2015 NBA Playoffs

Numbers preview: Spurs-Grizzlies


VIDEO: Spurs vs. Grizzlies: By The Numbers

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — The San Antonio Spurs had the best season in franchise history. They’ve made 39 trips to the playoffs in their 43 seasons in the NBA and they had never won more than 63 games before.

No team had ever won 67 games and not been the No. 1 overall seed in the league … until this year. The Spurs fell short of the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference by six games. As good as they were, they weren’t close to being the best.

The playoffs are a new season, but the Spurs are 4 1/2 weeks from seeing the Warriors again. And if the higher seeds win out in the first round, they’ve got a tough matchup in the conference semifinals. Before they get there, they have to take care of business against a depleted Grizzlies team that somehow held on to its playoff spot despite season-ending injuries to its two best players and a never-ending series of roster changes.

Here are some statistical notes to get you ready for the 2-7 series in the West, with links to let you dive in and explore more.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

San Antonio Spurs (67-15)

Pace: 95.7 (26)
OffRtg: 108.4 (3)
DefRtg: 96.6 (1)
NetRtg: +11.8 (1)

Regular season: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups
vs. Memphis: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups

20160414_sas_shooting

Spurs notes:

Memphis Grizzlies (42-40)

Pace: 95.7 (27)
OffRtg: 102.6 (22)
DefRtg: 105.4 (19)
NetRtg: -2.9 (22)

Regular season: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups
vs. San Antonio: Team stats | Player stats | Lineups

20160414_mem_shooting

Grizzlies notes:

The matchup

Season series: Spurs won, 4-0.
Nov. 21 – Spurs 92, Grizzlies 82
Dec. 3 – Spurs 103, Grizzlies 83
Mar. 25 – Spurs 110, Grizzlies 104
Mar. 28 – Spurs 101, Grizzlies 87

Pace: 92.2
SAS OffRtg: 110.7 (7th vs. MEM)
MEM OffRtg: 96.0 (16th vs. SAS)

Matchup notes:

Overtime: 24-second thoughts


VIDEO: All-Access: 2015 NBA Finals

What?  No Game 7?

Well, some of us still have some final thoughts on The Finals:

24 — Even in fantasyland, you’ve got to start things off with the National Anthem. How about ultimate fantasy from Bay Area — the Grateful Dead, circa April 1993.

23 — The Catch. The Drive. The Fumble. The Shot. The Decision. The Kneecap. Every major league city has its own share of heartbreak. Cleveland’s just seems larger than Lake Erie.  This one doesn’t belong on that list of hurt.  The Cavs battled proudly.

22 — The Warriors danced harmoniously and gorgeously from October to June with a roster that stayed virtually intact, and in some corners they are asked to apologize for this? As Woody Allen once said, “Eighty percent of life is showing up.”

And durability is a talent.

21 — Irony is that the only significant injury suffered by the Warriors all season, David Lee’s strained left hamstring in the final game of preseason, opened the door for Draymond Green and the championship lineup.

20 — Before Golden State gets pigeonholed into history as banner carriers for jump shots, don’t forget the Warriors had the No. 1 defense in the NBA all season. And were No. 1 in assists.

19 — The best reason ever why coach Steve Kerr didn’t rub the nose of 3-point-shooting critic Charles Barkley in the Warriors’ championship: “I mean, guy picked up every bar tab I ever was part of when I was at TNT. So he can say whatever he wants.”

18 — Is there just the smallest part of Kerr that would be tempted to drop the mic and walk off after one flawless season? How’s that for Zen, Phil Jackson?

17 — Will say it again: For a team that has players with size and strength in low post — LeBron James, Timofey Mozgov, Tristan Thompson — the Cavaliers don’t finish strong at the hoop nearly enough. That especially goes for LeBron. Stop going off the glass and make them foul you and pay the physical price.

16 — Hula Hoops, Pet Rocks, Sea Monkeys, Mood Rings, Cabbage Patch Kids, Matthew Dellavedova.

15 — Somebody will have to explain that Beats headphone TV ad that makes the relationship between Draymond Green and the media look so contentious. For one, nobody has ever asked Green why he acts so arrogant, because he doesn’t. For another, he’s the long-after-the-podium guy who loves to stand in front of his locker way past the final horn and chat. With anybody. It’s like Michele Roberts wrote the script.

14 — The nit-pickers say Stephen Curry still has something to prove since each round of the playoffs featured an opponent with an injured point guard — Jrue Holiday, Mike Conley, Patrick Beverley, Kyrie Irving. They don’t mention that he was also on the first team in history to beat every other member of the All-NBA First Team — LeBron, Anthony Davis, James Harden, Marc Gasol — on the way to the title.

