After the Cleveland Cavaliers 103-82 loss to the Golden State Warriors in Game 4 on Thursday, it’s easy to wonder how much gas the team has in its tank for the rest of the series. The signs are there for this Cleveland Cavaliers team to give up.
LeBron James is dealing with cramps, a bloody head and an injured back. Matthew Dellavadova’s dehydrated. J.R. Smith has been a disaster on the defensive end and had his worst offensive performance of the series in game four shooting 2-12 from the field and 0-8 from three for four points.
Now the Cavs head to Oakland for Game 5, and people are clamoring for 37-year old Shawn Marion to come off the bench and save the day. Cleveland’s played seven players during this Finals, heavily reliant offensively on LeBron James being a brute in the post and making plays with Tristan Thompson destroying the offensive glass.
But how long can that hold up during a long series against a team as deep as the Warriors? The pace has favored the Cavaliers, but the Warriors have the depth to make adjustments, which is exactly what the Cavs lack right now. By shortening the bench, the Cavs have limited the possible adjustments they can make. What else can Cleveland do?
The engine of this motor has been LeBron James, and as long as Cleveland has him full-bore the Cavs have a chance in this series. The spurts where James does take a breather are the most crucial of this game. If J.R. Smith can get hot and bury one or two contested long-range three’s were accustomed to him making, Cleveland can survive those precious possessions.
The Cavaliers have had everyone step up in moments of this series. James Jones has been Cleveland’s wildcard, shooting 4-of-6 from three in games two and three, but not scoring in losses in games one and four. Dellavodova had 20 points and four assists in game three. Timofey Mozgov had 28 points and 10 rebounds in game four. Iman Shumpert had been stellar defensively, with 10 steals in the first three games of the series but none in game four.
The Cavs role players will have to dig deeper to win this series. Shumpert has to make Stephen Curry work on defense, Dellavadova has to hit open shots and J.R. Smith needs to be more attentive on defense and make individual plays on offense. Mozgov has been one of Cleveland’s most consistent players, averaging 16.8 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game, which will have to continue with Draymond Green starting at center for the Warriors.
It’s going to be difficult for the Cavaliers to pull off this feat, especially with the Warriors having two out of the final three games in the Oracle Arena. It’s going to take another 30+ point triple-double for LeBron for the Cavs to pull this off, but who knows, maybe The King can make a miracle happen.
And, if the Cavs were to lose Game 5, don’t quite count them out. LeBron’s been through this before. In 2012, when LeBron James and the Heat were down 3-2 heading to Boston in the Eastern Conference semifinals, James and the Heat were able to win the final two games to secure their spot against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Finals, where they would go on to win it all.
Only this time the magnitude would be even greater, it’d be for the right to call the city of Cleveland a champion for the first time since the Cleveland Indians won the World Series 67 years ago.