Warriors look to take control in Game 5
The Golden State Warriors were on the ropes going into Game 4 of the NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena. The Cleveland Cavaliers had stole Game 2 at ORACLE Arena before defending home court in Game 3, putting Golden State in a 2-1 hole. People were starting to believe that LeBron James could pull off one of the great upsets of all-time, leading a Cleveland team without Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving past the 67-win Warriors.
Not so fast.
Golden State rebounded on the road to stomp out a series rout, winning 103-82 behind a small-ball lineup that included a special performance by Andre Iguodala. In his first start of the entire season, Iguodala went for 22 points and eight rebounds, all while locking down James. The King was only able to muster 20 points on 7-of-22 shooting, although he still contributed in other ways with 12 rebounds and eight assists. Iguodala talked about his feelings on guarding James, according to the Associated Press.
“Make him work as hard as possible,” Iguodala said of his plan on James. “Make him take tough shots. You look at his strengths, you look at his weaknesses, and you try to take him out of his comfort zone. Sounds easier said than done, but we all have a lot of talent and when we go out there we want to make our stamp on the game.”
It was a terrific performance by a team in a pressure situation, a team that didn’t have one player who had ever played in the Finals before this series. Shooting guard Klay Thompson spoke to the style of play on Thursday night.
“We played desperate out there, man,” Klay Thompson said. “We played real hungry. It was just awesome to come out here and impose our will on both sides of the ball and play our brand of basketball. That’s what’s been winning us games all year.”
Going into Sunday night’s Game 5, the Warriors have home-court advantage back and a chance to take a commanding lead in the Finals. Even if Golden State were to lose Game 6 in Cleveland, the Warriors would have a chance to close out their first championship since 1975 at home. To this point, Golden State has only lost four games at ORACLE Arena all season, including two in the postseason.
Head coach Steve Kerr stumbled upon a winning formula with a small-ball lineup in Game 4, something which confounded Cleveland. The Warriors played center Andrew Bogut and power forward Maurice Speights a combined five minutes, instead giving reserve guard Shaun Livingston 25 minutes and Iguodala 39 minutes. Draymond Green played center, while Harrison Barnes slid into power forward. The result was a blowout victory.
Golden State has figured out the magic potion. Now it just has to execute in front of its rabid fans.