OAKLAND, CA (WOIO) - The Cleveland Cavaliers will play the Golden State Warriors in Game 5 of the NBA Finals tonight at 9 p.m. (Find television and streaming information here.)
The Cavs are trying to do what no NBA team has done before -- win the NBA Championship after being down 3-1 in the series.
Before the refs throw up the first jump ball at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, Cali, here are five things you should know about tonight's competition.
Draymond Green continues to be the story of this series, and this time it's because he WON'T be a factor in Game 5. The Warriors' power forward has been suspended for one game after getting assessed another flagrant foul -- this one for hitting LeBron James's private parts late in Game 4. This has been a recurring issue for Green, who has now hit (or kicked) three players below the belt in these playoffs. This latest incident put him over the top as far as the flagrant foul points are concerned, so he's going to sit this one out. A huge storyline, as the Warriors are +36 when he's been on the court in the Finals, and -7 when he's been off of it.
Speaking of plus/minus, how big has Andre Iguodala been? The Cavaliers are +31 when James has been on the court but Iguodala has been sitting, and -48 when both are out there. Iguodala is one of the few players in the league who can frustrate James defensively, which is why he was named Finals MVP a year ago, and has a shot to win it again if they repeat.
3. Dynamic Duo
Your stars have to be stars in the Finals, so of course we want James and Kyrie Irving lighting it up as often as possible. However, taking 33 of the Cavs' 36 second-half shots in Game 4 wasn't a winning formula. It led to isolation ball, a stagnating offense and of course a bad loss. As Tyronn Lue said on Sunday, the Cavs have to make quicker decisions offensively, and keep that ball moving. Otherwise, the Cavs won't have enough.
4. Get Creative
So, when James and Irving do have the ball, they need to facilitate and elevate others. There was a :25 span late in the third quarter of Game 4 when the Cavs were down 9 and both James and Irving had their shots blocked, on back to back possessions. That's two great players trying to force the issue offensively, and against this defense, it won't work.
Back to Lue, who's been asked by many of us repeatedly in these playoffs about the lack of calls on fouls to James in the paint. James gets whacked repeatedly in the lane, with few calls because he's so much bigger and stronger than most. It's a ridiculous interpretation by the officials, and after Game 4, Lue, who's been consistently diplomatic about this issue. finally said it: James never gets the calls. It cost Lue $25,000, but it was worth it, because the head coach said what every guy in his locker room knows. More than that, the officials missed other blatant calls, including one late in the third when Iguodala clearly lost the ball out of bounds, but the Warriors retained possession in a game that was still nip and tuck at the time.
Bottom line: these playoffs have NOT been the NBA officials' finest hour.