13Is LeBron (2-4) on his way to becoming the 21st century version of Jerry West, who lost eight times in The Finals? One could do far worse than being on the same page of history as The Logo.

12 — “We ran out of talent.” James catches flak for this from some corners? A third quarter lineup by the Cavs in Game 6: J.R. Smith, Dellavedova, Iman Shumpert, Thompson, James Jones. If the NBA playoffs were the NCAA Tournament, they’d be a No. 16 seed playing Kentucky.

11 — If you thought the team that LeBron single-handedly dragged to The Finals and then was swept by the Spurs in 2007 was in deeper water over its head than these Cavs once Irving went down, face it, you’ll never be satisfied with anything he does.

10 — To think it all could have unraveled for the Warriors right at the beginning if Andre Iguodala, who started the first 758 games of his 10-year NBA career, didn’t buy into the program and Kerr’s plan to come off the bench. Unhappy? Yes. Unwilling? No. That’s the definition of a pro’s pro. And don’t forget no grousing from Andrew Bogut when he was benched in The Finals.

9 — So what happens if David Blatt gets that timeout in Chicago?

8 Iggy as Finals MVP? Yes, because it was his move into the starting lineup for Game 4 that began to turn the series around and made what Curry did possible.  And he was the one who made James work so hard and wore him out.

7 — LeBron as MVP? From this corner, to become the historic second player from a losing team to get the honor, James had to pull his bunch into a Game 7.

6 — If you want to follow one more member of the Twitterverse next season, for raw emotion and lots of fun, make it Draymond’s mama:

5 — “I’m the best player the world.” OK, it wasn’t modest. But truth is a defense. And LeBron was clearly just trying to instill confidence in a worn-down, flat-out spent band of merry men that he could somehow get them through Game 6.

4 — Plenty of people and reasons to feel good about in the glow of the Warriors’ championship. Few more than Shaun Livingston, eight years removed from the horrible knee injury that had at least one person at the hospital tell him that he might need his leg amputated.

3 — Two biggest roadblocks to a Warriors repeat: chip-on-his-shoulder Kevin Durant and scarily-fast improving Anthony Davis.

2 — Does Kevin Love stay in Cleveland? Only if winning matters to him.

1 — Same two, same time, next year. Everybody healthy.

Right & Wrong: Warriors win Game 6 and First Finals in 40 years

VIDEO: Andre Iguodala grabs an unlikely Finals MVP award

CLEVELAND — The Golden State Warriors wobbled, but in the end they wouldn’t fall down. After trailing 2-1 early in the NBA Finals, the Warriors went small and ran away with the series, rallying to take three in a row over the Cleveland Cavaliers, including a 105-97 win in Game 6. The Warriors followed the same recipe that led to wins in Games 4 and 5, going with a shorter lineup and trying to push the tempo throughout the night.

Here’s a look at what went right and wrong in Game 6.

Right: The substitution that perhaps saved the Warriors season came before Game 4, when Steve Kerr swapped out starting center Andrew Bogut in favor of small forward Andre Iguodala. Though Iguodala hadn’t started a game all season, he slid seamlessly into the front five, averaging 20.3 ppg in his three starts. Iguodala also did a terrific job pestering LeBron James on the defensive end. In Game 6, early on the Cavs seemed content to give Iguodala perimeter jumpers, and he stepped up to the challenge, finishing with 25 points and putting a lock on the NBA Finals MVP award. “My mind was working so many ways,” said Iguodala. “Like, what’s going to happen if you win? What’s going to happen if you lose? How do you approach the game starting? Do you come out firing? Do you let it just come to you? So for me, it was just playing my game. If you’re feeling it, shoot it. If you feel like you can make a play for somebody else, just make a play for somebody else.”

Wrong: I’m putting LeBron James in the “wrong” category only because he was on the losing team. Yes, he’s now 2-for-6 in the NBA Finals, but the truth is, LeBron didn’t really do much wrong this entire series. Even in Game 6, when he was clearly tired and struggling to knock down jumpers, James finished with a monster stat-line: 32 points, 18 rebounds and 9 assists. For the Finals, James averaged 45.8 minutes per game, and in that time averaged 35.8 ppg, 13.3 rpg and 8.8 apg. Considering the injuries afflicting the Cavs and the struggles of some of James’ teammates, it was about as impressive a performance in a losing effort as you’ll ever see.

