Last night’s game in Cleveland was a disappointing one for Cavaliers fans. And for LeBron James.
James seemed frustrated toward the end of the game, exchanging words with Curry near the scorer’s table as the teams went to the bench for a timeout. Shortly before, James also had words with Draymond Green after knocking him to the ground and stepping over him.
“I’m all cool with the competition…but some of the words that came out of his mouth were a little bit overboard,” James said. “Being a guy with pride, a guy with three kids and a family — some things just go overboard and that’s where it took it.”
If the Golden State Warriors are able to do what they did last night again at home in Game 5, it could be a depressingly short series. When the Warriors shoot 3s like they’re shooting layups, there’s just not much a team, even one as good as the Cavaliers, can do.
But you can’t fight a war of attrition with the Warriors without killing yourself first. Golden State made 17 3-pointers on 47.2 percent shooting from behind the arc, the most prolific single-game perimeter performance in NBA Finals history. You can’t out-hustle that.
If the Cavs somehow manage to do what no other team has done before and come back from being down 3-1 in a Finals series, the conversation about Finals MVP candidates will shift dramatically. That unlikely scenario aside, who are experts currently pointing to as this year’s Finals MVP?
Benjamin Hoffman thinks it could be Andre Iguodala, just like last year.
Going into what could be a decisive Game 5 on Monday, Iguodala will probably come off the bench, but with the game on the line he will surely be fearlessly standing between James and the hoop, a duty few have succeeded at to such a high degree.
Against the Cavaliers, the Warriors need him to limit James as best as he can. Despite giving up 2 inches and at least 35 pounds to James, Iguodala is having a dramatic impact on the superstar. In the 10.9 minutes a game that James plays with Iguodala on the bench, the Cavaliers have outscored the Warriors by an average of 7.8 points. In the 29.1 minutes a game that Iguodala and James are both on the court, the Warriors have outscored the Cavaliers by 12 points a game.
James hits 66.7 percent of his shots with Iguodala on the bench. When Iguodala is on the floor, James shoots 43.3 percent and his turnovers go up, his rebounding percentage goes down, he passes more and he shoots worse from virtually every spot on the floor.
Benjamin Morris makes the case for Shaun Livingston:
Granted, Livingston has averaged 10 points per game (compared to Curry’s 21.5), but he has done it on 16 of 25 shots, for an effective field goal percentage of 64 percent (the highest on the Warriors of anyone with over 20 shots).
More importantly, in his 89 minutes of play (Curry has 131), Livingston has also been an extremely effective defender, with his opponents’ effective shooting coming in at a team-low 28 percent.
Livingston has been involved in fewer plays than many of his teammates, but his per-play contribution has more than made up for that deficit. Using qSI (amount scored above/below expectation for each shot) for shots taken and defended, we can sum up the total number of points added by each player on each side of the ball:
For mainstream audiences, the clear choice might still be Steph Curry. But Kyle Neubeck doesn’t want an unwarranted belief in Curry’s underdog status to cloud our judgment:
Curry was a college sensation selected seventh in a draft that included two future All-NBA players in the top three, not some no-name kid lobbing threes in Juneau. He is an otherworldly force who also benefited from awesome inheritance as a child. He deserves major kudos for turning that gift into what we see today, but let’s stop acting as if he overcome so many enormous obstacles on his way to greatness.
The realities facing many would-be stars squash their dreams before they ever get off the ground. Curry’s personal hurdles certainly pale in comparison. That LeBron wasn’t derailed by one of those difficult upbringings is the backstory that deserves much more telling and appreciation. And if we can’t do that, the least we can do is hold him and Curry to similar standards.
Game 5 is on Monday. For entertainment’s sake, I hope the Cavaliers pull out a win on the road; I’d like to see the series go for seven games. If that happens, it could be any player recognized as the most valuable. Maybe even Richard Jefferson.