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#pounditThursday, May 23, 2024

5 takeaways from Warriors’ Game 5 win over Cavaliers

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The Golden State Warriors won their second NBA title in three seasons Monday night with a 129-120 home win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. It was a typically strong performance from Golden State, who finish the playoffs with a 16-1 record and a strong argument for going down in history as one of the finest teams in the history of the NBA.

Here are five key takeaways from the game that saw them crowned champs.

1) Cleveland is excellent — but still overmatched

The Cleveland Cavaliers shot 53.3 percent from the field in the first half. They went 6-of-11 from three point range, good for a 54.5 percent mark. They still trailed by 11, and it could have been much more after a pair of late JR Smith three-pointers that kept the Cavs within striking distance. Even at the end of the game, their offensive numbers were solid — 53.4 percent from the field, 45.8 from the three-point line.

It didn’t matter.

Cleveland played well offensively and were still more or less blown away. 11 first half turnovers were a big part of the problem, and Kevin Love contributed nothing offensively due to very early foul trouble, so it’s not like Cleveland played an immaculate half and still got blitzed. The Warriors forced those turnovers and exploited the free throw line, allowing them to overcome Cleveland’s strong shooting from the field. In the fourth quarter, Golden State simply overwhelmed the Cavs with talent, movement, and ability.

2) Kevin Love’s foul trouble helped the Warriors consolidate

Helped by the fact that Kevin Love’s early foul trouble, the Warriors were able to make a subtle defensive switch allowed to keep both LeBron James and Kyrie Irving in check — two players who tormented them over and over in their Game 4 loss. The Warriors put Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala on the floor together, assigned Durant to James, and put Iguodala on Irving. It meant Golden State’s two best defenders could be on Cleveland’s two most dangerous offensive players without having to worry about a pair of Cleveland bigs.

This switch helped lead to the 28-4 second quarter run that helped turn the game in Golden State’s favor. Iguodala’s massive dunk is emblematic of the pressure the move created. Love landing in early foul trouble meant Golden State could shuffle things to really stifle Cleveland, and it worked to perfection.

3) Contributions from the non-stars

Golden State got plenty from Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry, but contributions from their supporting cast helped pull them over the line. Iguodala’s defense on James isn’t exactly a secret, but it was his offense that really caught the eye. Iguodala contributed 20 points, including a pair of three-pointers, helping cover for Klay Thompson, who was having another foul-prone off-night. If you need any indication of how important Iguodala was to Golden State in Game 5, you need only look at the +18 they put together with him on the floor.

That wasn’t it.

Patrick McCaw provided a spark of energy in the third quarter when the Warriors were struggling against a Cavalier onslaught, coming through with a few timely baskets to lift the sagging Warriors. In total, he scored six points, but added two offensive rebounds and a steal in his 12 minutes of action. It was contributions like these that allowed the Warrior stars to really pull away from Cleveland in the final minutes.

4) Golden State won it at the line

Golden State won this game in large part due to their exploits at the free throw line. Both teams took a similar amount of shots, but it was the Warriors that were much more successful at the line. Where Golden State went 23-for-28, Cleveland went 15-for-23 — a difference of nearly 20 percent overall.

For Cleveland, the culprits were somewhat surprising. James was just 1-of-4, but he has been fairly ineffective from the line all season. Kevin Love’s 2-of-5 was more surprising.

For the Warriors, Curry and Durant were their usual reliable selves, going a combined 18-for-21. The Warriors were reliable when they headed to the line. The Cavaliers were not.

5) LeBron James is still the best player in the world

When the Cavs were starting to look dead and buried, James kept them in the game through sheer force of will. He didn’t win Finals MVP, as will happen when on the losing team, but nobody was more important to their team in this series. He did it all — another 33 points, 11 rebounds, and seven assists. He brought energy, determination, and desperation, even when it looked like the Cavs were falling out of it.

Just look at the numbers.

James’s detractors will point to another Finals loss to demean him, but it isn’t fair. He ran into one of the NBA’s all-time great teams at the height of their power, and his superhuman effort wasn’t enough. He shot 63 percent from the field in the losing effort and can hold his head up high despite the result. He is still the best player in the league, and one of the best to ever play in the NBA.

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