Posts Tagged ‘J.R. Smith’

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.


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…)

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!”


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.


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.”

LeBron wants J.R. Smith to keep his head up — and to keep shooting

VIDEO: Cavaliers star LeBron James speaks at Saturday’s media session.

OAKLAND – Steve Kerr lied to the media Thursday night to hide a strategic adjustment for Game 4 of the 2015 Finals until the last possible minute, hoping the element of surprise would boost its impact.

LeBron James may have done the same thing Saturday afternoon before Cleveland’s practice to demonstrate his confidence in a teammate as the Cavaliers head into Game 5 Sunday.

James has to be hoping his fudging of the truth for ulterior motives produces for Cleveland the same type of results Kerr’s generated for Golden State the other night.

Told that J.R. Smith, the Cavs’ designated shooter off the bench, was still in self-deprecation mode Saturday about his poor shooting in Finals play, James responded with an answer that was supportive, encouraging and a little bit imploring of the streaky reserve guard.

For effect, James even said “He can miss a hundred shots,” as a way to show how much faith he has in Smith. Which, of course, would mean both an NBA record for Smith and certain doom for Cleveland.

Smith, who referred to his play as “horse [bleep]” after an 0-for-8 struggle from 3-point range in Game 4, referred to it again Saturday when he said: “I’m ready to play. It’s one game, so the best part about it, I can’t play no worse.”

Even at his current rate – Smith is shooting 29.8 percent (14 of 47) in the Finals, including 25 percent (7 of 28) on three pointers and averaging just nine points – that’s not technically true. And it’s the wrong outlook, James felt, for a guy whose value to the injury-thinned Cavaliers roster has gone up this postseason.

Without Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, their team simply doesn’t have much offensive firepower besides James. But Smith, at his best, can provide that; he averaged 18.0 points on 50 percent shooting in the four-game sweep of Atlanta in the Eastern Conference finals. He hit 16 of his 34 3-pointers in that series (47.1 percent) and had a playoff career-high in the opener.

That past success and his track record are what Smith should be focusing on, James said, not his struggles of the moment.

“I don’t care how many shots he missed,” the Cavaliers star said. “I don’t want his head to be down like it was in Game 4. It’s a make-or-miss league. J.R. practices enough. We all are all professional athletes and we practice on our craft. But you can never allow someone either from the media or from the fans, from the opposition, from your family to ever see that you’re down about what you’re doing. It doesn’t matter. He has to stay confident.”

Here’s where James opted, if not to lie, then let’s say to deploy some big-time hyperbole.

“He can miss a hundred shots,” he said. “If they’re great looks, they’re drive‑and‑kicks, you shoot them with confidence. If he’s feeling confident about his ability, then I’m confident about it. But as a competitor, once you lose confidence in yourself, then it’s really not much coming back from that. So if he’s confident in himself, he’ll be fine.”

Some folks seeking a barometer in this series have suggested that it’s James, who dipped from his 41.0 points average through the first three outings to 20 points in Game 4. But they neglect that he had his biggest output in Game 1, scoring 44 in Cleveland’s loss at Oracle Arena to start this thing.

Even James’ 20 points in Game 4 might not have been too few, since his cohorts on the Cavs’ front line – Tristan Thompson (12) and Timofey Mozgov (28) – had a big scoring night. Taken together, James-Thompson-Mozgov have scored 62 (Game 1) and 60 (Game 45) in the Cavs’ two losses, 58 (Game 2) and 56 (Game 3) in the victories.

The backcourt has been up and down – 29, 16, 23 and 15 points. But Smith’s impact is easily discerned: He scored 13 and 10 in the two victories, just nine and four in the defeats. So Smith doesn’t need to take 100 shots, he just has to hit enough of them to score in double digits to give Cleveland a better chance.

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.

Game 4: 24-second thoughts

VIDEO: Andre Iguodala put on a show for the Warriors in Game 4

24Steve Kerr blinks first. Andre Iguodala in starting lineup for Andrew Bogut.

23 — Time for the Warriors to get inspiration from national anthem singer Usher? Here I Stand.

22LeBron James with the no-look, over-the-head pass for Mozgov dunk is pure Magic.

21 — They can’t find those escaped convicts from N.Y. prison, but bloodhounds seem to have located Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green in first quarter for a change.

20 — Nine minutes, 1-for-4 shooting, 0-for-2 on treys. “Oh yeah, just remembered I’m Matthew Dellavedova, not Jerry West.”

