Stephen Curry completely took over the fourth quarter for the Golden State Warriors in Game 5 on Sunday night. With 17 of Curry’s 37 points coming in that final frame, the NBA’s MVP led his team to a 104-91 victory in front of a fired-up home crowd. With a 3-2 series lead, the Warriors sit just one victory away from achieving greatness and basketball immortality. Dreams of hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy on their mind, the Warriors now travel to Cleveland, looking for their special place in NBA history.
This season, Curry emerged as more than just one of the league’s best shooters. He became a leader. He won the league’s MVP. And on Sunday night, he proved yet again that when he’s on, he cannot be stopped. Since that horrific Game 2, he’s gathered himself, and on Sunday night went toe-to-toe with LeBron James in an epic duel. Winning the NBA Finals and possibly Finals MVP would only add to Curry’s accomplishments in the basketball world.
But no matter how much NBA fans love the performances of their superstars, it’s the team that determines the true legacy of anybody basketball related. Michael Jordan needed Scottie Pippen and Phil Jackson. Magic Johnson needed Kareem Abdul-Jabaar. Wilt Chamberlain needed Jerry West. The list goes on and on and extends to more than just the players aforementioned. Dr. James Naismith himself would tell you that basketball is a team game.
Since Kyrie Irving‘s fractured kneecap in Game 1, James has been required to do superhuman things for the Cleveland Cavaliers. On Sunday night, he added yet another triple-double to his NBA Finals resume (No. 6 in his career), but it wasn’t enough to get a victory on the road. The Cavaliers’ two victories in the NBA Finals occurred from great defensive efforts by the team, particularly players other than James. The Cavaliers held the Warriors to under 100 points in both of their victories and gave up more in all three of their losses.
The Cavaliers need help. Head coach David Blatt made a serious mistake in playing small-ball last night against the fast-paced Warriors. Cavaliers center Timofey Mozgov only played nine minutes after scoring 28 points in Game 4. As well as Tristan Thompson, Mozgov is a vital component to the Cavaliers’ rebounding and defense. The Warriors outrebounded the Cavs, who as a team only grabbed 10 offensive rebounds. Mozgov being on the bench was a huge factor for these low rebounding numbers.
With the Cavaliers desperate for someone to help James in Game 6, the Warriors have their foot on the throat. The Cavaliers have had a rough go in the playoffs losing two starters in Irving and Kevin Love, making them desperate for perimeter shooting of any sort. As a response, J.R. Smith is 19-64, Iman Shumpert is 10-37 and Matthew Dellavedova is 15-50 in the NBA Finals. Separate from James, the Cavaliers’ shooting numbers have been atrocious to say the least.
Will someone step up for the Cavaliers? The Warriors have played better team basketball and are one win away from their eternal mark in basketball history. If you nullify the efforts of Curry and James, the Warriors are so much better than the Cavs right now that it’s not even funny.
That being said, the series isn’t over. So far, players on the Warriors have shown that they know their roles. But due to injuries, midseason trades and adjustments, many members of the Cavaliers are in unfamiliar territory and aren’t well acquainted with their spots in the rotation. Steve Kerr outsmarted Blatt in Game 5, but with the heroics of James still very much at play, the Cavaliers will give everything they have defensively to force a Game 7. If Curry is off like he was in Games 2 and 3, they have a chance.
The competition in Game 6 will be fierce and intense. Expect physicality and hard fouls from a Cavaliers team that favors a lower scoring game. If the Warriors win, they’ll have achieved greatness and commence a life-long celebration. If the Cavaliers win, the momentum will be completely shifted, setting up a Game 7 that’s completely up for grabs.
Curry is back. The King never left. But who will be the unsung heroes as the NBA Finals unfold?