Posts Tagged ‘Golden State Warriors’

Morning shootaround — June 17


VIDEO: Top 5 plays from Game 6 of The Finals

NEWS OF THE MORNING

LeBron, Cavs face bevvy of decisions| Report: Butler to pursue short-term deals | Report: Gordon likely staying with Pelicans | Nowitzki ‘guessing’ Ellis opts out

No. 1: What’s next for LeBron, Cavs? — The Cleveland Cavaliers put up a mostly valiant fight in The NBA Finals, but ultimately were short on firepower and succumbed to the Golden State Warriors in Game 6 to lose the series. LeBron James was great all series and was arguably the MVP of these Finals, too, but that’s all over for now. James and the Cavs must ponder the offseason and some choices lie in wait for LeBron himself, writes Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com:

James’ foreseeable future is in Cleveland. With the ability to opt out of the two-year deal he signed with the Cavaliers last offseason, James must now decide just how much he wants to influence the Cavs as they enter a summer full of uncertainty and potentially massive spending.

The Cavs prefer he give a lot of input. In past similar situations, James has skewed toward passive-aggressiveness from the shadows. Taking such a position now would only add to the anxiety the franchise is sure to feel.

As if the Golden State Warriors’ championship celebration on the Cavs’ floor Tuesday night wasn’t bad enough, the Cavs’ immediate future is troublesome: James, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith and Matthew Dellavedova could all be free agents by July 1.

James, Love and Smith have player options for next season and all are expected to decline them. Thompson, Shumpert and Dellavedova are expected to receive qualifying offers from the Cavs and they will become restricted free agents, giving the team the right to match any offer they receive. And the extensions Kyrie Irving (five years, $90 million) and Anderson Varejao (two years, $20.3 million) signed last year are also set to kick in.

Internally, the Cavs have discussed their payroll needing to balloon to between $100 million and $110 million for next season, according to sources.

When James does re-sign with the Cavs this summer, it’s probable it will be to another one-year contract plus a player option. Even if this route makes financial sense for James with the salary cap expected to surge following the 2016-17 season, it will keep the Cavs uncomfortable going forward.

But that’s the point: He doesn’t want his organization to be comfortable.

Welcome to the modern NBA, where James doesn’t just control every facet of the game, he controls every facet of the organization.


VIDEO: LeBron James talks after the Cavs’ Game 6 defeat

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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.”

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

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.

Rough nights, different reasons, for centers Mozgov, Bogut in Game 4

It was hard to know which of the two starting centers in the 2015 Finals, Golden State’s Andrew Bogut or Cleveland’s Timofey Mozgov, had a rougher night Thursday in Game 4 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

Bogut certainly qualified because he wound up as the Warriors’ not-starting center when coach Steve Kerr opted to “go small” to put more spacing and pace in his team’s offense. Bogut, the veteran 7-footer who had been touted all season as an indispensable defender in the paint and a gifted passer and screener in Golden State’s attack, wound up playing in his team’s 103-82 victory for just 2:46.

Even Kendrick Perkins, the Cavaliers’ deep-reserve big, played more than that Thursday.

This came on the heels of a Game 3 performance in which Bogut played only 17:07. His time has diminished with each game and he’s chipping in only 2.5 points and 6.0 rebounds per game after averaging 6.3 ppg, 8.1 rpg and 23.6 mpg in the regular season. Bogut had called himself out, in fact, prior to Game 4 for not doing enough to help.

“I need to play better,” Bogut had said. “There is no excuse for it. To say you’re tired, injuries, Finals, minutes, there’s no excuse for it. Just be aggressive and hopefully have a good game.”

Adding insult to inactivity. Bogut took heat from some precincts for his post-Game 4 comments stating that LeBron James jumped into the baseline cameraman on the play in which the Cavs star suffered a gash on his head. The Australian center fouled James under the basket and his sprawl into the area behind the basket where photographers sit drove his head right into an NBA Entertainment camera lens.

“Yeah, I think he came down and took two steps and then fell into the cameraman,” Bogut said. “I definitely, definitely didn’t hit him that hard.”

