OAKLAND -– For awhile, Cavaliers coach David Blatt’s decision to mirror the Warriors’ small lineup was working out just fine, as Cleveland and Golden State were engaged in a see-saw affair in Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Sunday at Oracle Arena.
The Warriors eventually took over, though, dominating the latter half of the fourth quarter in a 104-91 win, putting them one win away from the championship.
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Afterwards, Blatt explained his decision to limit center Timofey Mozgov to less than ten minutes of playing time. The Russian big man was the Cavs’ leading scorer in Game 4 with 28 points, and added 10 rebounds, but took just one shot and was held scoreless with no rebounds and two personal fouls.
“We were in the game the way we were playing,” Blatt said. “We were right there. So, that’s the way we played it.”
Blatt was pressed on the issue several times at the podium, and rightfully pointed out that the Cavs were much closer to winning on Sunday than they were in Thursday’s decisive 21-point loss at Quicken Loans Arena.
It’s not like the coach has too many options, either, as Cleveland is already missing some significant parts and relying almost exclusively on LeBron James.
“Did I make a mistake? Listen, when you’re coaching a game, you’ve got to make decisions,” Blatt said. “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 we played it.
“It’s no disrespect to anyone, certainly not to Timo, who has done a great job for us. … Timo will be back and he will not lose his way or lose his head just because he didn’t play a lot tonight.”
James, who had a game-high 40 points and posted his second triple-double of the series, didn’t point to the Cavs’ small lineup as the only reason for defeat.
Stephen Curry’s breakthrough 37-point performance had nothing to do with Blatt’s lineup decisions, according to the star forward.
“There are a lot of things that hurt us tonight. Steph being one of them,” James said. “That had nothing to do with going small. I think we were much more active tonight than we were in Game 4.”
Mozgov said after the game that he wasn’t surprised that his minutes were limited, despite being a starter. Golden State’s Andrew Bogut did not play in Game 5 after he was removed from the starting lineup prior to Game 4, while David Lee played just over nine minutes.