OAKLAND, CA (WOIO) - Game 5 between the Cavs and Warriors in the NBA Finals is set for Monday night in Oakland. Here are five things to watch for in Game 5:
Let Them Play
It'll be crucial to the Cavs' chances for the officials to let them play, as in, stay physical. Tyronn Lue said it himself on Sunday: through the first three games of the series they were too "nice". That changed in Game 4. On the court, as LeBron got in good friend Kevin Durant's face. And on the bench, as Dahntay Jones did the same. The 2016 Finals swung when the Cavaliers started banging the Warriors around. If they can do the same from here on out, they have a shot.
Of course, the Warriors can get physical, too. And, cross the line. I asked Zaza Pachulia if he was concerned that he might receive a call (suspension) from the league office after his shot to Iman Shumpert's, uh, private area, and Zaza pretty much cut me off with "No way!" Still, between Pachulia's penchant for taking out opponents (see: Kawhi Leonard) and Draymond Green's histrionics, I'm still waiting for that Warriors' meltdown game. It would come in handy on Monday.
Kyrie Irving has come on strong the past couple of games, and that's not good for the Warriors, who remember him going for 41 a year ago in Game 5, and have now watched him light it up for 78 points in his past two. Irving talked at length on Sunday about cherishing his role, and having the confidence to take the big shot. If he's 'figured 'em out' again (as he said he did a year ago during the Finals), look out.
Crown the King
There may indeed be a coronation at Oracle Arena soon. Maybe Monday. Maybe next Sunday. But in the meantime, LeBron is still the King. He's gone for 70 points in his past two games, he's averaging a triple-double in these Finals, and when he's on the court, the Cavs have outscored the Warriors. But, the guy has to sit at some point, even for very short rests. So...
Bank on the Bench
These Finals weren't exactly a showcase for the Cavaliers' bench through the first few games. Deron Williams had gone 0-for-11, and Kyle Korver had missed the clutch "3" that would have sealed Game 3. But both were key in Game 4, and Richard Jefferson's defense on Durant, even as KD went for 35, took a lot of pressure off of LeBron. The Cavs need these guys again, even in bits and pieces. It will take everything the Cavaliers have to continue their march towards another historic comeback.