Ordinarily Mozgov might figure to be the reason for Bogut’s struggles. The 7-foot-1 Russian had gotten the better of their clashes early in the series. But with Bogut yielding to Andre Iguodala in Kerr’s reconfigured lineup, Mozgov had a career night – 28 points, 10 rebounds.

Mozgov couldn’t fully enjoy it, though, beyond the Cleveland defeat. He felt his points were due, at least in part, to Bogut’s absence and a sense that the Warriors were conceding some things to him and Tristan Thompson to better hold down James and others. Also, Mozgov got visibily frustrated having to defend, or chase anyway, Iguodala and other wing far from his comfort zone.

“I always want to stay in the paint and protect the paint,” Mozgov said. “They tried the stretch defense, whatever they’re doing. We’ve got three more games and we all have to learn something from this game.”

Said James: “When your big is accustomed to guarding a big for three straight games and there is a change, now our big, meaning Timo, has to make a change. He has to guard a smaller guy, which he’s not been accustomed to ever.”

Narratives, depth and shots that go in


VIDEO: The Warriors’ offense comes alive in Game 4

CLEVELAND — The 2015 Finals just may be a series of attrition.

The Golden State Warriors are the deeper team here, especially with the Cleveland Cavaliers losing three opening-night starters to season-ending injuries. And Game 4 may have been the point where that depth really showed up.

There were a few other narratives coming out of the Warriors’ 103-82 victory. But they don’t hold much water.

Narrative No. 1: Steve Kerr’s lineup change got the Warriors back on track

The reality?: There may have been some intangible benefits to the change, but the new starting lineup was outscored by the Cavs, 36-35, in its 14-plus minutes in Game 4. Golden State played its best with at least one reserve on the floor.

Narrative No. 2: The Warriors moved the ball more (thanks to the lineup change)

The reality?: While the Warriors have been markedly better in the series when they pass the ball three or more times on a possession (see below), they averaged fewer passes per possession in Game 4 (2.86) than they did in their loss in Game 3 (2.92). They passed the ball three times or more on only 51 percent of their possessions, down from 57 percent on Tuesday.

20150612_gsw_passes

Furthermore, their two biggest baskets were unassisted Stephen Curry step-back threes — one over Matthew Dellavedova to put them on the board after an 0-7 start and another over Tristan Thompson that put them up six at the end of the third quarter after the Cavs had pulled to within one possession with a 20-10 run. He hit a third over James Jones as the Warriors put ’em away in the fourth.

Also, in 102 regular-season minutes, the new starting lineup assisted on only 50 percent of its buckets, a rate well-below the Warriors’ overall rate of 66 percent (which ranked second in the league). And in the playoffs, the Warriors’ assist rate has been highest (66.5 percent) when Andrew Bogut (among rotation regulars) has been on the floor. Replaced in the starting lineup by Andre Iguodala on Thursday, Bogut played less than three minutes.

So, while a smaller lineup can provide more floor spacing, it doesn’t necessarily result in more ball movement.

Narrative No. 3: The Warriors picked up the pace

The reality?: Not really. They had the ball just 90 times, the same number of times they had it in Game 3 and one fewer than they had it in Game 2 (through regulation). And the fastest-paced quarter on Thursday (the third) was the quarter that the Cavs won.

The Warriors averaged 11 shots in the first six seconds of the shot clock through the first three games. In Game 4, they took 12 shots in the first six seconds of the shot clock.

Narrative No. 4: The Warriors forced the ball out of LeBron James’ hands

The reality?: James did take just 22 shots, after averaging 36 through the first three games. But the Warriors weren’t demonstrably more aggressive in defending him.

Kerr: “I think we were just more active. It wasn’t a strategic change.”

Cavs coach David Blatt: “They didn’t play him significantly different. I think we were a little bit slower into our sets, and I think we didn’t always get him the ball in great spots. And that made it a little bit more arduous for him to get into position to score the ball.” (more…)

Morning shootaround — June 12


VIDEO: The top 5 plays from Game 4 of The Finals

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Iguodala saves Warriors in Game 4 | Report: Hoiberg pursuing Spurs’ Boylen | Anthony ahead of schedule on rehabReport: Sixers meeting with Saric’s team

