For one quarter, it seemed like the Cavaliers’ momentum from Game 4 was going to carry over into Game 5 of the 2017 NBA Finals.
After the first quarter, the Cavs had a four-point lead and were shooting lights out, going 15-of-24 from the field.
It seemed promising, considering in the first four games of this series, the winner of the first quarter went on to win the game.
Ultimately though, the second quarter would prove to be Cleveland’s undoing.
The Warriors turned a eight-point deficit into an 11-point lead because of a 21-2 run. Throughout the quarter, Golden State shot 14-of-27 from the floor and went 5-of-12 from deep.
The stretch turned the tide back in Golden State’s favor for what felt like the first time since Game 3.
It undoubtedly gave them the confidence and energy to close out the Finals, in front of their home crowd no less.
With every second half push the Cavs made, it was never enough as the Warriors pushed back, mainly through Finals MVP Kevin Durant, who ended the night with 39 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
LeBron James was once again masterful, averaging a triple-double for the series, (33.6 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists) and finishing Game 5 with 41 points, 13 boards and eight assists.
J.R. Smith was at times acrobatic in his 25-point performance, going 7-of-8 from deep. Tristan Thompson was the most effective he has been in this Finals, finishing with 15 points and eight rebounds.
By the second half though, it was clear that Kyrie Irving, who finished with 26 points, was battling through a back issue, and was held scoreless in the last twelve minutes of the game.
The last third of the Big Three, Kevin Love, was held scoreless until the third quarter and finished the night with just six points and ten rebounds.
Little to no help on the offensive end came from the Cavs bench. They scored only seven points, (four from Richard Jefferson and three from Kyle Korver) compared to 35 bench points from Golden State.
People will talk all off-season about what the Cavs should or should not do, (Will David Griffin head to Orlando? Do they trade for Paul George? Deal Kevin Love? Trade role players in hopes of finding a perfect combination? Do they need to make any big moves, period?) but one simple fact remains clear.
The Warriors took a 73-win team, and swapped out Harrison Barnes for Durant.
That is what it takes to beat LeBron James on the game’s biggest stage.
“They’re gonna be here for awhile,” James said about the Warriors. “I need to sit down, and figure this thing out.”
“There’s gonna be a lot of teams trying to figure out how to put personnel together to face them in the playoffs.”
Say what you want about Durant’s choices. He is still easily the second best player in the league, and the Warriors have a system that works perfectly.
In the off-season, it ‘s up to the Cavs to find a way to outmatch them.
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