Curry's help negates Cavs superstar in Warriors' 104-91 win
POSTED: Jun 15, 2015 11:42 AM ET
Game 5: Warriors Grab 3-2 Finals Lead With 104-91 Win
Stephen Curry scored 37 points and grabbed seven rebounds to lead the Warriors over the Cavaliers, 104-91 and take a 3-2 series lead in the NBA Finals.
OAKLAND, Calif. — For more than a week, as games ticked off the schedule of these 2015 Finals, the Golden State Warriors, their fans and much of the basketball world waited for Stephen Curry. To be Steph Curry.
They're a terrific ensemble of versatile and complementary players, directed by an enviable coaching staff. But the story they'd written month by month across 82 regular-season games and through much of the playoffs had a protagonist at its center. His name was Curry, yet in the first four games of the Finals he largely had been a hero in absentia.
LeBron James, meanwhile, had only grown in stature since finishing third to Curry in the NBA's Most Valuable Player voting. Losing forward Kevin Love, and then point guard Kyrie Irving -- the other two All-Stars around whom the Cleveland Cavaliers were built -- left James carrying a staggering load in this championship round. Which he has done without complaint.
But with Curry showing up in full Sunday evening at Oracle Arena as Golden State's devilish, maddening deep threat and leader by example, and James grinding at times seemingly 1-on-5 through another draining 45 minutes, the current MVP and the four-time winner -- and their teams -- seemed to head in opposite directions.
With their 104-91 Game 5 victory, Curry and Golden State seized control again and edged to the brink of the franchise's first NBA championship since 1975. Here were the Little Stephen & the Imperials that people had expected to see from the start -- especially after Irving went down for Cleveland near the overtime end of Game 1 -- working through their greatest hits playlist and providing the dazzling entertainment that had been such a smash on the West Coast all season.
GameTime: Defending Curry
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It took a a split four games and a fifth that now belongs to the Warriors for them to find themselves, Curry as the front man and the rest piping in at just the right time, in just the right tone.
Curry's 37 points -- his ninth performance of 30 points or more in the 2015 postseason but his biggest output of the Finals -- led the way, built from 13-for-23 shooting with seven 3-pointers from his 13 tries. He maneuvered for seven rebounds and had four assists while restoring order to Golden State's world.
"Steph's been really smart this whole series of not overreacting to everything that's around the game," teammate Andre Iguodala said. "He's always stayed in that zone of what's on his basketball court and 'how I can help my team win it any way possible and not getting out of myself or getting away from what the team needs to do to win.'
"He's just been an MVP for us, and we're going to try to have another MVP performance next game."
How 'bout another MVP performance in that same game? That's what James turned in: 40 points on 15-for-34 shooting (3-for-8 from the arc), with 14 rebounds and 11 assists. It was his third 40-point game of these Finals and his second triple-double. And it wasn't enough.
He's just been an MVP for us, and we're going to try to have another MVP performance next game.
– Andre Iguodala on Stephen Curry
For all the quality that James gave the Cavaliers, the quantity he and they faced from Golden State's deeper, more well-rounded roster turned Game 5 eventually into a mismatch. It figured to be that way as a series anyway -- the longer it lasted, the more the Warriors' superior health and numbers would be able to assert themselves -- and it played out that way across Sunday's four quarters.
Consider the fourth quarter.
The Cavaliers trailed when it started because, in the 12 minutes that preceded it, James uncharacteristically had struggled (1-for-6, four points) and only Tristan Thompson (10 points) among his teammates had stepped up. Golden State closed the quarter on a 13-4 run and, after 18 lead changes and eight ties, held its biggest lead to that point.
From there, it basically was Curry, James and snapshots of their respective squads.
GameTime: LeBron's Game 5
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James scored 16 points in the period and did most everything else as well. For example, he took 13 of Cleveland's first 14 shots in the fourth. And when he fed Thompson for a hook shot that got the Cavaliers within 85-84 with 5:10 left, the self-described "best player in the world," as James reminded us in the postgame news conference, had scored or assisted on all 17 of his team's points in the quarter.
It wasn't enough, of course, then or later. James scored four of the Cavs' final seven as well, including a 26-foot fadeaway from the left wing for three. But he could only do so much and the help that showed itself only in spurts -- J.R. Smith's first half, Thompson's third quarter -- wasn't there to be tapped.
What Golden State has been able to do all series, using Iguodala and Draymond Green and others in a tag-team of defenders, appears at least to have some cumulative effect as a game wears on. Or maybe it's just the swarms that team deploys at both ends, against a Cleveland team that's a dangerous but typical snake -- one head that bites and a lot of harmless body.
When a younger James carried Cleveland to the Finals in 2007, he averaged 22.0 points in the sweep by San Antonio for a club that scored 80.5 -- that's 27.3 percent. So far in this Finals, James at 36.6 ppg is scoring 39.4 percent of the Cavaliers' 92.8 points.
He's constantly working, constantly working. You just want to make him take tough shots and make him work for those baskets that he gets. If he gets 40, he gets 40.
– Draymond Green on LeBron James
"If you continue to make him work hard for each and every bucket that he gets, it takes a toll on his body," Green said. "He does a lot for this ballclub, on top of he's not a guy who takes the defensive end of the court off. He's constantly working, constantly working. You just want to make him take tough shots and make him work for those baskets that he gets. If he gets 40, he gets 40."
James afterward spoke of, get this, doing more. His team faces elimination from the series and the evaporation of its championship dream, at least for the year, on Tuesday. So James dove into the details, talking not so much about his heavy lifting that wasn't enough but details such as offensive rebounding (the Warriors grabbed five in the final quarter) and fast-break points allowed.
Of himself, the Cavs star said: "I don't put a ceiling on what I can do. ... I had a couple turnovers, a couple miscues defensively, and I've got to be better. I don't know. Like I said, I don't put a ceiling on what I'm capable of doing. I know I'm shouldering a lot of the burden, but it is what it is."
Warriors On Game 5 Win
Steve Kerr, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala talk to the media following the Warriors game 5 win.
Curry, by contrast, played free and easy on his way to 17 points in the fourth quarter Sunday. But he did it while taking only seven shots, with teammates combining to score 14 on 10 field-goal attempts.
The Golden State scoring point guard set a standard, provided the biggest moments but had the help to finish the job and outnumber the lone star from Cleveland.
"I thought from the very beginning when they went small, had their shooters out there, I thought this is Steph's night," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of his counterpart, David Blatt, opting to match Golden State's perimeter-oriented game. "He took over the game down the stretch and was fantastic."
Cavaliers On Game 5 Loss
David Blatt, LeBron James address the media following the Game 5 loss.
Asked what was different from earlier in the series, Kerr said: "I don't think he made an adjustment at all. I just think sooner or later Steph's going to get going. ... So it's not really an adjustment. It's just the law of averages are that Steph's going to make some shots."
Said Curry: "It's a chess match, and we both have a lot of wings and guards that can fill a five man lineup. And they made an adjustment. Didn't play [center Timofey] Mozgov pretty much at all in the whole game. So they tried to match our lineup. Obviously over 48 minutes we feel like we can be versatile with who we can throw out there and how we're going to win games."
Blatt answered questions afterward primarily about James, who had to do so much, and Mozgov, who did so little (scoreless and reboundless after putting up 28 points and 10 rebounds in Game 4). Kerr, on the other hand, fielded questions about Curry, about Iguodala, about Green, about Leandro Barbosa, even about Festus Ezeli.
The answers to what's going on in this series was in the questions that each coach faced.
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