I do not like to get caught up in statistics, because as someone once told me, statistics are like skimpy bikinis. They show some things but not everything. But there’s one undeniable fact in the NBA Finals: When the Warriors have shot the ball well, they have won.
In their Game 1 and 4 wins, the Warriors fared significantly better than the Cleveland Cavaliers from both 2- and 3-point range. In their Game 3 loss, the Warriors shot a lower overall percentage than the Cavaliers — 40 percent to 46 percent. Game 2 is the only contest that bucks the trend — the Warriors outshot their opponents by about 7 percentage points, but they also turned the ball over 18 times and lost the rebounding battle by 10. They also shot just 23 percent from 3-point land, while the Cavaliers shot 33 percent.
In James Naismith’s original rules of basketball, the 13th states that the side making the most points in the allotted time is declared the winner. Simple, isn’t it? More than anything, the game is about the ability to put the ball in the basket. Always was, always will be.
The double-teaming of LeBron James made all of the difference in the fourth game. He wasn’t able to operate as freely getting to the basket and had to settle for off-balance outside shots, which is what the Warriors need to be successful.
I believe Stephen Curry will be on his game today, as he seems to have adjusted to the physical nature of these Finals. He’s focusing on either taking better shots in the flow of the offense or facilitating for others.
To take advantage of the home court edge, the Warriors need to concentrate for as long as possible in each game, which is easier said than done. So far, they have won two games and yet not come close to playing even 40 minutes of their brand of basketball on both ends of the court. In Game 4, they barely played 24 minutes of focused, effective ball and won by 21 points. Fortunately, they did pay attention to defense except for brief periods on the backboard, which the Cavaliers controlled, resulting in four or five shots on a possession.
Let’s not lose sight of the fact that, in Game 4, the Dubs played smallball, and despite getting dominated on the offensive glass, they won the game handily. Steve Kerr’s decision to go small paid off. Will he go that route at home? If that is what it takes to play more up-tempo style, I say go for it because a fast pace suits the Warriors much better.
The outcome of Game 5 may largely be determined by players other than the two stars — Curry and James. How will Matthew Dellavedova play? Will Andre Iguodala step up big again? Can David Lee and Shaun Livingston continue to boost the up-tempo style of play? Can J.R. Smith regain his shooting touch?
Over the years, I have always told my sons to be ready when your number is called. You never know when someone will get hurt, or sick or have an off- night, or when your coach will decide to change strategies. Part of the responsibility of being a good teammate is preparation and attitude.
I like the Warriors chances in Game 5. They’ve responded to adversity in this series. They have not panicked. They have made the proper adjustments. They are returning to the best fans in the league. They will be ready.
Rick Barry played eight seasons for the Warriors and was the captain of their only Bay Area NBA championship team. In 1987, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. His commentary will appear exclusively in The San Francisco Examiner throughout the playoffs.