NBA Finals 2017: Game 4 Recap & Game 5 Predictions
There's a lot that went right in this game. Realistically, more than could possibly go right in the next possible three games. Cleveland will not get that kind of home cooking referring again most likely. Conspiracy theories of a last ditch revenue grab from the league aside, because there were ridiculous calls on both sides and both sides were guilty of holding, grabbing, and overall rough defense, Cavs were definitely able to get off to a hot start thanks to three point shooting and ref calls. If Iman Shumpert doesn't get an Oscar after this, consider him robbed. Throw the whole cast an Emmy. Same could be said for a couple others on both sides. It was almost like it was mandatory to collapse to the ground after every shot.
But let's be real for one second. Cleveland shot the shit out of the three, Tristan finally looked like the reason they signed him to a high contract, and the Warrior's looked frazzled as in 2016 when the defense gets rough. Those were the keys to this game and they don't necessarily need to be replicated, nor does Cleveland need to break more records, for this series to all of a sudden become interesting.
If the Cavs want to stay in this, then they absolutely need Tristan to come to every game like this. The obnoxiously great thing about Tristan Thompson is that he has a high enough basketball I.Q. to know what he can do, and can't do. And he has exhibited this throughout his career. He sets screens & picks, he hustles on the boards, and he finishes around the paint. You don't ever see him try to shoot a three. You don't ever see him try to iso. You don't ever see him demand the ball. You didn't see that hustle in him during the first three games of this series though. If I watched the game film closer, maybe I could credit Golden State for taking him out of his game. Maybe it was that he didn't have the confidence going in, knowing the kind of juggernaut this team faces. All I know is that he came with that energy he's known for and helped the Cavs off to an early lead with his rebounding and passing. Him and Love on the boards needs to remain a thing to stay alive.
They need to continue to trap Curry. In this team of snipers, Curry is the focal point that allows for everything else outside of Durant. If he's left open, he'll drain it constantly. Hell, the game plan is to draw defenders away from him by having other three point threats out there. Continue to pressure Curry with double teams and physical defense, and watch the Warrior plays crumble. Fact is, that team needs Curry to produce in order to take pressure off everyone without the last name Durant.
They don't need to kill it with that sort of three point barrage every time, but they do need to remain a threat as they always are from the arc. This largely falls on Kyle Korver & J.R. Smith, with the stars having remained consistent from three. They started to get in rhythm in game 4. At the very least, they showed a pulse where previously they were largely comatose. Them hitting threes opens up the floor so much more for LeBron & Kyrie drives, which often result in kick outs for more three pointers. It's a self-fulfilling thang'. If both Korver & Smith begin to get hot from three, expect J.R. to eventually back down from the "hacked" story when it came to his game 7 tweet.
Let's take a moment to give Richard Jefferson some fucking credit. When Coach Lue gave R.J. the defensive assignment against Durant, it resulted in a 1-7 shooting for Durant against Jefferson in game 4. Not bad for a vet, but that makes sense at the same time. They don't need offense from him outside of the occasional three. Let Jefferson give his all against Durant so that LeBron, who had not faired well against Durant, can spend his energy defending a lesser offensive player so that he can go full blast on offense. Hell, in 2016 LeBron mostly guarded Draymond which proved to be effective. Basketball is a back and forth game - and you can only go full throttle so much. And considering you need 30+ from LeBron to remain competitive, it makes sense to not have him guarding the best scorer on the court.
Kyrie showed up as much in the beginning as he did in the clutch. Knee must be feeling better.
He is that legit elite scoring first option on offense that the Cavs need. No explanation needed here. If Kyrie continues to dominate against Klay, then expect this series to continue. Irving was missing shots in previous games that I felt like were going in. Again, if game 4 was a perfect storm than Kyrie just had an ideal game. If it was a sign of the Cavs beginning to click again, then expect more razzle-dazzle from the man.
What do the Warrior's need from one another though?
First and foremost, Curry need to have room to function. With the Cavs game plan apparently not allowing for that, Curry and the rest of the team need to stick to their guns and rely on their other playmakers Durant & Draymond. Warriors had excelled in the first two games of the series through their elite playmaking. They routinely had open looks due to their extra passes. If Curry isn't producing, then run more plays with Draymond passing out of the high post to shooters cutting around screens. With Curry being consistently frozen out, that is the only way you can expect a shooter like Klay to get going. Otherwise with Curry being shut down early on in the play, Klay doesn't have the easy open looks he profits off of with Curry drawing so much defensive attention mid offensive possession.
Speaking of Klay Thompson, expect the unexpected from him. What could really swing this series out of their favor is the emergence of Cleveland shooters and disappearing act of Klay. He's been hot and cold more often this season with the majority of his shots being deferred over to Durant. No point in trying to dig into psychological issues here, but he was the deciding factor in game 2, and definitely bolstered Golden State in game 3. If he doesn't show up again in game 5, then Cleveland has an honest chance.
Draymond won't blow it this game sans a blow out on the Cavs part. I actually expect a huge game from him; triple double consisting of something like 19/10/12/4/3. If game 5 doesn't pan out for Golden State, then expect him to remain in serious foul trouble the rest of the series with a likely tech outage in game 6. Regardless, Cleveland will continue to go hard at Draymond in hopes of eliminating his energy and/or using it against himself.
Let's see...what's left. Oh yeah, Durant. He was allowed to do what he wanted in game 4. Shit, he had the most free throws if I remember correctly and was essentially his normal self when not guarded by old ass Richard Jefferson. If the Warriors win today, then Kevin Durant is absolutely the F.M.V.P. His stats have been incredible, and he has looked like twice the player he normally is - which is out of this world impressive. He's had some killer instincts throughout these playoffs and has clearly been allowed to flourish in this Golden State system.
Game 5? I think the most obvious outcome is that the Warriors go back home and kill it. But if you peer into the details of game 4, it's entirely possible that we start to see some trends form that are in the favor of the Cavs. It's entirely possible that Klay continues to lay eggs despite his game 2 performance. It's entirely possible that Curry continues to crumble while being double teamed - it's not like it hasn't happened in previous seasons. Draymond may continue to get the best of himself. It's entirely possible that LeBron and Kyrie go off. Anything is possible. Curry and Klay can also both go off in an outrageous shooting fashion. This is why this series is so hard to predict despite it being largely slanted in Golden State's favor having been up 3-0, and now 3-1. No team has ever come back from such deficits. Then again, no one ever came back from the deficit of being down 3-1 until last season. Not that I expect lightning to strike twice, but if it did...LeBron is the greatest of all time. Steep odds, realistic conclusions...
...but possible endings aside, how fucking lit' was this play from King James? God damn. I went wild at work. Shades of Pablo fa' sho'. Fuck it, Cavs take game 5.