After scoring a career-high 28 points in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, Timofey Mozgov was held scoreless in just nine minutes of action in Game 5, as David Blatt attempted to go small-ball against the Golden State Warriors.
Cleveland lost, 104-91, and now trails 3-2 in the series.
Was sitting Movgoz and trying to beat the Warriors at their own game the right move?
“When you lose, you can’t win,” former NBA veteran Eddie Johnson said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “I mean, you just lose twice. If you think about when they won the two games, there was some issues or some decisions (Blatt) made that the media . . . could have harped on, and we didn’t because they won the game.”
Those issues? Playing time, mostly.
“Too many minutes for LeBron, too many minutes for Dellavedova,” Johnson said. “We didn’t harp on that (too much) because they won. When they lose, then we try to figure out why they lost.”
The Cavs were out-rebounded and outscored in the paint Sunday. But that, Johnson believes, wasn’t the difference in the game.
“They didn’t lose because they didn’t play Mozgov,” he said. “Mozgov wouldn’t have made a difference in the fourth quarter to stop Steph Curry from scoring 17. They were down one with (less than five minutes to go) in the fourth. And so, look, the lineup worked for them. It really did. It put LeBron at the five. I think it forced a lot of issues. Now it hurt them obviously in the rebounding category, but for the most part, they had to try something to counter what Golden State did in Game 4.”
James, who scored 40 points and recorded yet another triple-double, hit a deep three to give the Cavs a one-point lead late in the fourth quarter, but then Curry and Klay Thompson hit back-to-back triples. Cleveland never recovered.
But up a point in the fourth quarter at Golden State? The Cavs will take that.
“(The lineup) did work for them,” Johnson said. “Id like to see Mozgov get more minutes, but you have to roll the dice sometimes in a playoff series just to see what you can do – and I’m sure Mozgov is going to get more minutes back in Cleveland. But I don’t think it’s the fault of David Blatt for trying to roll the dice and see if it works. Steve Kerr rolled the dice and played a small lineup and he got away with it. I think we just wait and see.”
But what about playing Mozgov and J.R. Smith heavy minutes and sitting Dellavedova? Dellavedova did a good job on Curry early in the series, but Curry has 59 points in the last two games. Dellavedova has just 15.
Should the Cavs play Delly less?
Johnson says no. One, the Cavs need someone other than James to bring the ball up the floor, and two, Dellavedova is still a solid defender.
“Steph Curry is going to score on anybody,” Johnson said. “I’ve always said – and I always will say – great offense will always overcome great defense. And Steph Curry, he’s the MVP. He’s figured out how to combat Dellavedova’s aggressive style defensively. That’s not an indictment on Dellavedova. He’s still got to make Curry work. If he doesn’t, then Curry probably scores 50. So no, they have to play him. I just think they got to roll the dice. If they’re going to play Mozgov like they did in Game 4, they got to roll the dice. But guess what, guys? They lost by double figures and he got 28, so what difference does it make? The bottom line is, you got to win the games. You got to try to combat what Golden State is doing. They’re the better team, they’re the deeper team. The Cavs quite obviously are beat up. And so yeah, 28 and 10 is great, but it was a loss, so what good did it do?”