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NBA Finals Game 5 Preview: Get that monkey off our back

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Can the Warriors ride their 3-1 lead to an NBA championship?

NBA: Finals-Golden State Warriors at Cleveland Cavaliers Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Cavaliers vs Golden State Warriors Game 5 Preview

Where: Oracle Arena, Oakland, CA

When: Monday, June 12, 2017, 9:00 PM ET

Line: Cleveland Cavaliers (+9) at Golden State Warriors (-9); total: 231.5view all NBA lines

TV Broadcast: ABC

After a painful loss in Cleveland, the Warriors head back to the comfy home confines of Oracle arena with an eye on one last win needed to win it all. We’ve been here before (hell, you can’t open the internet without hearing about it!) but this Warriors team is different - will we get a different result this time around?

What happened in Cleveland, stays in Cleveland

Something changed in Cleveland. Whereas the first two games at Oracle were not at all close, in game 3, the Cavs put up an powerful performance that fell just short. That fall required a pretty insane three minute stretch to end the game, and that 11-0 run is the reason we aren’t heading back to Oracle with the series tied up.

The reason it’s 3-1 though, is the immediate concern.

Much like last year, the Warriors are having a serious issue with Lebron James and Kyrie Irving defensively. It’s not a problem unique to just us; this duo has been the Batman and Robin that punched their way through the hapless minions of the East.

Game 4 was yet another demonstration of their prowess: James messed around and got himself yet another triple double, his 19th playoff triple-double, and 3rd of 2017 postseason - (31 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists) - and Irving hung a 40 point game on what has been one of the best defenses in the NBA. Both of these guys are averaging over 40 minutes per contest, but the primary difference in Cleveland has been the role players, and the end result was one of the worst beatings in modern NBA history.

The Cavs’ 137 points in Game 4 set a franchise playoff record and was the highest single-game total in a Finals game since the L.A. Lakers beat Boston, 141-122, on June 4, 1987.

Kevin Love, in particular has been quietly impactful - He's leading the Cavs in steals and is tied with Lebron James in blocked shots (WHAT!?!?) and is one rebound short of tying Lebron in rebounds... In a series where Tristan Thompson has been largely absent prior to game 4, Love’s contributions may be changing the narrative in Cleveland. Generally, he’s been discounted as a member of the Cav’s “big three” but he has arguably been outplaying Irving in this series.

Do the Warriors need to adjust, or just play better?

I’m not going to talk about the refs in this article, but you should check out bball breakdown’s video if you are still interested in reviewing the calls.

I hope that we as a fan base can move on. As anyone with small children can attest, one of the biggest triggers is unfairness. “IT’S NOT FAIR!!!” they wail. And our response as grown-ups is generally “life isn’t fair.” Let’s try and embrace that.

One of the main adjustments that I think we need to see is reverting to putting the ball into Steph Curry’s hand. As we discussed earlier, one of the potential bonuses of Mike Brown coaching in Steve Kerr’s absence was his propensity for isolation plays and pick-and-rolls.

ESPN had a video that made me laugh:

“How did the Cavs hold Curry in check?”

“Ahh, they took away freedom of movement.”

In other words, they held the crap out of him off ball. Apparently these aren’t going to get called as fouls in the NBA finals and we need to figure out a way around this issue. 2-9 from deep, 4-13 overall for 14 points just isn’t going to cut it - especially if Klay Thompson’s shot isn’t falling either (4-11 for 13 points in game 4).

I’m not the basketball genius that Steve Kerr is, but I think perhaps he has a bit of a blind spot here. The pretty movement-based offense that we all hold so near to our hearts doesn’t work for Curry right now.

Just to spread some of the blame around - Draymond Green has been less than magical so far as well. Although he leads the team in rebounds, he’s not been particularly useful as a playmaker or scorer. In game 4, Green, Curry, and Thompson combined for 43 points on 14-of-40 shooting. Yuck.

And that’s just on offense. Defensively, the Warriors are barely holding their own against the Cavs. It starts with James, of course, who is averaging a triple double for the series, putting up nearly 32 points per game on a gaudy TS% of .625.

I’m not so worried about the Cavs replicating their unprecedented team shooting from game 4 (where they shot over 50% as a team from deep), but if we are struggling to score, slowing the Cavs offense down will be a prerequisite to victory.

Why it ends on Monday

We are still outscoring the Cavs by about 6 points per game in these Finals. Durant (34 points per game on a TS% of .662) has been arguably more unstoppable than James. Steph Curry is completely healthy, and Steve Kerr no longer has the option of giving Anderson Varejao any minutes.

Plus, the Warriors have seen where this can go. The impetus is on the Warriors to close the series out, but as Obi Wan told Anakin Skywalker, we have the high ground here.

Q: Kind of looks like deja vu all over again, you guys going back west down 3-1. Do you have these guys just where you want them?

James: No, they got us where they want us. Listen, at the end of the day, we want to just try to put [ourselves] in position to play another game, and we did that tonight and hopefully we can do it Monday night where we can come back here.

So our mindset is try to go up there and get one. Which is probably one of the toughest environments we have in this league, along with our building. And so we look forward to the challenge and the matchup.

Just like that scene though, you can sure as hell bet the Cavs are coming in and will attack us. It’s on the Warriors to leave them legless and flailing (goat screams in honor of the GOAT James).

Warriors in five! (please!!!)

Just to toot my own horn a little, we have called every series result correctly so far this year. This Warriors team swept through the initial rounds, but coming into this one, we called for Warriors in five (after winning both games at home and splitting in Cleveland). Here’s hoping the prediction holds...

This game should be the last one in the Finals, but it’s going to take a focused Warriors team playing together for 48 minutes to make it happen.