Right: An often-overlooked part of the Warriors going to their small lineup and using Iguodala as a starter was 6-foot-7 Draymond Green logging time at center. There were times when Cleveland struggled to take advantage of a size advantage — like in Game 5 when they tried to match small lineups with the Warriors — but the Cavs went big in Game 6, playing the seven-footer Timofey Mozgov for 32 minutes. Despite being outsized, Green more than held his own in Game 6, finishing with 16 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists, the first triple-double by a Warrior in Finals history. Not a bad way at all to finish out his season, as the player overlooked coming into the NBA heads toward free agency this summer. “I won the National Player of the Year Award in college, consensus All-American,” Green said. “I made every, every single First Team All-American that you could possibly make, and I was a second round pick, and a lot of people said I could never play in this league: ‘Too slow, too small, can’t shoot well enough, can’t defend nobody. What does he do well? He doesn’t have a skill.’ I’ve got heart, and that’s what stands out.”

Wrong: In this close-out game, with possessions at a premium in the postseason, the Cavaliers just couldn’t take care of the ball. Even though the Cavs got to the free-throw line 39 times, they finished Game 6 with a whopping 19 turnovers, including 6 from James and 3 from Mozgov. While Cleveland was able to control the tempo early on — the score was tied at 8 after 6 minutes – they couldn’t capitalize on the deliberate pace, as they had 5 turnovers during that span, including a couple of 24-second violations.

Right: The other way the Warriors were able to successfully deviate from their “small” lineup was by using Festus Ezeli, who spent most of the season as a hard-playing reserve. In 11 minutes in Game 6, Ezeli scored 10 points, including a wicked put-back dunk with a few minutes to go in the third. Still just 25 years old, Ezeli looks to be a vibrant part of Golden State’s future.

Wrong: Let’s take a second and recognize that the Cavaliers were essentially transformed into the Cadavers in the NBA Finals, a wounded shell of the team that started the season, as they were missing Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and Anderson Varejao. Injuries are a part of sports, sure, but they’re also a “wrong” part of sports. “I’ve been watching basketball for a long time,” said James. “I’m an historian of the game. I don’t know any other team that’s gotten to The Finals without two All Stars. I cannot remember thinking of it. I don’t even know if it’s ever happened, for a team to lose two All Stars and still be able to make it to The Finals. Even what [Varejao] brings to our team as well, that’s another double double guy. We had three play-makers in suits this round and even throughout the playoffs. You’ve got to have all the play-makers. You’ve got to be healthy. You’ve got to be at full strength to win it. We weren’t.”

Game 6: 24-second thoughts

VIDEO: Warriors ball movement wore down the Cavaliers defense.

24 — No Hollywood or recording industry celebs for this one. At Game 6 desperation time, Cavs pulled out their big gun in 19-year-old Marlana VanHoose. Blind since birth, the native of Denver, Ky. was undefeated when she sang the national anthem at University of Kentucky women’s basketball games. Her version on Tuesday night was the stirring, emotional call-to-duty the Quicken Loans Arena crowd and the Cavs needed.

23LeBron James in pre-game huddle before tip: “Ain’t no tomorrow.” Personally, I would have channeled John Belushi: “Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?”

22 — Size matters. For all the talk about the Warriors taking control of the series with small ball, whether or not there’s a Game 7 depends on how long Cleveland can pound inside with bigs and control the pace. No secrets: Get the biggest guy on the floor (Timofey Mozgov) the ball in the paint.

21 — On a night when the Cavs’ margin for error has practically vanished, they start out with six turnovers in the first seven minutes. Cleveland running down too much of the clock to make decisions, get off a shot. Now third shot clock violation already. Cleveland G.M. David Griffin could probably make a trade to get LeBron James some help in time between shots by the Cavs.

20 — This is what desperation looks like. First quarter Warriors 11 assists on 11 baskets and Cavs nine turnovers with just six FGs. It seemed the one thing Cleveland could not afford to do was let Golden State play from ahead.

19 — Cavs coach David Blatt keeps asking for more effort when he should actually be asking for more players.

18 — Helluva time for LeBron to be worried about the feelings of his teammates. Time to be Terminator, not Facilitator.

17 — Does nobody believe in going up strong to the basket for Cavs? Not even LeBron.

16 — There is one reason why the Cavs are even still in this game: Mozgov’s defense. Exhibit A: block on Draymond Green in low post.

15 — You have to love the enthusiasm and fire of Green. But if he’s going to hang onto Mozgov’s neck, the big guy has every right to put an elbow into his face.

14 — He had 15 points, eight rebounds, three assists in the first half. But it sure looked like LeBron might as well have played the first half from a La-Z-Boy. Was he saving himself for the 24 minutes to save the season?

13 — While Warriors keep moving and moving the ball, Cavs killing themselves by trying to do too much individually. There is not a single Cav who should be permitted to dribble the ball more than once except LeBron. And he’s got to go all the way to the hole.

12 — After Cavs briefly take the lead, Golden State comes back to rip off 7-0 spurt and there’s blood in the water. Cavs are gonna need a bigger boat.

