After spending the first three games wildly jacking up threes and mostly missing, the Golden State Warriors came back last night in Game 4 with a more comprehensive team approach that looked a little more like actual basketball, and the results spoke for themselves—a 103-82 win that tie up the NBA Finals 2-2 and regained homecourt advantage for the Warriors.
Steph Curry didn’t immediately come out and take over the game, which proved to be a good thing. Golden State got other players to step up. Draymond Green played his best game of the Finals, shooting 6-for-11 and scoring 17 points.
David Lee continued to give quality minutes off the bench in Green’s stead and Harrison Barnes chipped in 14. The boxscore tells you Shaun Livingston only had seven points, but watching the game, the impact of the reserve guard seemed much greater.
But no Golden State player has been better in these NBA Finals than Andre Iguodala.
Iguodala is the only Warrior defender who has come anywhere close to defending LeBron James. Iguodala ignited Golden State in Game 1, aggressively taking the ball to the hole and getting them going after a slow start.
Last night, he got in the starting lineup as head coach Steve Kerry sat down center Andrew Bogut and went with a smaller, faster lineup. Iguodala scored 22 points and hit some back-breaker shots when Cleveland was in striking distance in the fourth quarter.
Above all though, Iguodala is the only Golden State player who seems to be aware that this is the NBA Finals. His aggressiveness on both sides of the floor has lifted his team and if not for his presence, his team would surely be down 3-1 and might even be finished right now.
With Golden State moving the ball much better than the first three games—which is to say they were at least attempting more than one pass before launching a shot—Curry was able to lie in the weeds and then strike in the fourth quarter. With the Cavs closing to within three and the crowd at Quicken Loans Arena roaring, the MVP guard drilled a couple big threes. He finished with 22 points and shot an efficient 8-for-17.
Cleveland just looked out of it, and even though they scored the game’s first seven points, you could see the problems immediately. The patience they had shown offensively was gone. It was as though the Cavs had forgotten what put them in such a good position and they began to play the Warriors’ style of game.
It wasn’t likely to work under any circumstances, but with J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Matthew Dellavedova combining to go 3-for-22 from behind the arc, there was absolutely no shot. LeBron looked out of it much of the night as well. His 20 points came on 7-for-22 shooting and an already sluggish night surely turned worse after he took a nasty fall into a cameraman in the first half and ended up with a couple cuts on his head.
Cleveland’s no-show performance is understandable, given their series lead and how fatigued LeBron has to be from carrying this team. Dellavedova also began to cramp up, and we’re reminded that he had to go the hospital after Game 3 for dehydration. His pregame and halftime traditions of coffee drinking have gotten national attention, but as a fellow coffee addict drinker myself, I wonder why no one has called attention to the obvious linkage between caffeine and dehydration.
Saying the Cavs’ performance is understandable is one thing, but to win an NBA title you do have to rise above the understandable human inclination to back off. I don’t think it’s a big deal the Cavs lost a home game—my prediction of Cleveland in six presumed the teams would split the first four with each getting a game in the other’s building, but I do think it’s a big deal that they were run out of the building.
Close games have an element of luck in them (not entirely, as stathead-types would have us believe, but certainly it plays a role). You want to make sure you’re never blown out, since you might end dropping a game or two by a bad bounce or a bad call. The Cavs already have two of the three close games in their back pocket and crude math says the Warriors will get the next one.
But the Cavs will also benefit the most from the two days off between Games 5 & 6, and if they at least pick up one win, they’ll benefit the most from the two days off that would precede a potential Game 7. Both teams are playing with short rotations right now, but Cleveland’s injuries make their shallow bench the bigger issue and the burden on LeBron is not matched by any other player. Last night, he looked like a guy who just needs a rest.
Game 5 goes Sunday night from Oakland (8 PM ET, ABC).