No. 1: Warriors wake up thanks to Iguodala — Heading into Thursday night’s Game 4 of The Finals, the Golden State Warriors had played 95 games. In every one of those, small forward Andre Iguodala did not start. But staring down a 2-1 series deficit, Golden State coach Steve Kerr decided to switch that up and gave Iguodala the nod. It paid off swimmingly for player, team and coach as Iguodala had 22 points and eight rebounds and the Warriors won 103-82. Our Shaun Powell was on the scene and details how ‘Iggy’ made this series pop again:

The return of The Team That Won 67 Games was quite a sock, if not a shock, to the system of LeBron James and the Cavaliers. It was combustible and complete what the Warriors did Thursday in Game 4, hitting shots and throwing booby traps and doing everything possible to avoid the dreaded 3-1 deficit and also seize momentum in a series that returns to Oakland.

And so the scenes to take away from a 21-point Warriors Game 4 shellacking of Cleveland is this: LeBron bleeding and wheezing from the challenge of carrying a team, and Andre Iguodala welcoming it.

Iguodala scored 22 points with eight rebounds and was the first line in a trapping Warriors defense that finally reduced LeBron’s shots, points and impact. It was the first blowout result of a series that, until Game 4, had a pair of overtime games and another game decided by two points. It was a thorough performance by the best and most consistent Warriors player in this series, and once again Iggy displayed his high value to the Warriors on both ends of the court. Of course, coach Steve Kerr’s decision to bench the sloth-like center Andrew Bogut for Iggy will be described as an Auerbachian move, except Iggy’s minutes were virtually identical as the previous three games, and Bogut was so ineffective to this point anyway that Kerr didn’t really have a choice.

The difference-maker for the Warriors, once again, was Iguodala, the only player immune from the NBA Finals fog that swallowed up most of his teammates. Not only is Iguodala taking up scoring slack with the inconsistency shown by Curry and Klay Thompson, but he also has the grinding task of checking LeBron. And while LeBron has had big scoring games, he hasn’t shot the ball exceptionally well (50-for-129 in the series) and Iguodala had a key stop of LeBron in the closing minutes of regulation in the Game 1 win.

“He’s one of the X-factors and he came to play,” said LeBron. “He was in attack. He was very, very good for them.”

The Warriors signed Iguodala three years ago for this very reason, to be a unifying force on a developing team and serve as an example of how to defend, which then was Golden State’s only weakness. Since he arrived the defense gradually improved.

Iguodala isn’t the same player now as he was then; his numbers have decreased with age, although Kerr never lost faith in him. Iguodala went to the bench mainly because Kerr wanted to feed the confidence of Harrison Barnes, not because Iguodala was suddenly a slug.

“I mean, he’s our most experienced player and he’s one of the smartest players I’ve ever been around,” said Kerr, a member of championship teams in Chicago and San Antonio. “He sees the game. He’s got a great basketball mind.”

When Iguodala took the new role in stride at the start of the season, his teammates took notice. It’s not often when a proven player buys into the idea of being replaced in the lineup by an understudy. Some players rebel. Iguodala adapted, as did David Lee when he took a seat for Green, which allowed Green to have a career year.

And guess what? Bogut fell in line when he took a seat in Game 4. It’s now contagious.


VIDEO: Relive the best moments from Andre Iguodala’s big Game 4

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Right & Wrong: Warriors even Finals in impressive fashion


VIDEO: The Hang Time crew report on an impressive Warriors win in Game 4

CLEVELAND — Trailing 2-1 in the NBA Finals, it was natural to expect Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr to make some sort of adjustment heading into Game 4. He did, alright, deploying a handful of moves that tipped Game 4 into Golden State’s tempo, helping them defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers, 103-82, evening the series at 2-2.

Here’s a look at what went right and wrong in Game 4…

Right: After allowing Cleveland to dictate pace and progress for the majority of Games 1 through 3, in Game 4 the Warriors shook things up by benching center Andrew Bogut and instead starting forward Andre Iguodala for the first time all season. Considering the Cavs had been dominant on the boards, going small had potential to work against the Warriors. Although Cleveland got off to a 7-0 start, The Warriors quickly bounced back and closed the quarter by outscoring the Cavs, 31-17. Kerr also had the Warriors double-team LeBron James more often, and inserted David Lee into the rotation, all moves that helped the Warriors regain the tempo and swagger they played with throughout the season.