11 — Doesn’t matter if James Jones didn’t catch the ball perfectly on inbounds pass. If you’re gonna be at the rim and miss dunks, you’re heading for summer.

10 — The on-court screamer with the microphone at The Q is standing a midcoast virtually begging the hometown fans to stand up and scream. But it seems they know reality when it smacks them right in the face and Warriors up by a dozen.

9 — For all that he’s done, as brilliantly as he’s played, LeBron and his somewhat passive approach to tonight are costing him a shot at becoming joining Jerry West (1969) as the second player ever from the losing team named MVP of The Finals.

— You want one more reason for the Cavs to worry? Steph Curry goes to bench for a pre-4th quarter rest with Warriors holding 70-58 lead.

7 — End third quarter, Warriors lead 73-61 and one word to describe Cavs: Spent.

6 — Just in case you haven’t filled out your MVP ballot yet, here’s Steph to bang in back-to-back 3s. But Iggy ties him for leading scorer with 25 points, five assists, five rebounds, two steals and all of that splendid work on LeBron. Oh yeah, and Draymond Green has a triple-double (14-10-10)

— Share the ball, share the rewards. Warriors put on the crowning touch with the kind of move-the-ball passing game that had them setting pace in NBA since opening night — 28 assists on 37 buckets.

4Been a while.

June 16, 1975:

No. 1 single U.S. — Sister Golden Hair, America.

No. 1 TV show — All In The Family.

3 — Can you top this? Steve Kerr posts 83-20 (.801) overall record and becomes first rookie coach to win NBA championship since Pat Riley in 1982.

2 — Andre Iguodala becomes first player who never started a regular season game to be named Finals MVP. Curry and Iggy become first pair of championship teammates to split regular season and Finals MVP awards since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson in 1980.

Iguodala: “I want to be Steph Curry when I grow up.”

1 — Wire-to-wire thoroughbreds:

American Pharoah.

Stephen Curry.

1A — Last Western Conference NBA champion not from California or Texas: Seattle SuperSonics, 1979.

 

The Finals Stat: Game 6


VIDEO: Andre Iguodala post-game interview

Game 6 basics
GSW CLE
Pace 101.0 101.0
OffRtg 105.3 94.9
EFG% 51.2% 42.7%
OREB% 14.9% 33.3%
TO Ratio 9.0 18.6
FTA rate 0.341 0.476

CLEVELAND — The Golden State Warriors are NBA champions for the first time in 40 years. After going down 2-1 in The Finals, they came back to win three straight games (two of them on the road) to take the Larry O’Brien trophy back to Oakland.

One stat stood out from the rest in the Warriors’ 105-97 victory on Tuesday and their 4-2 series win.

The stat

62 – Points by which the Warriors outscored the Cavs with Andre Iguodala on the floor in the series.

The context

That was the best plus-minus in the series. Next best was Stephen Curry at plus-52. The Warriors were outscored by 19 points in Iguodala’s 76 minutes on the bench.

Iguodala started Games 1, 2 and 3 on that bench, which allowed LeBron James to go at Harrison Barnes early and often. But, though the Warriors several long and athletic defenders, it became clear that Iguodala was the most qualified to slow down the best player in the world.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr put Iguodala in the starting lineup in Game 3, a move that not only gave his team better spacing offensively, but maximized the time his best defender was in front of James. From then on, Iguodala was basically on the floor whenever James was, and the Cavs’ offense never got on track. James shot just 38 percent with Iguodala on the floor.

Iguodala contributed on the other end of the floor, too, averaging 16.3 points and 4.0 assists, while shooting 40 percent from 3-point range (9-for-14 in fourth quarters). His two highest scoring games of the season (98 total games) came in Game 4 (22 points) and Game 6 (25). He scored 15 or more points only 12 times all year, and four of those games were in The Finals.

And for his work on both ends of the floor, Iguodala was named Finals MVP.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
EFG% = (FGM + (0.5 * 3PM)) / FGA
OREB% = Percentage of available offensive rebounds obtained
TO Ratio = Turnovers per 100 possessions
FTA Rate = FTA / FGA

The Finals Live Blog Game 6

The champs, Golden State @warriors!

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CLEVELAND — Close-out time at The Finals always brings an extra dose of energy for all involved.

And for LeBron James, the Cleveland Cavaliers and this shell-shocked city desperate for a championship, desperation is the name of the game for Game 6 tonight at Quicken Loans Arena.

They have to play with a savage desperation that will interrupt the Golden State Warriors’ two-game run in this series or face the prospect of that title drought extending to yet another year.

That 2-1 lead the Cavaliers celebrated here last week seems so long ago now, with the momentum shift that came with the last two games. The Warriors righted things here in Game 4 and then pressed their advantage in Game 5 Sunday on their home floor.

