The Golden State Warriors have a commanding 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals, which, in many ways, makes the rest of this series mere formality.
The Warriors have lost back-to-back games just once all season – that came against Oklahoma City in the Western Conference Finals – before winning three straight and overcoming a 3-1 series deficit of their own. Then again, that’s what you expect from a 73-win team.
But do we expect that from a team that’s just 1-8 in its last nine games against Golden State? No, probably not.
“Well, I think it’s all about just (getting) a win (in Game 5),” former Cavs All-Star Campy Russell said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “I think that starts with being solid defensively, being more disciplined on the offensive side of the ball as well as the defensive side of the ball, and we have to make shots. We have to get a lot of other guys engaged in the game. We have to win the rebounding wars, we got to win the second-chance points, we got to win the 50-50 balls, we have to win the points in the paint, and most of all, we’ve got to get our shooting percentage up. When our shooting percentage is up and we get to this magic number of 23-plus assists, we have been very, very good and just about unbeatable when we get to those numbers. I think that is the kind of effort that we will have to have to bring Game 6 back to The Q.”
Draymond Green’s absence will certainly help in that endeavor. The NBA assessed Green a flagrant foul for his dust-up with LeBron James in the final minutes of Game 4 last Friday. The flagrant was Green’s fourth of the postseason, which warrants an automatic one-game suspension.
Green had quiet scoring nights in Games 3 and 4, combining for 15 points on 4-of-17 shooting, including 0-of-8 from three-point range in 78 minutes of action. But he also combined for 19 rebounds, 11 assists, four blocks, two steals and played energetic defense. And, let’s not forget Game 2, which Green almost single-handedly won for the Warriors. He had 28 points, seven rebounds, five assists and five three-pointers in a 110-77 blowout.
For Russell, though, Game 5 isn’t about Green’s absence; it’s about the Cavs keeping their season alive.
“I just think it’s all about them trying to get Game 6 back at The Q,” he said. “Whether it was Steph out, whether it was Draymond or whoever it is. Tonight is about a win. It’s not even about who’s not playing. It’s just about how do the Cavaliers get Game 6 back into our building with an opportunity to create a Game 7? Tonight is a must-win for the Cavaliers obviously, so it’s just about us totally; it’s not about them. They’re going to do what they’re going to do, (but) can we do what we need to do? Can we match their energy in their building? Can we win the rebounding battle, the 50-50 ball battle, the points-in-the-paint battle and second-chance points. If we can do that and shoot a good percentage, it doesn’t matter if Draymond Green is there or not. The issue is, can we match their intensity in their building?”