19 — Kerr got everything he wanted out of his lineup change. Better pace, spread the floor, moving the ball, Iguodala everywhere. Your serve, David Blatt.

18 — After telling his team in huddle, “They’re only using seven players, they’ll wear down,” where does Kerr go with his own rotation? Do Bogut and Festus Ezeli get to take off their warmups?

17 — Got to give credit to Iguodala for making the sacrifice to come off the bench all year and to David Lee for being virtually buried, but staying ready to perform in The Finals.

16 — Dear Cavs: As much as they’ve struggled at times in the series, it’s never really a good idea to leave the Splash Brothers open.

15 — Warriors have 12 assists on first 16 baskets. Oh, so that’s the team that won 67 games this season.

14 — Think about it: LeBron just six shots in first 17 minutes. Hardly a plan for success.

13 —LeBron bleeds after collision with TV camera. Would you blame any of the other players on the court for licking their chops and wishing they could get a few pints of that stuff?

12 — World back spinning properly on its axis. Small-ball Warriors moving, scoring, rebounding, in control.

11 — Matthew Dellavedova back-to-back 3s out of the locker room. Did he return to his old routine and get a triple-shot of espresso at halftime?

10 — You can talk about the Warriors shooters cooling off early in third quarter. But pace, pace, pace. The Cavs go back to grinding and get back in the game.

9 — Sure, he’s got an unflappable, unflinching air about him, but Stephen Curry looks a bit disengaged from all of the emotion of what’s at stake in what has become a three-point game.

8 — OK, who had the prop bet in Vegas where Timofey Mozgov (21 points) plays a virtual draw with the combined Splash Brothers (22) in the first three quarters?

7 — How much does it say that on a night when LeBron appears a little out of sorts, fatigued, he’s closing in on another triple-double with 20 points, nine rebounds, seven assists going into fourth quarter?

6 — How is it that J.R. Smith can arrive at the arena riding a hoverboard, but his game usually needs training wheels?

5 — Was David Blatt getting paid by the word for that long-winded answer to Doris Burke or just trying to talk his team back into the game? Where is grunting Smiley Popovich when we need him?


3 — Oh, Mama, can this really be the end? To be stuck inside of Mobile with with the Memphis blues again.  Now the Cavs got a taste of Golden State playing with desperation. Just as they responded in conference semifinals down 2-1 to Grizzlies, the Warriors started off adversity and responded on the road.

2 — Best thing for the Cavs after a 103-82 thumping? The calendar. Two days off. It looked like a plow horse against American Pharoah.

1 — Gettin’ Iggy Wit It.  Move of the series so far by Kerr — Iguodala gets first start of the season and comes through with 22 points, four treys, eight rebounds and defense on LeBron.  If Warriors win series, he could the MVP.

Game 3: 24-second thoughts

VIDEO: Matthew Dellavedova was all over the floor in Game 3

— Four quarters just isn’t enough in these Finals. Two games and two times we’ve gone to the fifth. If it happens again tonight, we just might need another fifth to survive.

23 — Nice job, but just asking: How many of the Warriors and Cavs have Rascal Flatts pumping through their headphones?

22Jeff Van Gundy on Stephen Curry: “It’s not like he’s in a slump.” Well, it’s not one bad night. In his last four playoff games, Curry has shot 29-for-82.

21Iman Shumpert to the locker room with shoulder injury. This “next man up” stuff for the Cavaliers only works as long as you have a next man.

20 — Two words: Tristan Thompson. And six points and seven rebounds. On a night when Cavs need to be big, nobody has played bigger in the first quarter.

19 — Happy Festus-vus! Off the Warriors’ bench comes Festus Ezeli for the Feats of Strength when Golden State needs it. He’s got a lot of problems with you people.

18 — Toss a coin. Tonight we get the “good” J.R. Smith. 3-for-3 start.

17 — How much Warriors’ frustration is showing? Curry has to restrain Draymond Green from going after a referee.

16 — More Tristan Thompson.

15 — How much more of the burden can LeBron James carry? Now he’s got to overcome his own teammate (Thompson) knocking the ball out of the basket.

14 — The series has been a reminder of just how much Andre Iguodala gave up of himself to come off the bench for the Dubs. Iggy has been sensational at both ends of the floor.