Now we’ll find out if the best player in the world’s confidence is misplaced or right on target. He’s eyeing a return trip to Oakland for an epic Game 7 showdown. And for the sake of this beleaguered fan base and city (not to mention coach David Blatt), LeBron has to deliver.

Another triple double. Another 40-point game. Another performance for the ages. And a much better showing from his supporting cast. The Cavaliers need it all to keep this series alive. #AllInCLE indeed. All in for Game 6, or else …

 

And yes, that means you J.R. Smith?

As always, things revolve around LeBron for the Cavaliers. How long he keeps the ball on his touches correlates to the outcome of the game (over 6 seconds on his touches, the Cavs wins … 6 seconds or under, the Warriors win).

#6IsTheMagicNumberForGame6

With so much attention on LeBron and the Cavaliers right now, it feels like we are giving the Warriors short shrift as they are just four quarters away from capturing their first title in 40 years. Their rebound from the first three game of this series has been nothing short of remarkable.

It’s like we’ve forgotten that Stephen Curry, and not LeBron, is the reigning KIA MVP as we head into what could be the final night of the regular season.

That was Steph shredding the Cavaliers’ vaunted defense, led Cleveland cult hero Matthew Dellavedova, for 17 of his team-high 37 points in the fourth quarter of Game 5.

While some, including our very own Steve Aschburner, believe LeBron has already locked up MVP honors, win or lose this series, I happen to believe the victors deserve the spoils. Steph or Andre Iguodala have to be the frontrunners if the Warriors finish this thing off tonight or in Friday’s Game 7.

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Know your history!

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Another interesting pre-game read regarding young Mr. James …

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Good to know that LeBron is preoccupied with more important things than joining Jerry West as the only men to win Finals MVP on the losing side.

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Game 6 X-factors …

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Never Nervous Blatt

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Question of the night … Good J.R. or Bad J.R., who is it going to be?

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This guy’s got jokes!

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Reinforcements …

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Prediction time. Get yours in ASAP!

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Actually 82 might be needed to stave off elimination.

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Gold-toed shoes might do the trick.

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It’s cranked up in the Q right about now!

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LOL

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Marlana VanHoose did the anthem justice. Bravo!

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DWade and LeBron reunited one day?

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Hey, stick to your day job big fella and leave this stuff to me.

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Cavs rocking the home whites might mean something …

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It is hard to fathom how a player with a handle so wicked could be so careless at times.

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Scramble unit!

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Tas with the C-O-N-spiracy

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Coming up empty early and far too often

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Please Hammer, don’t hurt ’em! And pleased to see you made it all this way to see your Warriors.

MC Hammer in prime position to welcome the Warriors onto the floor for Game 6 here in Cleveland

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Miracles do happen!

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Keep saying it Sir! Preach on!

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Stick to what got you here.

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Andre 2015!

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Rough start for the Cavs. Just barely avoided the Warriors’ magic number #15isawaysthemagicnumber

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What Pip said …

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One of many, so far, but the turnovers are looming large …

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He’s already got three of them.

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Get off his lawn!

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That explains some of it, for sure.

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History in the making, win or lose.

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Things that make you go, hmmm?

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Running out of time on this Shawn Marion thing. And if it was going to happen, LeBron would have subbed Marion in already, right?

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He needs the rest.

Common foul on Shumpert for flooring Draymond Green.

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Cavs working the Warriors over with a 28-15 rebounding edge. But …

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What a relief.

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He is definitely here. He and David Lee are both on the bench.

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The team that controls the pace wins these games. Been that way for five straight.

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There  is wrong and then there is just plain damn wrong!

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Do the math.

Tristan Thompson with the monster tip jam to end the half. 45-43 Warriors in a tight one. Big man basketball lives and so do the Cavs, for at least another 24 minutes.

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Might be the last episode of the season … #justsayin

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You and your theorem …

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Numbers game

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What time is check out?

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At best, and not even that right now.

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Cavs have already lost one game trying to match the Warriors’ small-ball attack. Don’t do it again!

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Delly-Time appears to be over …

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This stuff could go on all night.

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Like I said, all night long …

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Oh Festus!

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Rabbit punch!

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Curtains! Oh and LeBron is 8-for-21 from the floor with 12 minutes and 47.1 seconds to play.

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A little harsh.

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Cavs in a 73-61 hole after three. And the fourth has not been kind to them in this series.

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Best player on the planet against the best team on the planet …

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Shade for the King?

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There is an I(guodala) in “team” this time.

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By any means necessary!

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Just sayin …

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A few extra steps never hurt.

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Steph being Steph!

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Anyone that doesn’t appreciate what Shaun Livingston is doing on this stage … SMH!

