Monday night (Jun 13) marked Game 5 of the NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers. With a 3-1 lead of the Cavs, the Warriors had a chance to close out the series at home and become back-to-back champs — the first since LeBron did so after infamously taking his talents to South Beach.
Despite being on the road, the Cavs managed to pull out the victory and push the series back to Cleveland at 3-2. So what did we learn from tonight’s match up?
1Golden State Fans HATE LeBron James
Following the suspension of Draymond Green, it comes as no surprise that Warriors fans are no fans of the self-proclaimed King. But the hate was palpable in Oracle Arena Monday night. The stadium was filled with anti-James posters and signs, mocking his tantrums on the court.
And every time the star touched the ball, the arena was filled with loud boos to enforce their disdain. The tactic may have backfired, though, as James seemingly used that energy to push himself to a 41-point, 16-rebound night to help the Cavs steal Game 5 on the road.
One of the many LeBron signs here at Oracle. pic.twitter.com/lG4LaEHYE1
— Stefan Bondy (@SBondyNYDN) June 14, 2016
Maybe it’s best not to piss off the king?
2Klay Thompson Wants That MVP
The entire season has been about Steph Curry, with Klay Thompson playing the little brother role of the splash brothers duo. Monday night, however, and in this entire series, Klay has showed that he’s a force to be reckoned with as well. Despite coming up on the losing end of tonight’s game, Thompson finished with a team high 37 points, making 6-11 from downtown.
And while the regular season may have been the Steph Curry show, Thompson is making a strong case as to why he should be the Finals MVP. Averaging 19.6 points per game, Thompson is displaying the uncanny ability to put the team on his back when Steph is floundering. The first half of Monday night’s game was the perfect demonstration, with the offense running through the lesser known of the duo, scoring 27 points to Curry’s 12 to keep them in it.
Ultimately, Thompson’s effort tonight was not enough, but should the Warriors pull it out, he has a strong case for proving his bounce back abilities from last year’s disappointing performance and pulling out the MVP for the series.
3LeBron James Found his Jump Shot
No one can deny the athleticism of LeBron James, but his Achilles heel has always been his shooting. It’s tough to stop him in the paint, but when he’s knocking down jump shots, he’s nearly impossible to guard. And in Game 5, he found that shot.
James took advantage of the weak defense of the Warriors who continuously played off of him, daring him to shoot the shot. Up until tonight, that’s been a successful strategy, but James took note and corrected his errors in Game 5, knocking down shot after shot from long and mid range. He finished 16-30 with four 3-pointers.
If he can continue to knock down those shots, the Cavs have a chance of pulling out a historic upset as he proves to be the most difficult match-up in the league.
4What a Difference Kyrie Irving Makes
In last year’s prelude to the 2016 finals, Kyrie Irving was sidelined in Game 1 of the 2015 finals after suffering a knee injury. This left James to fight the Warriors without fellow superstars Irving and Kevin Love, who was tending to an injured shoulder. He put up a valiant effort, but ultimately, the Warriors proved to be too much. This year, however, he has his surrounding cast in tow, and boy, what a difference it’s making. While Love has largely been underwhelming, Kyrie Irving proved his importance tonight, finishing with a game-tying high 41 points and going 5-for-7 from the 3-point range.
The former Duke player, who has been plagued by injuries (having missed his entire short term career at Duke due to injuries), showed his worth tonight, demonstrating his explosive speed, impressive ball-handling, and finishing abilities to assist James in pushing the Cavs through in a must-win game on the road. James has shown he’s able to win with a surrounding cast in Miami, and if Irving continues to play the way he has, there’s hope yet that Cleveland will get their first championship in over 50 years.
5Apparently Draymond Green is More Important Than We Thought
With Draymond Green suspended for punching and kicking every opponent within reach in the nuts, the do-it-all forward’s importance to the Warriors success was apparent tonight. He’s had an impressive run in the finals series, proving to be a difficult guard on offense and stifling everyone on the Cavs team on defense.
Without Green, the Warriors were forced to play players who would normally be reserved for keeping the bench warm. Anderson Varejao, John Michael McAdoo, Festus Ezeli, and Marreese Speights combined for 38 minutes in game 5, managing to produce a mere 5 points. The problem was only compounded by the fact that big man Andrew Bogut went out early with a knee injury.
The Warriors will be happy to have Green back in Game 6 in Cleveland, as, apparently, he is the key to their success.
6Anderson Varejão is the Best Actor in the NBA
Anderson Varejão has never been a superstar. He won’t put your team on his back, and he’ll never be the poster boy of the franchise. He’s been a solid player who provides valuable minutes to rest the stars, and has a knack for drawing fouls. His secret? The man flops like no other.
At least half of his time out on the court Monday night was spent flailing around on the floor, grabbing his face, ear, arm, whatever he needed to in order to draw a foul. His acting chops were remarked upon by the announcers, with Charles Barkley claiming after one particularly impressive flop, “that’s Denzel-ish right there.”
Jeff Van Gundy, and Mark Jackson talking about Anderson Varejao’s acting ability pic.twitter.com/umpL4CfSuy
— ?arcusD (@_MarcusD_) June 14, 2016
Floping Level: Experto https://t.co/h5ghxYfcXz
— Universo Deportivo (@UniversoRD) June 14, 2016
Even Steve Javie, the in-house ref expert, remarked upon Varejao’s antics, calling one particular flop, “enough for an Oscar.” Whatever you say about the man, he manages to force opponents into foul trouble and earn trips to the free throw line. Now if only he could hit only some (he finished 3-8).
Fun fact about Varejao: he’s the only player to play on both Finals teams in the same season (he started the season with the Cavs and is now with the Warriors).
The series, now a 3-2, goes back to Cleveland with the Cavs having a chance to force a Game 7. No team has ever come back from 3-1 in the NBA Finals, earning a meager record of 0-32. But should they pull out a victory at home on Thursday, they stand a chance at making history.
When it comes to a Game 7, anything is possible.