“We controlled the tempo and the rhythm of the game,” said Steve Kerr. “But that, I think, had more to do with us competing and getting to long rebounds and loose balls. I thought the first three games they were the more competitive team. Maybe it’s our first trip to The Finals, we thought we can play hard. It’s not just about playing hard. It’s about playing every single possession like it’s your last. And I thought tonight our effort took a step up and that’s why we were able to win.”

Wrong: With the Warriors focused on making LeBron give up the ball, James finished with 20 points, 12 rebounds and 8 assists. That’s a terrific line to be certain, but James’s lowest scoring total of the Finals. While James is happy to play the role of facilitator, his teammates weren’t able to do their part, combining for just 22 made field goals. Although he scored 20 points in Game 3, Matthew Dellavedova finished Game 4 with 10 points on 3-for-14 shooting with 3 turnovers. After arriving for Game 4 on a hands-free scooter, J.R. Smith went 0-for-8 on 3-pointers. He also left on that scooter. “I think also the fact that we didn’t make shots tonight from outside, that really had an impact on [LeBron’s] ability to find seams and to score the ball,” said Cleveland coach David Blatt. “Because there is a dynamic to that. When you’re constantly, constantly on the defensive end, it’s just like in football with possession time. When your defense is on the field all the time, you know you’re in trouble.”


VIDEO: The Cavs shot an abysmal 4-for-27 on 3-pointers in Game 4

Right: Before this season, Andre Iguodala had started every game of his NBA career. This season, he didn’t start a single game. So when Steve Kerr moved Iggy into the starting five on Thursday, it was nothing new. Iguodala reacted as such, finishing with a team-leading 22 points in 39 minutes, and contributing 8 boards and tough defense against LeBron James. The front line of Iguodala, Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green gives up size to the Cavs, but also provides the Warriors with a versatility and ability to stretch the floor they don’t have when Bogut is in the game.

Wrong: It’s no surprise to note that the Cavaliers’ depth is being tested right now — with Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and Anderson Varejao all out injured, the Cavs’ roster was sure to be tested. But the Cavs aren’t able to get anything of value out of Mike Miller, Kendrick Perkins, Joe Harris, Brendan Haywood or Shawn Marion. It’s nice to have veteran leadership and locker room presence, but it would probably be nicer right now for Cleveland to get some minutes out of these guys. The Cavs were reduced to using a 7-man rotation for the majority of the game, including 18 minutes from James Jones, a 3-point specialist who only shot one trey. Against the newly revitalized Golden State offense, the Cavs looked increasingly slow and worn down. And there are no options remaining to be played for coach David Blatt from the bench for the Cavs.

Right: Through injury and necessity, the Cavaliers have discovered a nice two-man team in the post in Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov. And in Game 4, Mozgov had his most effective game of The Finals, finishing with 28 points and 10 boards. Golden State went small, and the 28-year-old seven-footer made them pay, repeatedly backing the ball in and finding easy buckets, and also displaying a nice sense of timing within the offense and understand when to flash to the rim. The Cavs had to give up two first-round picks to get Mozgov, a haul that seemed questionable at the time. If he keeps playing like this, it might even seem like a bargain.

Wrong: Just before halftime, LeBron James took a foul and landed among the cameramen on the baseline, slicing open his head and requiring stitches following the game. “I was just hoping I wasn’t bleeding,” said James. “But obviously the camera cut me pretty bad. Our medical staff did a great job of stopping the bleeding. I knew I had to shoot the free throws or I wasn’t going to be able to come back into the game, so it didn’t matter what was going on with my head at that point in time. I had to go up there and shoot those free throws so I could continue to play.”


VIDEO: LeBron James takes a hard spill in the first half of Game 4

Right: One more right, at least for tonight, as Golden State’s Shaun Livingston came off the bench and scored only 7 points, but he finished with a plus-minus rating of +25 in 24 minutes of play. Livingston is in many ways emblematic of all the things that made the Warriors so dangerous this season. At 6-foot-7 with guard skills, Livingston is ideal as a secondary defender, coming over to double-team and distracting a ball-handler. He’s also big enough to switch on screens, and at least momentarily defend  James until help arrives.