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He prefers Andre, but we all agree on this one.

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Riley Time!

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Extra pass … Splash!

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23 has a triple double again … no, not that one!

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No way around it. It’s his trophy tonight … if they hold on.

https://twitter.com/JarrodRudolph/status/611014102505365504

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Among other things … Mozgov ballin’ in The Finals, Delly, etc.

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Back to life, back to reality!

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This won’t stop. It just won’t.

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Don’t worry big fella, it’s a wrap!

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Great point. Team first!

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Never fails. Teams win titles.

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Dre Day! Gotta be …

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Good lesson for all involved. Nothing is guaranteed. Not even for LeBron.

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The King fatigued … and still no Shawn Marion, not even for the final 10.6 seconds.

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That’s it. Warriors win it. 105-97 and that puts a wrap on the 2014-15 season and the 2015 playoffs and The Finals!

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Heat fans will never forget …

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The @Warriors are the 2015 #NBAFinals Champions!

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The Drought is OVER!

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The #KiaMVP & now NBA champion @wardell30!

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#NBAFinals MVP @andre celebrates his first NBA title!

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Film Study: Warriors keep bringing the D


VIDEO: The Warriors talk about their Game 5 win

OAKLAND — Through the first five games of The Finals, the difference between wins and losses has been the Golden State Warriors’ offense. They have scored 114 points per 100 possessions in Games 1, 4 and 5, but just 95.3 in Games 2 and 3.

The constant has been their defense, having allowed the Cleveland Cavaliers to score just 99 points per 100 possessions in both their wins and their losses. Cleveland had the postseason’s No. 1 offense through the conference finals, but it has been shut down by the regular season’s No. 1 defense in this series.

Kyrie Irving‘s absence over the last four games has something to do with that. Through the first three rounds, the Cavs’ offense wasn’t much worse with Irving off the floor (108.2 points scored per 100 possessions) than it was with him on the floor (108.9). But the extra load that LeBron James has had to carry obviously has taken its toll. Over the five games, the Cavs’ offense has been at its best in the first quarter and at its worst in the fourth.

20150614_by_quarter

Still, the Warriors deserve plenty of credit for making James work for his 36.6 points per game and for keeping what’s left of his supporting cast in check. It’s not like we can ignore what they’ve done defensively over the last eight months and put all of the blame for the Cavs’ offensive struggles on their injuries.

After another strong defensive performance in Game 5 on Sunday (particularly in the second half), the Warriors are one win from their first NBA championship in 40 years. Here’s a few ways they got it done defensively in Game 5 … (more…)

The Finals Stat: Game 5


VIDEO: Stephen Curry talks post-game about the Warriors’ win.

Game 5 basics
CLE GSW
Pace 95.1 95.1
OffRtg 96.6 108.4
EFG% 46.9% 56.0%
OREB% 23.8% 28.9%
TO Ratio 14.9 17.7
FTA rate 0.259 0.453

OAKLAND — The Golden State Warriors are one win from their first championship in 40 years after outlasting the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5 of The Finals on Sunday. Stephen Curry caught fire, leading the way with 37 points. Andre Iguodala had another terrific, both-ends-of-the-floor performance and LeBron James put up more ridiculous numbers (40 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists) in a losing effort.

One stat stood out from the rest in the Warriors’ 104-91 victory.

The stat

12:31 – Total playing time for centers in Game 5.

The context

It was the small-ball game. Not only did the Warriors stick with their no-center starting lineup (Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green in the frontcourt), but the Cavs went small for most of the night as well.

Mozgov was replaced by J.R. Smith less than five minutes into the game and didn’t return until the final minute of the third quarter. The Cavs even went to a super-small lineup – with James playing point-center, surrounded by guards and small forwards – for a few minutes in the first quarter. That lineup was a plus-5.

Mozgov played just 9:19 total. Warriors back-up center Festus Ezeli played 3:12 in the second half (to match up with Mozgov). Andrew Bogut, who has started 83 games this season, did not play.

With extra floor spacing, it was the best offensive game of the series, with the teams combining to score 111 points per 100 possessions. Sixty-one 3-pointers were launched, with James, Curry and Klay Thompson hitting threes of 34, 26 and 29 feet in a 58-second sequence early in the fourth quarter.

“It’s more screen-and-roll heavy,” Curry said of the small-ball action. “That’s how we’ve been effective all year, because we have the versatility and the talent, all 1 through 5 on the floor, to be able to make those plays.”

The Cavs looked like they had that versatility at times, too. They hung around with the Warriors, taking a one-point lead that James’ 34-footer. But the Warriors are obviously the best small-ball team in the league, and they outlasted the Cavs, thanks to Curry’s 17-point fourth quarter. Golden State’s new starters were a plus-14 together in a little less than 21 minutes.

