The Golden State Warriors can win back-to-back NBA championships, taking a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals into game 5. But they’ll be attempting it without Draymond Green, suspended for his part in the scuffle with LeBron James.
The Cleveland Cavaliers, according to reports, pushed hard behind the scenes for the league to suspend Green for hitting LeBron James in the groin and then attempting to hit him again, as the two players got into a small altercation during the final minutes of game 4, which the Warriors won 108-97. James stepped over Green, and the Warriors forward hit him for it. Green has been called out a number of times in these playoffs for his intentional fouling and dirty antics, but only now the NBA has seen fit to suspend him, according to his flagrant foul and disciplinary record accumulation.
It seems Warriors players have been busy tarnishing James and the decision since Green has been notified of the suspension, even though it should have happened a long time ago. Either way, they’ll now have to make up the 14.8 points, 9.3 rebounds and 5.8 assists Green has been giving them in this series. The Warriors have been without Green just once this entire season, and it’ll be interesting to see if it completely disrupts their offense and defense, or simply brings out more from those who need to step up.
While playing without Green calls for some recalibration, the Cavaliers are the team that needs more to change. James, in something of a half monologue, half preach regarding himself, suggests the ball needs to go more through him, and semi criticized Kyrie Irving for not sharing the ball. Maybe he’s right, but it seems the overall tone should be the Cavaliers finding what they actually want to do on the floor. The second half in the game 4 loss, letting an 8-point lead slip away, was an embarrassing display of isolation and lack of imagination, along with a defensive breakdown.
The Cavaliers did a very good job in through the first three games of cancelling out Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. While it didn’t always work, there seemed to be a genuine game plan at work. That also seemed to be the case in game 4, at least for one half. The Warriors pick & roll, weird decisions by Tyronn Lue and the weird pacing from the Cavaliers led to the big turnaround, and putting them on the verge of a 4-1 finals loss, which would mean that despite having Irving and Kevin Love this time for the ride, they actually took a step backward compared to the Finals last year.
The Cavaliers are getting nothing from their bench. The Warriors got Curry and Thompson free, and they have this way of finding answers to almost every situation, unless they’re having a terrible shooting day. It feels that even without Green, unless James has a very special kind of game, or the Cavaliers finally find a role player to elevate in status for at least one game, they’re headed into their final game of the 2015-2016 NBA season, and the usual uncomfortable dilemmas of the offseason.