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Warriors vs Cavaliers 2016 NBA Finals Game 5 preview: Golden State aims to clinch title without Draymond Green

Tensions are high after LeBron James' act of disrespect in Game 4 enticed Draymond Green into a response that earned a suspension for Game 5. Klay Thompson didn't mince words in calling out LBJ's behavior, the Warriors handled the suspension as well as could be expected, and now Golden State will determine a strategy to close out the series at home without its All-Star, second team All-NBA, all around stud power forward.

LeBron let's Draymond know that he hurt his feelings.
LeBron let's Draymond know that he hurt his feelings.
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Golden State Warriors
Playoffs: 15-6 (11-1 HOME)
Cleveland Cavaliers
Playoffs: 13-5 (5-4 ROAD)
June 13, 2016
Oracle Arena, Oakland, CA
6:00pm PDT
Blog Buddy: Fear the Sword
Projected Starters
Stephen Curry G Kyrie Irving
Klay Thompson G J.R. Smith
Harrison Barnes F Richard Jefferson
Mystery Starter
F LeBron James
Andrew Bogut
C Tristan Thompson
Key Injuries
No injuries reported

LeBron's feelings (hurt)


A remarkable test as the Warriors seek to clinch a second consecutive title

After breaking the NBA record for wins in the regular season, Golden State has endured multiple injuries to the league's MVP, recovered after losing three of its first four games to Oklahoma City, and now attempts to clinch the title without the man who many would select as the Finals MVP, Draymond Green. Nobody expected the barrage of the challenges coming from all directions in these playoffs and the Warriors have handled them well throughout the organization. For all the haters and doubters out there, a gritty win for the Dubs tonight would be all the more vexing. And it would be a brilliant way to cap a remarkable season for the fans at Roaracle.

Things are getting testy

The press conferences held after the announcement of Draymond's suspension featured some statements indicative of the disdain that is brewing between the teams. Klay Thompson, to put it mildly, wasn't sympathetic toward LeBron James and his complaints of Draymond Green's trash talk during Game 4. This interview was very entertaining.

Stephen Curry later had this to say about trash talk:

Meanwhile, LeBron made every attempt to downplay his involvement in the series of events that led to Draymond's suspension. He tried to play it off as though he didn't know that Draymond Green was one point away from a suspension, which is absurd. James further noted that he thought his altercation with Draymond "was a little outside basketball."

LeBron went on to claim, while fake laughing in an awkward manner, that he was taking the "high road" in declining to respond to reports of Klay's comments about LeBron's feelings being hurt. Note to LeBron, if you explicitly state that you're taking the high road (especially while laughing at a question that you could simply answer with a "no"), you are not, in fact, taking the high road.

Taking into account the reports that the Cavaliers actively lobbied for the suspension, the Warriors are at the very least annoyed with their Finals opponent for pursuing action that will keep Draymond off of the court. Monte Poole reported via Twitter that "Nobody on record (is) saying it, but it's very clear (the) Warriors believe Draymond's suspension is a direct result of LeBron flexing his muscle." You can read his article on the matter here. Expect things to be chippy in Game 5.

How will Golden State adjust to Draymond's absence?

Not only do the Warriors have to find a replacement for him in the starting lineup, but they need to fill the 40 minutes that Draymond would normally play over the course of the game. Steve Kerr and several players spoke of a "next man up" approach, suggesting that the only change to the starting lineup would be to substitute someone for Draymond Green.

Likely candidates to replace Draymond include Andre Iguodala, Brandon Rush, and Shaun Livingston. Iguodala is best able to fill the defensive void, and of course he ended up being the Finals MVP last year after starting the last three games. Rush filled in well when Harrison Barnes was injured during the regular season and shoots well, but his defense isn't strong and it would force Barnes to shift to the power forward position and guard LeBron James. Barnes would also likely shift to the four if Livingston were to start the game to provide the extra ball handling that Draymond often provides. James Michael McAdoo is another option in a potential mock small ball death squad, as discussed by Nate Parham here.

Inserting Iguodala to the starting lineup would give the Warriors the strongest start, but Kerr seems to relish the ability to bring Iggy in halfway through the first quarter. The Dubs had success in starting Rush this season, but seeing Rush start the game would be almost as baffling as seeing Richard Jefferson start Finals games for the Cavaliers. I'd love to see Livingston get the start, slipping screens to get to the rim and posting up with that old man game of his. He's a veteran who can handle the moment and he's capable of defending well on switches.

As for the remainder of the game, Kerr suggested that he would use the entire bench to address Draymond's absence. Bogut has been ineffective, so expect to see more of Festus Ezeli, McAdoo, and good 'ol Anderson Varejao for a defensive presence and rebounding. McAdoo got to the right spots in his time in Game 4, but he couldn't handle Tristan Thompson on the boards in the same way that Festus can. I'd prefer to see Festus get more action in Game 5 than we have seen so far in the series.

Without Draymond to set screens on the pick and roll, let's see if the Warriors go back to having Klay Thompson set screens for Curry. Eric Apricot broke down this action in another fantastic Explain One Play here after Game 4. The Splash Brothers got open looks at three-point shots when Cleveland's defense failed to cover this offensive set effectively. We'll see if Tyronn Lue was able to craft a fix for that clear deficiency.

Other things to look for

Look for plenty of talking among the players. With all the emphasis on trash talk today, I would expect the Warriors to give it to LeBron and for the Cavs to talk back plenty. If either team takes a big lead into the fourth quarter, get the starters out of the game or watch for sparks to fly. What's the record for technical fouls in a Finals game?

Look for the Warriors to make a ton of substitutions to keep the starters fresh for the fourth quarter. It's nothing new for the Warriors make come-from-behind runs in the second half after teams like OKC and Cleveland play their stars for nearly all of the game. Kerr endures cold stretches while the backups struggle with the intention of putting a fresh Stephen Curry in the game against a gassed opponent in the final minutes.

Look for Roaracle to be rocking. Without Draymond, the Dubs will be relying on the crowd to bring the energy. Bring the noise, and bring the "Cryyyyyy-baby" chants for LeBron every time he steps to the free throw line.

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