's game. Now, we don't think the Warriors would miss Bogut as much as they did Draymond. But still, without the Dubs' starting center, the window of opportunity for the Cavs to force a Game 7 opens up a little wider.
Wearing the Splash Brothers down
The Splash Brothers started like a house on fire, hitting the target constantly as if they're ready to put the exclamation point on this series. But as the game unfolded, it became apparent that Cleveland wouldn't be discouraged by the impossible shots Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry were drilling. The Cavs stuck to chasing down the Three-Point Gods around 'til the game was decided. The persistence paid off as Thompson and Curry started throwing bricks in the final minutes. The Splash Brothers' ammo ran out and the city of Cleveland has their team's tenacious D to thank for it.
You bet that the Cavs will try even harder to defend Curry and Thompson in Game 6.
Keeping the bench in check
There were no heroes off the bench for the Warriors this time as the Cavs finally got it right. When Golden State's reserves came in, the defensive intensity of LeBron and company didn't waver. As a result, GSW's super subs were nowhere near as superb as they were in the first two games. In fact, they looked just as weak as the Cavaliers' non-starters. Amid the Cav's frenetic D, the Dubs were only able to wring out 15 measly points out of Shaun Livingston and friends.
It feels like we're inching closer and closer to that down-the-wire Finals game that we've been yearning for since the series-opener. Here’s to hoping that it'll finally happen in Game 6, this Friday.
Image via Thecomeback.com and Theundefeated.com