OAKLAND — Delay the parade. Temporarily, at least.
With Draymond Green across the concourse watching Game 5 from a luxury box in the Coliseum, Kyrie Irving and LeBron James were free to attack the Golden State defense, combining to score 82 points in 82 total minutes.
Irving put forth his best performance in what is essentially his first NBA Finals after missing last year’s with an injury. The shifty guard made 17 of 24 shots and abused the Warriors by making difficult attempt after difficult attempt down the stretch, clinching a 112-97 Game 5 victory and extending the Cleveland Cavaliers’ season for at least one more game.
“[Green] is their best defender, and I’ve said it all along that he is the best guy in the NBA as far as reading when to help, triple switches and kicking guys out of mismatches, knowing when to go, when not to go,” Cleveland head coach Tyronn Lue said. “He’s an underrated shot-blocker and he can guard one through five, so that definitely hurt their defense.”
Placing the blame on the Warriors for this loss would be a mistake as it was Irving and James’ outstanding performances that truly decided the game.
Irving scored 23 points in the second half, including a 10-point stretch in the middle of the fourth quarter.
James was booed from the first time he touched the ball in warmups. Many blamed him for Green’s suspension, saying James provoked Green by stepping over him and then breaking an unwritten code about revealing what was said on the court. (Green called him a “bitch” in Game 4.)
James responded to the scrutiny by submitting his best performance of the series. In addition to his 41 points, he grabbed 16 rebounds and doled out seven assists — all of which were game-highs. He also served as a rim protector, sending back three shots with emphasis.
“Over the course of this series, we’ve done a pretty good job of containing them and trying to force them into tough spots on the floor. Tonight they kind of overcame that,” Stephen Curry said.
Making matters worse for the Dubs, Andrew Bogut went down with a left knee sprain at the beginning of the third quarter and will get an MRI today.
The 73 Dubs’ gunners weren’t able to shoot their team out of the hole in the second half after connecting on 11 3-pointers in the first half — an NBA Finals record. In the second half, they shot 3-for-20 from deep. Their 36 points after halftime represents the fewest the Warriors have logged in any half this postseason, according to the team.
“You don’t want to force up bad shots, and there’s three or four shots now that I wish I could get back at pivotal times,” Klay Thompson said.
Despite the shorthanded disappointment, Golden State remains one win away from cementing its place as the best team in NBA history. Thompson admitted he wanted to win the Larry O’Brien trophy in front of the fans at Oracle, but the team still has a chance to repeat at Game 6 in Cleveland on Thursday — exactly one year from when they won the title last year.
“We’re in a good spot,” Kerr said. “We’re disappointed we didn’t win tonight, but, like I said, they outplayed us. They deserved to win. And we’ll go back to Cleveland and we’ll play a better game for sure.”