OAKLAND – Game 5 of the NBA Finals, Sunday afternoon at Oracle Arena, finds the Warriors and the Cavaliers deep into the mind-game phase. That’s a good sing insofar as this only happens in a competitive series.
It’s impossible to be more competitive through four games than these teams are, tied at two games apiece, with each winning once on the floor of the other.
Down 2-1 entering Game 4, Warriors coach Steve Kerr changed his starting lineup but didn’t reveal it until a half hour before tipoff. Not until after the surprise swap – Andrew Bogut out, Andre Iguodala in – led to a 103-82 win did he come clean.
It’s time for Cleveland coach David Blatt to counter, if he’s able. His roster is short, missing two All-Stars (Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love), but any chance of winning the series requires at least one road win.
Warriors by 1. (Moved to 9 by Sunday morning.)
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Andre Iguodala et al vs. LeBron James: Iguodala has been primary among the rotating cast of characters defending James. LeBron has impressive numbers, but the Warriors will live with them as long as he is not orchestrating the entire game. He did through three but not in the fourth. The goal is to have James get fatigued.
Stephen Curry vs. Matthew Dellavedova: The Tale of Delly was a cute story for a few days, but there is a reason he is a rotation player and not a star. Curry doesn’t have to score, but though that could happen, he certainly has to impact the game for the Warriors to succeed.
Warriors bench vs. Cavs bench: The suspicion is that the Cavs, seeking a spark and trying to stretch a thin roster, may turn to their reserves. The Warriors have the natural edge here. But JR Smith, though he’s as erratic as they come, is dangerous enough to be a difference-maker with his scoring.
KEYS TO VICTORY
1.) Set the pace: The Warriors always want to play as fast as possible. That they are the deeper, fitter team places an even greater emphasis on running at every chance.
2.) Keep it moving: The Warriors have had one 30-assist game in the postseason. Another would require precise, patient passing – and practically assure victory.
3.) Stay aggressive: The Warriors have to attack at both ends, forcing turnovers on defense and getting into the paint – to the rim, if possible – on offense.
“You've just got to leave it all out there. Whatever you have left in the tank, you've just got to leave it out there. So I don't really worry about what minutes I'm going to play or at what position. Just got to leave it all out there.” – Warriors forward Draymond Green
Warriors: No injuries reported.
Cavaliers: G Kyrie Irving (left knee surgery), F Kevin Love (dislocated left shoulder) and C/F Anderson Varejao (ruptured left Achilles tendon) are listed as out.
The teams have split the first four games in the series, the first postseason meeting between them. They split two games in the regular season, the Warriors posting a 112-94 win at Oracle Arena on Jan. 9 and the Cavs taking a 110-99 victory at Quicken Loans Arena on Feb. 26.