“I felt that the best chance for us to stay in the game and to have a chance to win,” Cavs coach David Blatt said, “was to play it the way we played it.”

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
EFG% = (FGM + (0.5 * 3PM)) / FGA
OREB% = Percentage of available offensive rebounds obtained
TO Ratio = Turnovers per 100 possessions
FTA Rate = FTA / FGA

Right & Wrong: Warriors take 3-2 Finals lead


VIDEO: Andre Iguodala makes a fancy pass to David Lee

HANG TIME BIG CITY — For most of the first four games of the 2015 NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors watched helplessly as the Cleveland Cavaliers threw an anchor around the series and slowed the tempo to a crawl. But in Game 5, the Warriors went small and stayed that way, and they made the pace seem like the fast forward button was stuck, as Golden State ran away for a 104-91 win. Now, in 48 hours, the series will shift to Cleveland, where the Warriors will have a chance to win their first NBA championship in four decades. Before we reach that point, here’s a look at what went right and wrong in Game 5.

Right: After four games in which he played well if not transcendent, Stephen Curry looked like the NBA’s MVP down the stretch during Game 5, finishing with 37 points on 7-of-13 from behind 3-point range. He started slow but built to a crescendo, scoring 17 in the fourth quarter to lead the Warriors to the win. Curry makes shots that most players get benched for even attempting, where he over dribbles, pump fakes multiple times, waits until a defender gets closer to him, and then still drains the shot. His game is unorthodox, but the results are valid. “I thought from the very beginning when they went small, had their shooters out there, I thought, ‘This is Steph’s night,'” said Golden State coach Steve Kerr. “‘This is going to be a big one for him because he has all that room.’ He took over the game down the stretch and was fantastic.”


VIDEO: Relive the best moments from Stephen Curry’s Game 5

Right: Only once in the history of the NBA has the NBA Finals MVP come from the team that lost the NBA Finals (Jerry West in The 1969 Finals, the first year of the award). If the Cavs lose these Finals, LeBron James should still become the second player to be acclaimed even in losing. LeBron James finished Game 5 with 40 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists, his second triple-double in five Finals games this postseason, even in a losing effort for the Cavs. No player in this series has meant as much to his team, night after night, play after play, as James has meant to the Cavaliers — even in a losing effort. Even if Golden State wins this series, LeBron James has been the most valuable player.

Wrong: It’s a weird NBA when you get benched for being too tall. And yet, that’s essentially what happened to Cleveland center Timofey Mozgov. In Game 4, Mozgov finished with 28 points and 10 boards against Golden State’s smaller lineups. But even though he started Game 5, Cleveland coach David Blatt benched Mozgov after five minutes and he didn’t see the court again until the second half. Mozgov finished with no points and no rebounds in nine minutes. Sometimes coaches make moves in reaction to what the other coach is doing. Sometimes coaches make moves and demand the opponent react. Mozgov getting benched seemed completely reactionary. “Listen, when you’re coaching a game, you’ve got to make decisions,” said Blatt. “I felt that the best chance for us to stay in the game and to have a chance to win was to play it the way that we played it. It’s no disrespect to anyone, certainly not to Timo who has done a great job for us. That’s just the way that we played it tonight, and Timo will be back and he will not lose his way or lose his head just because he didn’t play a lot tonight.”

Right: Draymond Green has been Golden State’s most versatile player this season, with the ability to defend multiple positions and attack multiple players offensively. While Green struggled early in The Finals, he’s continued to find his footing as the series has progressed. In Game 5 he was at his best yet, finishing with 16 points, nine rebounds and six assists. More importantly, Green pressed the action and made plays instead of watching them made, including a double foul early on involving Matthew Dellavedova and drawing a charge on J.R. Smith.


VIDEO: Draymond Green and Matthew Dellavedova get tangled up

Wrong: While this Cavs team is obviously ravaged by injury, when they’ve won games they’ve had to rely on contributions from supporting players like Dellavedova and Smith. But after Delly and Smith combined to go 2-for-17 from three in Game 4, they followed that up with another uneven effort in Game 5. While Smith started hot, with 14 points in the first half, he didn’t score in the second half. Meanwhile, in the first few games Dellavedova had proven his worth as a player who could contribute without always posting big scoring numbers. But in Game 5, Delly finished with five points and a -19 plus/minus rating. The man who was the toast of Ohio early on in the series seems to be coming back down to earth.

