The matchup of two rookie head coaches was an intriguing story-line coming into the NBA Finals, but it quickly moved to the back-burner thanks to all the on-court excitement. Then, in a Game 4 that the Warriors needed to have, head coach Steve Kerr made his presence felt.
Kerr called upon veteran Andre Iguodala to start his first game all season, shortened his bench to seven men, and saw his team roar to a 103-82 victory over the Cavaliers on Thursday, evening the series at two games apiece. The Warriors will look to carry the momentum into Game 5 tonight (8:00 PM Eastern at Oracle Arena in Oakland) and move within one win of their first NBA Title since 1975.
Iguodala’s defensive efforts helped make Lebron James look human for the first time all series, limiting the four-time MVP to only 20 points on 7/22 shooting. Iguodala and Steph Curry had 22 each for a Warriors squad that finally looked like the offensive juggernaut they’ve been all year.
Heading into the series, one big advantage for the Warriors was supposed to be the depth of their bench. But Kerr elected to keep his rotation small, both in numbers and size. Andrew Bogut was pulled from the starting line up and played a playoff-low three minutes. While the Warriors lost the battle on the glass, giving up 16 offensive rebounds, their perimeter shooting improved, going 12/30 from beyond.
For Cleveland, there isn’t much coach David Blatt can do to counteract the smaller Golden State lineup. He’s already been using a bare-bones, seven-man rotation all series and his front court had a strong night against the shorter Warriors; Timofey Mozgov put up a career-high 28 points and Tristan Thompson added 12. It really goes to show that this Cavaliers team will live and die based on whether James can raise his level of play from great to legendary.
Golden State has certainly figured something out, especially in the screen game, where they stymied the Cavs all night. As good as they looked, though, I’ve learned it’s a bad idea to continually doubt Lebron James. He won’t have two pedestrian showings in a row, especially with an extra day of rest before tonight’s Game 5. While I like Golden State straight up, the Cavs should keep it within eight.
Pick: Cavaliers (+8)
(Photo Credit: Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)