13 — Cavs’ defense is a dirty, gritty, grinding, relentless, suffocating thing of beauty. Warriors 15-for-44 (.341) and 3-for-18 (.188) at the half.

12 — If LeBron were 30 of 88 shooting in the last 4 1/2 playoff games as Curry is, just how much grief would he be taking?

11 — Warriors’ 37 points in first half is as much as Klay Thompson scored by himself in third quarter Jan. 24 vs. Kings.

10 — A spot-up 3 and then a gorgeous runner. Dellavedova-Curry is moving into Buster Douglas-Mike Tyson territory.

9 — MVP sighting midway through third quarter. Stephen Curry gets his first bucket since the opening Warriors score of the night.

8 — Controlling the pace, making the plays, hitting the fadeaway, blocking shots — LeBron has the game, the Warriors, The Finals in the palm of his hand.

7 — Curry caught with ball in his hands on layup as horn sounds to end third quarter. That sums up his night so far.

6 — Iguodala 3 from corner cuts the 17-point lead down to nine just 2:02 into fourth quarter. Laissez les bon temps rouler. Remember, Warriors came from 20 points in fourth (Game 3) at New Orleans way back in the first round of the playoffs.

5 — Doesn’t that guy on his way to 17-point fourth quarter look a lot like Stephen Curry? We should just hit fast forward and go to overtime.

4 — LeBron limps off court to the bench. One more injury and the Cavs should be able to clinch the championship by Thursday.

3 — The little Aussie isn’t the only one selling out with his hustle. After missed baseline jumper, the superstar LeBron (40-12-8) — sprints back to make the key deflection on Curry. He’s got 123 points in 142 minutes, most ever in first three games of Finals.

2Danny Crawford blew his whistle and then decided it was a good time to show the world his Rick Perry impersonation. “Ooops!”

1 — So what do you think the devil is going to do with that soul Delly sold him?

Cavs’ James confident in durability, skeptical of Finals scheduling

VIDEO: James speaks with media after shootaround

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio – Had David Blatt known the first two games of the 2015 Finals would go into overtime, the Cleveland Cavaliers coach said Tuesday, he might have found more opportunities to give LeBron James a little rest.

But no Finals before this one ever required overtime for both Game 1 and Game 2. That’s how James is up to 96 minutes played out of the 106 in the series so far.

“That wasn’t necessarily in the plan,” Blatt said after his team’s shootaround session at their practice facility. “But he is strong. He has prepared himself the whole season for this time of the year. There are very few guys who can do what he did throughout the course of the year with the understanding of where he needs to be at the key moment of the season. And he’s ready to go.”

VIDEO: Blatt addresses the media on Tuesday

James talked a little about the physical preparation that he heeds in advance of games and the hurry-up of that routine now that the days between games, for each of the next two, have dwindled to just one.

“There’s not much recovery time,” James said. “I’m getting my body as close as it can to 100 percent. I still have a lot of time through today to stay on the treatment regimen I’ve been on. Try to get some rest as well. … You’ve got to cram everything in there. Hopefully the body reacts accordingly to it.”

Among the other Cavaliers, Tristan Thompson has logged 87 minutes, J.R. Smith 73 and Iman Shumpert 71. Golden State, though generally considered the deeper team, has four players at or above 80: Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, 85 each; Draymond Green 82 and Harrison Barnes 80.

When someone wondered if James might feel the energy of a crowd at Quicken Loans Arena hosting only its third Finals game ever (two in 2007), the Cavs star said: “I mean, I’m fine. I can use the energy from the home crowd, I can use the energy from the away crowd. But for me, my focus is so laser-sharp that it doesn’t matter. I don’t need something to get me to where I need to go.”

James and his teammates apparently do feel a little slighted by the schedule, which has tightened up during this period in Cleveland after an almost leisurely pace to Games 1 and 2. There was a whole week after the conference championship round before The Finals began and then two more days before Game 2.

The Thursday-Sunday-Tuesday rotation is largely set according to network TV needs, regardless of the markets involved, but James made it sound more discretionary. And not favoring Cleveland.

“I don’t need any extra motivation or no extra lift,” James said. “I looked at the schedule. They have more time in their home than we have. They gave us every other day back home. They gave those guys two-and-a-half days of rest when they go back home. But that’s the schedule, and it is what it is.”