Right: Warriors coach Steve Kerr moved Andre Iguodala into the starting lineup in Game 4, and he responded with 22 points as he helped the Warriors win. Tonight in Game 5, Iguodala stuffed the stat sheet, finishing with 14 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and three steals. On defense, Iguodala guarded James throughout, making things as tough as one can make them against the most complete player in the League. “[Iguodala] does everything for us,” said Kerr. “He’s our best defender on LeBron. He’s an incredible decision maker. I mean, seven assists, no turnovers. He rebounds. He guards everybody. When he’s off LeBron, he goes on to a shooter and stays at home with the shooters and challenges shots. He’s a brilliant defensive player.”

Wrong: In every game of this series, the Cavs have been within striking distance heading into the fourth quarter, but haven’t been able to expand their lead. In Game 4, the Cavs were outscored 27-12 in the fourth quarter. In Game 5, the Warriors outscored the Cavs 31-24, leading to their win. No team ever likes to use fatigue as an excuse, but the cavaliers and clearly tiring, night after night, as the games reach the latter stages. But at this point, while squeezing every second of time out of an eight-man rotation, the Cavs don’t have many more options available.

Game 5: 24-second thoughts


VIDEO: LeBron James and Steph Curry get hot from behind the arc.

24 — Following memorable performances by Carlos Santana (Game 2) and Usher (Game 4), Metallica’s James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett, Bay Area natives, thrash the national anthem.. LeBron & Co. just glad it wasn’t For Whom the Bell Tolls.

23 — If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Warriors stick with Andre Iguodala and small ball in starting lineup. No lie, Steve Kerr.

22 — Five minutes, five turnovers, two points. Are the Cavs playing with a square basketball?

21 — Fish will fly. Birds will swim. Elephants will tap dance on the head of a pin. J.R. Smith bangs in first two 3-pointers of the game. The good J.R.

20 — Then he lays out Draymond Green like a tractor-trailer smashing through a whipped cream pie. Flagrant 1. The bad J.R.

19 — That “stop whining, start playing” lecture Draymond got from his mama and grandma produced a 10-point, two dunk start in the first nine minutes.

18 — Welcome to the 21st century. In “Small Ball Finals” LeBron James plays center and guards Shaun Livingston.

17 — Shades of 1980? Remember Game 6 when Magic Johnson stepped into Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s spot at center and delivered 42 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists in Lakers’ close-out win at Philly. LeBron in the middle and the Cavs have pace very much to their liking.

16 — As J.R. bangs home back-to-back 26-footers for his third and fourth treys in 10 minutes off the bench, just one sound big heard inside Oracle: “Uh-ooooooooooh!”

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14 — Pace and ball movement starting to tip the feel back in direction of the Warriors. They’re a thing of beauty when sharing and have assists on 15 of first 17 buckets.

13 — It’s one thing to be J.R. Smith, showing up for first time in five games to sling in a handful of jumpers to get attention and quite another to be the engine that is LeBron and have to pull the train. Near triple-double (20-8-8) already and he either scored or assisted on 15 consecutive Cleveland hoops from middle first quarter to halftime.

12 — Could that have been J.R.’s cousin who won Jamba Juice for everybody inside Oracle during last timeout? Guy missed first eight 3-pointers, then made last one.

11 — This is Steph Curry The Finals have been waiting on, “bouncy and fresh,” as he once described himself, like one of those little sheets you toss into your dryer.

10 — This “small ball” stuff is so much fun that Andrew Bogut and Timofey Mozgov probably just wish they were at a sports bar knocking back a few pitchers at sports bar while watching it.

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8 — According to most of the folks at Oracle, Matthew Dellavedova killed Arya Stark tonight on Game of Thrones.

7David Blatt rode LeBron hard in third before finally giving him a break with 1:58 left. With 24-12-9 already, how much more does James have left fourth quarter, down 73-67?

6 — LeBron’s running jumper 12 seconds in gives him more fourth quarter points than all of Game 4.

5Iman Shumpert’s corner 3 off pass from you-know-who gives LeBron his second triple-double of Finals (29-12-10). That’s James’ 6th career triple-double in Finals, trailing only Magic Johnson’s record of 8.

4 — Splish! Splash! Cavs take a bath, long about a Sunday night on back-to-back 3s by Curry and Klay Thompson. Worth the wait: Steph is finally Steph with 37 and 7 treys.

3 — Perhaps the only thing funnier than Curry’s so-called “mean-face” is watching serial free throw mauler Iguodala (2-for-11) try to run away from would-be foulers to avoid a trip back to the line.

2 — LeBron racks up first 40-point triple-double since Michael Jordan 30 years ago. Please, let’s not have anyone embarrass themselves by still questioning what he brings to the table and pointing out a 2-4 Finals record if this thing ends on Tuesday night. For the second time in Finals history, MVP could come from losing team.

1 — For directions to a championship, just make a right turn at Planet Iggy. Warriors coach Steve Kerr: “He’s been our best player in the series.”