The 2015 NBA Finals keeps marching forward, as game 4 awaits, with the struggling Golden State Warriors trying to come back from being 1-2 down against the Cleveland Cavaliers, almost impossibly carried forward by LeBron James.
Unlike what a lot of people like to define it, this isn’t James against the world. Sure, his averages and overall numbers do make it seem like he’s playing almost one on five sometimes (that’s when the Cavs are at their worst), averaging 41 points, 12.3 rebounds and 8 assists per game in the series so far. But he is taking 35.7 shots per game, so it’s not all rosy and fun, hitting just 40.2% of them.
There’s the unexplainable Matthew Dellavedova, who isn’t just doing the best job of harassing Stephen Curry anyone has done in these playoffs on a consistent basis (Curry shooting just 39.7% from the field in this series). He’s also doing an incredible job of the team’s starting point guard, making a lot of plays on his own, including scoring 20 points in game 3.
J.R. Smith is the disappointing part of the Cavaliers team in this series so far. Instead of stepping up to fill in for the shots Kyrie Irving leaves behind him, Smith is struggling on both ends of the floor, and it’s costing him minutes, playing just 32 in the game 3 win, despite shooting rather well from the field and from beyond the arc, this time picking up one foul.
There are the unheralded heroes, winning their matchups. Timofey Mozgov has pretty much forced the Warriors to go small as much as possible, making Andrew Bogut almost redundant. Tristan Thompson is struggling to finish at the rim, but he’s turning Draymond Green into much less than the guy everyone started demanding max contracts for earlier in the playoffs. Iman Shumpert is on and off with his shot, but his work on defense, especially when it comes to using unbelievable timing and his hand quickness, is immeasurable. James Jones is doing his thing, scoring 15 points over the last two games and hitting most of the open 3’s he’s been given. You can’t ask anything more from him.
And the Warriors? Maybe David Lee is something of a game changer for them, but despite his +17 during his 13 minutes in the previous game, he’s not a player who offers a complete answer. Yes, his presence makes it easier for Curry to play some pick & roll with someone and create space for himself, but Lee is also a defensive hole, as the Cavaliers look to switch James on him each and every possession. There’s no perfect answer, despite the Warriors being the deeper, healthier teams.
It comes down to Steve Kerr hoping Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry finally having a good night together. It hasn’t been the case in this series and even for most of this postseason, although for the first time it’s actually a problem. So many players, including Green, Harrison Barnes (who was 0-for-8 from the field in the previous game) and Bogut himself seem to be completely taken out of the series, and the Cavs are daring those players to try and beat them. Andre Iguodala doesn’t seem to be phased, but he’s not enough.
What does game 4 offer us? It’ll be a nice test to see how Steve Kerr reacts to what he’s learned in the two losses, but also offering us a chance to see if Dellavedova becoming dominant offensively was more than a fluke, and how much energy does LeBron James have left after playing 92.2% of the possible minutes in this series so far, and in what moments does David Blatt choose to rest him this time. Just like pit stops in auto racing, the timing of those short rests determines the outcome quite a lot.