Right & Wrong: Cavs even series in Game 2

VIDEO: Catch the top 5 plays from Game 2 of The Finals

HANG TIME BIG CITY – Just when you thought they were out, they pull you back in.

The Cleveland Cavaliers almost won Game 1 of the NBA Finals, losing in overtime, and then entered Game 2 without two-thirds of their Big Three, going up against the NBA’s best team on their home floor, where Golden State was nearly unbeatable this season.

Enter LeBron James. The King went for 39 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists in over 50 minutes of playing time, as the Cleveland Cavaliers won this one in overtime, 95-93, to even the NBA Finals at one win apiece as the series moves to Cleveland.

Here’s a look at what went right and wrong in Game 2.

Right: At this point, there’s not much left to say about LeBron James, but one of the most remarkable things you can say is this: LeBron consistently elevates the level of play of his teammates, no matter who those teammates are. In Game 1, James posted a 44/8/6 line that felt impeccable. But tonight in Game 2, with LeBron basically playing point guard all night on offense and free safety on defense, and consistently making pinpoint passes out of double-teams to find open teammates, his triple-double was probably more impressive. Game 2 felt more like a coronation than anything else.

Wrong: Stephen Curry was voted the NBA’s Kia Most Valuable Player during the regular season, flicking in a seemingly endless array of jumpers from all around the perimeter. But tonight that well ran bone dry. Curry did make a big 3-pointer with 2:45 remaining in regulation to cut Cleveland’s lead to six, but Curry finished 5-for-23 from the field, including 2-for-15 from beyond the arc. With the Warriors needing a bucket at the end of overtime, Curry went one-on-one against Matthew Dellavedova and shot an air ball, then turned the ball over instead of getting a final shot. It was Curry’s worst shooting performance of the year. “I’ve seen it with everybody,” said Golden State coach Steve Kerr. “I’ve seen it with Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan. It doesn’t matter who you are. Nobody is immune from a tough night. So Steph has been phenomenal throughout the playoffs. Doesn’t mean he’s going to light it up every single night. So you chalk it up to a bad night and see what you can do to try to free him up and maybe get him some open looks.”

VIDEO: Why was Stephen Curry so limited offensively in Game 2?

Right: Speaking of Dellavedova, he had big shoes to fill, but he stepped into Kyrie Irving‘s and more than held his own against the Splash Brothers. Yes, he was just 3-for-10 from the field, but the Cavs were +15 in 42 minutes with Dellavedova on the court. And his contributions weren’t always about points and passes — with 11 seconds left in overtime and the Cavs down one, Dellavedova grabbed the rebound after a James Jones missed 3 and went to the free-throw line like Ollie in “Hoosiers”, and knocked down two free throws to give Cleveland the lead for good. Seconds later, he defended Curry one-on-one and got the stop. An Australian native, Dellavedova deserves to be big not just Down Under. “You know, he did what he has been doing every time that we’ve put him in that position,” said Cleveland coach David Blatt. “He’s a courageous kid that plays right. There was a lot of nonsense swirling around about his style of play. I think anyone that really looks at him objectively and fairly recognizes someone that just plays hard, heartfelt, and tough. Always there for his teammate. Teammates always there for his team. And he played big tonight, and we needed him to.”

VIDEO: Matthew Dellavedova talks after his big play in Game 2

Wrong: J.R. Smith can be the gift and curse, often at the same time. You live with his mistakes, because when he’s going well, he can make shots nobody else can make. But in Game 2, Smith made a series of plays that allowed the Warriors to gain ground. With the Cavs up seven and 2:35 to play, Smith fouled Curry after a missed free throw, sending him to the line. A minute later, he fouled Harrison Barnes as he dunked, giving the Warriors a three-point play and cutting Cleveland’s lead to two. With 29 seconds left in overtime, Smith’s sixth foul sent Curry to the line and gave the Warriors a temporary lead. With the Cavaliers ravaged by injuries and only playing an eight-man rotation, the Cavs are looking for a lift from Smith.

Right: If Curry is the chef, perhaps Klay Thompson is the maître d? All season long the Splash Brothers have been an elite partnership for the Warriors, a dual-headed threat that stretches the floor and creates all kinds of headaches for the defense. Although Curry never got it going in Game 2, Thompson started red-hot, going 4-for-6 with nine points in the game’s first five minutes before having to sit with foul trouble. Thompson finished the night as Golden State’s leading scorer, with 34 points on 14-for-28 shooting.

