OAKLAND – The Warriors missed Draymond Green in the worst way and their sense of loss only grew worse, from the grim sight of Andrew Bogut being carried off the court in the third quarter to a full night of being tortured by Kyrie Irving and LeBron James.
After a modestly acceptable start, perhaps jolted by power surge running through Oracle Arena Monday night, the Warriors looked about as feeble on their home court as they have at any time over the past two seasons over the final three quarters of a 112-97 loss to the Cavaliers in Game 5 of the NBA Finals.
Rather than send the Cavaliers home with a second consecutive lost in The Finals, the Warriors gave all of Cleveland hope that it could become the first time to come from a 3-1 deficit to win an NBA Finals.
The defending champions shot poorly, with the exception of Klay Thompson and, to a lesser extent, Andre Iguodala. The turnovers kept coming. And every attempt to defend Irving and James seemed to result in a level of profound despair rarely seen when Green is on the court with his teammates.
“He's usually pretty, obviously, vocal,” Curry said of Green. “He's our centerfielder in the back when he's able to see the whole floor. Tonight it was obviously different rotations and we tried to adjust on the fly with the different matchups, but we just didn't execute as well.”
[INSTANT REPLAY: Cavs stun Warriors in Game 5, force Game 6]
The Warriors, one of the best defensive teams in the NBA, surrendered 82 points to Irving and James, who divided them evenly, 41 apiece. They came into the Warriors’ house and completely took over.
After taking a 9-3 lead less than four minutes into the game, the Warriors spent the final 44 minutes looking like anything but a championship team.
As much Thompson and Iguodala fought back, it wasn’t enough. And, boy, did they fight. Thompson fired in 37 points – 18 in a white-hot second quarter that thrilled the anxious Oracle crowd. Iguodala, starting in Green’s absence due to suspension scored some (15 points), rebounded a lot (team-high 11) and did his part to set up teammates, with six assists.
Curry never really approached his MVP-level best, finishing with 25 points on 8-of-21 shooting, and Harrison Barnes had, quite simply, a night he’d like to forget as soon as possible, with 5 points on 2-of-14 shooting and the utter indignity of frequently being abused by James.
“It was rough,” Barnes said. “This was definitely not my best performance. I’ll have to regroup and get it back in Cleveland.”
So, of course, injury came with the insult. Bogut had been having a perfectly mediocre game, crippling himself with four fouls in seven minutes, when he swatted away a JR Smith layup, after which Smith stumbled into Bogut’s left knee, putting the big man on the deck, clutching the knee.
He was diagnosed with a sprained knee and will undergo an MRI test on Tuesday morning, prior to the team’s afternoon flight to Cleveland.
As it was, Kerr was shuffling his big men as fast as he could in hope of finding one who could deliver.
“It would have been nice to have (Bogut) available,” Kerr said. “But we played four or five different people at center, just trying to find something that would work.”
None did, with Anderson Varejao’s eight harmless minutes being the least deficient. Marreese Speights was 0-of-6 in 12 minutes. James Michael McAdoo played eight minutes and finished minus-10. Festus Ezeli played 10 minutes and did nothing he’d like to remember.
Not that any of the Warriors would like to recall much of anything about this night that they had hoped to close out the series.
The Cavaliers shot 53 percent, with a high of 61.1 in the third quarter before falling off to 42.1 in the fourth. By then, the Warriors realized this was not to be their night.
“We weren’t really in sync, offensively or defensively,” Barnes said. “Even when we were playing bad, we had some opportunities. We were still within reach. We just couldn’t put it together offensively. We couldn’t put together enough stops in a row. Ultimately, we just let the game go.”
The Cavaliers took this one, and nobody feels worse than Green. He was next door, in a suite at the Coliseum, watching the A’s-Rangers game accompanied by his good friend Marshawn Lynch and Warriors general manager Bob Myers, among others.
Could Green have made a difference? Absolutely. Could he have made the difference? He quite possibly could have. Kerr prudently steered clear of the subject.
“We’re not talking about that tonight,” he said. “Draymond wasn’t here, so we played without him. We didn’t play well enough to win. I’m not getting into all that stuff.’