For the first time all series, the Golden State Warriors looked like themselves. They shot 40 percent from three-point range and won Game 4 of the NBA Finals, 103-82, on Thursday, to even the series at two games apiece.
The only question is, can the Warriors maintain consistency as the series shifts back to Oakland for Game 5?
“That’s the big key,” CBS Sports and YES Network analyst Ian Eagle said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “They lost their equilibrium Games 2 and 3. Let’s take Game 1 out of the equation because you know it’s going to be a feeling-out process trying to figure out what the strategy is going to be. Cleveland was so physical with the Warriors through the first three games, and Golden State answered the bell last night.”
Golden State shot 46.8 percent from the floor and had 24 assists on 36 field goals.
“We know how lethal their offense is,” Eagle said. “At some point, you figured they would start clicking offensively. The biggest difference is defensively. We saw some legitimate hard double teams. We saw the effort level go up. That’s not to say that the Warriors gave up in Game 3. We saw in the fourth quarter they had some signs of life, but they faced some adversity and they didn’t handle it well. They did in Game 4. They looked like themselves again.”
The Cavaliers, meanwhile, looked gassed. LeBron James, who entered the game averaging 41.0 points, scored just 20 on 7-of-22 shooting, while Matthew Dellavedova scored just 10 on 3-of-14 shooting.
That’s a combined 27.8 shooting percentage.
“I think a lot of us felt that at some point, Matthew Dellavedova would wake up from this dream,” Eagle said. “And at some point, LeBron James, who has been willing this team to the finish line, would feel some form of fatigue based on all the minutes and all the constant pressure that you face when you’re in a position like he is. So Golden State did exactly what it had to do. They go back home at 2-2.”
They also go back with momentum. A lot of it.
“There’s often overreaction after every game in a seven-game series, which makes it a lot of fun,” Eagle said. “But my feeling (was that) if Golden State took care of business, they would be able to ride that throughout the rest of the series. And I still feel that way.”
That is due, in large part, not to Steph Curry or Klay Thompson, but rather, Andre Iguodala, who made his first start of the season Thursday. Iguodala, starting in place of Andrew Bogut, finished with 22 points, eight rebounds and played great defense on James.
Eagle believes Steve Kerr had to make that move.
“When you looked at the way things went through the first three games, they clearly were at a disadvantage defensively,” Eagle said. “They just didn’t have the right match-ups. And oftentimes, they found themselves in a mismatch that was based on personnel. So by going smaller, by getting Iguodala in there – Iguodala came in there like a caged tiger ready to go.”
Draymond Green, it is worth noting, also had a breakout game, finishing with 17 points, seven rebounds, six assists, two steals and a block.
“The fact that they have versatility in Draymond Green, that’s the biggest key, to me, of all,” Eagle said. “There aren’t many guys that can play multiple positions at those numbers. You have guys that can play the 1, the 2, the 3. You might have a guy that can play the 2, the 3, the 4. Very few can play the 3, the 4, the 5 – and that’s what Draymond Green gives you. I think he looked at it as a challenge. It changed the way that they approached the game and then Cleveland had to adjust – and they didn’t have answers for it.”
Bogut, who started 65 games this season, played just three minutes, while David Lee – who had nine points, five rebounds and three assists – gave the Warriors valuable production off the bench.
“It shows you that Steve Kerr is not married to what got them here,” Eagle said. “He is married to he idea of winning a championship – and that’s what great coaches do. They adjust, they make changes and put their ego aside. Just because you started and played a certain way the whole year, if you’re willing to adjust in the NBA Finals, that means you decided you were at that point of no return.”