Wrong: With 3:14 left in regulation, the Cleveland Cavaliers led the Golden State Warriors by 11 points, 83-72. They then proceeded to fall apart. Part of that was Golden State repeatedly fouling Tristan Thompson and sending him to the line, part of that was mental errors (see Smith above), and part of that was James either not making shots or not getting to the line. The Warriors, of course, came back, tied it and took it to overtime, where the Cavs were able to regain their footing. Still, you don’t get many chances like this against the Warriors, and with this series up for grabs and Cleveland taking home court advantage, the Cavs have to close out games if they want to close out this series.

Game 2: 24-second thoughts

24 — If you were already a longshot to win the series and now have lost one of your two main offensive weapons, isn’t it a good time, at least, for an underdog to be led by a guy named David (Blatt)? Better be a big slingshot.

23 — National anthem singer Carlos Santana was a guest of the Warriors. But long ago in 1969, his featured number at Woodstock was Soul Sacrifice, exactly what the LeBron James and Cavs need here.

22 — That’s one way to slow down Klay Thompson’s 4-for-6 shooting, nine-point start. Get a bad call on Iman Shumpert drive that sends Thompson to the bench with his second foul.

21 — So much for the Cavs rolling over without Kyrie Irving. Took the early punch from Warriors and fight their way back end of first quarter. Doesn’t hurt when Stephen Curry shoots 1-for-6. Credit the pest Matthew Dellavedova.

20 — Despite two early fouls on Klay Thompson and Festus Ezeli, indication is you’ll have to withstand a bruising tonight. They’re letting them mix it up and play.

19 — How much longer can Blatt keep Delly on Klay here in second quarter? The mouse is having the whole house land on his head. Cavs have to get out of that matchup.

18 — About that getting everybody else involved plan by LeBron? His teammates are 5-for-20.

17 — Off night in the Stanley Cup Finals, but the Cavs might as well be wearing skates and carrying sticks for the way they’re mucking this game up in the corners. These are not comfortable Warriors.


15 — LeBron 20-6-6 at the half. Just as important, Cavs run two quarters off the clock and give themselves a chance. Now if somebody would just put a body on Klay.

14 — Cavs shoot 6-for-8 off passes from LeBron in second quarter. They did not take a shot off a LeBron pass in the first quarter.

13 — Maybe if Draymond Green would take off those headphones, somebody could tell him that he might want to turn the volume up on his game that so far has been forgettable in The Finals.

12 — OK, so the MVP finally got rid of the pest Delly. All it took was your average double-crossover, behind-the-back dribble only-by-Curry drive for a layup.

11 — You have to ask whether the Warriors are just missing all these open 3s — 4-for-22 middle thirrd quarter — or they’ve been rattled by the Cavs?

10 —Sums up the Golden State night. Marreese Speights blows the breakaway dunk to end third quarter. The Cavs have everybody but Klay Thompson looking over their shoulder and the 12-minute game they wanted. First time all season Warriors didn’t hit 65 after three quarters.

9 — If Cavs win this game, little point guard from Cleveland is going to get the Bucky Dent treatment forever in Bay Area: Matthew %$#!!*&# Dellavedova!

8 — Can Warriors stand up to the night long pounding by Cavs? Down five with 8½ minutes left, Steve Kerr goes back to the small lineup to pull it out. But Golden State looks beat up.

7J.R. stands for Just Remember, I’m J.R. Smith and dumb plays like that foul on Curry are what make me me. And then I do it again by fouling Harrison Barnes. And just for good measure, one more time on Curry in OT.

6 — Cleveland sports history: The Pass. The Fumble. The Shot. Next up: The Collapse? Cavs lead by 11 with 3:12 left and now LeBron’s miss sends it to OT.

5 — Tony Brothers, your guide dog could have made that call on Andre Iguodala’s hack of LeBron while helping you across the street.

4 — Green reaches and holds down LeBron by the shoulder on jump ball. Has there ever been an NBA superstar who didn’t get two consecutive huge calls in such a situation?

3 — LeBron 39 points, 16 rebounds, 11 assists in 50 minutes and he’s so emotional seems on the verge of tears while talking to Doris Burke. Can we stop now with the nitpicking and cheap shots at James? He was all-in for the biggest win in Cavs history.

2 — Steph Curry (5-for-23), you’re on the clock.

1 — It’s Delly’s World and we’re all just living in it.