OAKLAND — The 2015 Finals are tied 2-2, but it seems like the Cleveland Cavaliers are behind.
Not only have they lost the home-court advantage they had gained with a win in Game 2, but the Golden State Warriors’ win in Game 4 was, by far, the most decisive decision in this series. And it was the game where the Cavs’ lack of depth became abundantly clear.
All the signs pointed to the Cavs running out of gas on Thursday. The biggest indication was their shooting from outside the paint, where they were a brutal 6-for-45, unable to keep up with an improved Golden State offense.
The break between Games 4 and 5 provides an extra day of rest. But Cavs coach David Blatt has to be thinking of extending his rotation either way. Not only did the Cavs shoot poorly in Game 4, but their offense has struggled late in games throughout the series.
The Cavs have shot just 16-for-76 (21 percent) from outside the restricted area in the fourth quarter and overtime thus far in the series. The Warriors have won the four fourth quarters by a combined 30 points.
So even if the Cavs are fresher to start Game 5 on Sunday (8 p.m. ET, ABC), Blatt has to worry about how his team is feeling down the stretch. And he has to consider the idea of using an eighth guy in his rotation – most likely Shawn Marion or Mike Miller – even if for just 5-10 minutes over the course of the game.
The question is if the Cavs can afford to rest James more than the 4:45 per game that he’s rested thus far. The Cavs have been outscored by 11 points in 183 minutes with James on the floor, but also by 11 in just 19 minutes with him on the bench.
James has played the most minutes in the series obviously, but other Cavs are logging more time than they’re used to. Tristan Thompson and Matthew Dellavedova have been pushed into the starting lineup, and everybody has been asked to do more with Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving out.
Marion and Miller each have championship experience, but are 37 and 35 years old respectively. Marion has played just 25 minutes over six games in the postseason. Miller got some rotation minutes in Games 2 and 3, but wasn’t seen until garbage time on Thursday.
When the Cavs met with the media on Saturday, Blatt didn’t indicate either way if he’d go deeper in his rotation.
“We’ve got a lot of experienced players on our roster,” he said, “and a lot of guys have been through these battles before. Some of the guys have not played a whole lot. Our results have been pretty good as we’ve been playing. But, again, I believe in those guys and their ability to step in, if necessary, and do what needs to be done.”
James is just happy that Game 5 wasn’t on Saturday.
“Any little rest you can get throughout the postseason run, I mean, it’s like a lifeline,” James said. “For us to be able to get this extra day to mentally and physically prepare for tomorrow night or tomorrow day is definitely helpful.”
We’ll find out Sunday if the extra day was enough for the Cavs to refuel, or if Game 4 was a true indication of where this series is going.