With the suspension of Golden State’s Draymond Green, the NBA League Office threw the Cleveland Cavaliers a lifeline in the sea of their defeat after Game 4. Can the Cavs take hold of the lifeline? Can they pull themselves into a lifeboat and row back to Quicken Loans Arena only down 3-2? Why yes, yes they can, and here are a few ways they can get it done tonight in Game 5.
Go big. The referees are faced with their normal dilemma of how to officiate spectacular athletes who constantly collide with each other in a sport where most of the time, colliding with an opponent results in a foul. Let’s face it – there is no way to really officiate these games, because fouls are committed on every possession; however, no referee is going to call fouls on every possession. Fans want to see the players make plays, not hear the referees’ whistles. Take advantage of this scenario, Cleveland. Go big and punish the Warriors on the boards and on the court. Play Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov at the same time. Let them beat the daylights out of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson on pick-and-rolls. Without Draymond Green, the Warriors have lost some of their toughness in the paint, and Cleveland can magnify this weakness by going big.
Keep doing what you are doing on the offensive side of the court, Kyrie Irving. People can cry all they want about Kyrie not passing the ball, but did anyone see another player on the Cavs demand the ball in the fourth quarter in Game 4? Kyrie can get to and finish at the rim at will. Even if he misses, no Draymond Green should mean more rebounds for the Cavs. Attack!
Play better defense, Kyrie Irving. Irving will never make the All-NBA defensive team, but he can player better defense than he did the previous games at Oracle Arena. There’s this thing called effort…. Yeah, come on, Kyrie, it’s the NBA Finals.
LeBron James must score consecutive baskets when the matchup favors him. He must force shots over double-teams, because he is a superstar, and the NBA Finals showcase superstars. Remember the bit about how referees do not want to call fouls? Yes, this is true; however, there is a caveat to this rule, which is that no referee likes to call fouls unless the call rewards the aggressive play of a superstar. Lebron James can no longer let his basketball DNA take over, which almost always results in him passing to an open teammate – he must play selfishly and either score or get fouled. He has the skills (in spades) to do both.
Even in today’s NBA, size is tough to overcome. Cleveland can go big to achieve this advantage. The Cavs can also attack Golden State’s Achilles’ heel – point guards who can both finish at the rim and score from the outside as proven by Damian Lillard and Russell Westbrook. Perhaps, the biggest reason why Cleveland can win this game is that they have a superstar playing for his legacy, and he is their lifeline.