Kyrie Irving and LeBron James combined for 82 points in Monday evening’s Game 5 of the NBA Finals as the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Golden State Warriors 112-97. Golden State still holds a favorable 3-2 series lead as they travel back to Cleveland for Thursday’s Game 6, where the Cavaliers were perfect at home until the Warriors won Game 4 last week at Quicken Loans Arena.
Draymond Green had his personal foul on LeBron James at the end of Game 4 upgraded to a FFP1 -his
fourth total flagrant in the 2016 NBA playoffs – triggering an automatic one-game suspension (can’t exceed three flagrant fouls throughout duration of playoffs). Green is set to return for Game 6 on Thursday but his flagrant total doesn’t reset. As a matter of fact, any player with three or four flagrant points that commits a FFP1 receives another one-game suspension and a flagrant two is set for a two-game suspension, per league rules.
That being said, the Cavaliers took full advantage of Green’s absence as it put pressure on the Warrior’s perimeter players to play a more physical brand of basketball without their primary rim-protector. On top of that, Warriors starting center Andrew Bogut left Monday’s game with a left knee injury and his Game 6 status remains unclear as he has an MRI scheduled Tuesday.
The Game 5 box score was a sight to look at as LeBron, Kyrie and Klay Thompson put up spectacular numbers.
Kyrie Irving was sensational all night putting up 41 points and 6 assists while shooting 17-24 from the field including 5-7 from deep. Throughout the duration of the game, Irving found was channeling his inner Harlem Globetrotter on any opposing player of his picking as he razzle-dazzled defenders consistently. If there was any question of who has the best handles between Steph Curry and Kyrie Irving, it was certainly answered Monday night.
LeBron was blown away at Uncle Drew’s performance calling it “spectacular” as he joined the great Wilt Chamberlain as the only two players to score 40+ with at least 70 percent field goal percentage in NBA Finals history.
Kyrie Irving joined Wilt Chamberlain in the history books tonight. pic.twitter.com/bNkpzZPOPX
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 14, 2016
“That will go down in the all time greatest performances of Finals history by my point guard,” James said. “He was spectacular tonight.”
LeBron James also played phenomenal and it was the best version of LeBron James I have seen since his 2012 campaign with the Miami Heat. He was a man on a mission amid the media portraying him as soft and a punk for his comments on Draymond Green following the obviously smack to the you know whats.
King James responded with a heroic performance, one in which could actually have been his best since his return to Cleveland.
Before you roll your eyes, consider James’ defensive effort. He was simply brilliant as he consistently was putting his body in the paint and going up to contest every shot, bodying up players on the perimeter and chasing down blocks in transition.
LeBron played like his legacy was on the line.
He put up 41 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists, three steals and three blocks while shooting 16-30 including an efficient 4-8 from the perimeter. Those are historic numbers, numbers that aren’t even imaginable with the defensive effort that LeBron gave in Game 5.
The paint was left open with Green’s suspension and Bogut’s injury and that enabled Ty Lue to play LeBron at the center position at times. Kyrie Irving had his way running off of picks and squaring up for a mid-range jumper, something that he hasn’t had the luxury of thus far in the series with Green typically jumping off the picks.
If Andrew Bogut is out for the next two games, Golden State might be in more trouble than people tend to believe. Although he is not one of their foundational primary players or possibly even a secondary player, he brings depth and toughness. Bogut allows Draymond Green to rest, and rest without worrying that the opposing team is going to pound the ball in the paint for an easy bucket each minute he’s not on the floor. So if Bogut can’t go, that leaves who, James-Michael McAdoo, Anderson Varejao or Festus Ezeli? That’s a nice sight to see if you’re a Cleveland Cavalier, especially Kevin Love.
With Green coming back for Game 6 of the 2016 NBA Finals this Thursday night on ABC, the Cavaliers should focus on making Love their primary scorer off of the bench and giving LeBron and Kyrie some time to rest. Although, you wait until Green is off the floor to put in Love who can maximize his potential in the low post against a younger, smaller player in James-Michael McAdoo.
However, after missing Game 4, don’t expect Green to get too much rest as his fiery competitiveness and passion for the game will keep his tank on full. As Klay Thompson added in the post-game presser that Green was certainly missed but it’s no excuse.
“Draymond does a little bit of everything,” Thompson stated. “obviously his playmaking, his communication, and his heart and soul. It’s not an excuse, though.”
The Cavaliers should enjoy their Game 5 victory in Golden State against the Warriors as it was one of the best overall performances I’ve ever witnessed. However, the Cavaliers remain with their back against the walls with the series heading back to Cleveland. Lets not forget that this Golden State Warriors team set the record for most wins in regular season history (73) as well as most total wins in a season (88) if you factor both the regular season and playoffs.
They are a cocky, arrogant team that perhaps even deserves to be so, however they always seem to put up a great performance when the scope is zoomed in on them. It will take another exhausting yet magnificent performance from Kyrie and LeBron to win Game 6, but it will all be worth it to force a classic Game 7.
Credit all authors of images used in both article and as cover image : Matt Stevenson