As the minutes were winding off of the clock late in the fourth quarter on Friday night in Game 4, with the Golden State Warriors firmly in control of the game and, once the game ended, the series, Game 5 was shaping up to be a coronation more than a contest. All the Warriors had to do was close out Game 4, then head home and mop things up on Monday night. Warriors in five, nice and easy.
Then, with just a couple minutes to go in Game 4, Draymond Green was sent to the floor (or flopped, depending on who you root for) by LeBron James, James tried to step over Green, Green hit James in the nuts, and yada yada yada.... Green winds up suspended for Game 5.
On the list of things that could have raised the Cavaliers' collective pulse from a near flatline to something discernible, Green's getting suspended might be at the top of the list. Given his versatility at both ends of the floor, but particularly on defense, Green unlocks so many things for the Warriors. Against these Cavs, the man is a walking cheat code.
In fact, the people who know best, the gamblers, saw it exactly that way....
Pro Bettor David Malinsky says: "LeBron James is the only player in the NBA clearly more valuable to his team than Draymond Green."— RJ Bell (@RJinVegas) June 14, 2016
And that's precisely how it played out last night. While Green sat in a suite across the street at the A's game watching on television, his teammates were out there shooting 3-21 from three point range in the second half, and turning a 61-61 halftime tie into a 112-97 loss in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. Now, the Warriors, who still lead the series 3-2, have to go back to Cleveland. And who the hell wants to go back to Cleveland?
As always, winners and losers abounded last night. Let's take a look...
4. Richard Jefferson
After starting Game 4 for the underperforming Kevin Love (more on him in a second), Jefferson was back to coming off the bench in Game 5. Still, Jefferson gave the Cavaliers a huge lift with his energy, far more than anything they got out of Love. Jefferson finished the game with 8 important points (4-6 shooting) and three steals. For a guy who has been left for dead for most of the last few seasons, this series has been a mini-renaissance for Jefferson.
3. Draymond Green
After getting suspended for Game 5, Green, who was one of the odds-on favorites to win the Finals MVP, saw his odds go from +100 up to +500. After watching LeBron James and Kyrie Irving — two players who shot a combined 9 for 26 with Green defending them in Games 1, 2, 3, and 4 — torch the Warriors on Monday night for 41 points apiece on 33 of 54 shooting, Green's MVP odds have to go right back to where they were before, right? I mean, in a warped sort of way, didn't Green's true value to his team get underscored last night? You know who thinks Green should be the MVP? The people taking a leak at the A's game, that's who....
Fans cheering MVP as Draymond comes out of the restroom. Damn, MVP of taking a leak. pic.twitter.com/XLPNmjdqKF— DeMarcus Davis (@DeMarcusRFNET) June 14, 2016
2. LeBron James
LeBron was amazing last night, but rather than have me tell you about, I will embed a bunch of tweets from my friend and former SportsRadio 610 colleague (and resident LeBron-ophile) Nick Wright....
He ended with 41-16-7, along with 3 blocks and 3 steals. I gotta stop underestimating LeBron https://t.co/n3muhVtasm— nick wright (@getnickwright) June 14, 2016
41-16-7 had only been done 5x in NBA *history*. LeBron just did it on the road, season on the line vs 73 win team. pic.twitter.com/ECq981Fiy8— nick wright (@getnickwright) June 14, 2016
LeBron has now faced elimination in the NBA Finals 7 times. He's averaging 31-11-7 in those games. Just totally bananas.— nick wright (@getnickwright) June 14, 2016
1. Kyrie Irving
Irving was incredible last night, shooting 17-24 from the field, on his way to 41 points, but if you want the true portion of the game where he stamped this thing indelibly, go back and check from 7:30 to 5:33 to go in the game. Those two minutes. With 7:30 left, it was Cleveland leading 99-92 and the Warriors still had life. Over the next two minutes, Irving would score all ten points in a 10-4 Cavs run, punctuated with a three pointer to make it 109-96. The game was unofficially over at that point. LeBron was great, but Kyrie Irving finished the Warriors.
Kyrie completely took this game over!!!! Wow— Draymond Green (@Money23Green) March 13, 2015
4. Harrison Barnes
For a guy who is supposed to be getting a max contract this coming offseason, Barnes sure does look meek. The Cavaliers effectively did to Barnes what the Warriors did to Tony Allen in the Memphis series last postseason — the let him shoot, effectively making it 4-on-5 everywhere else, and Barnes responded with clank after clank after clank (2-14 from the field overall). There's one big problem with Barnes going all Tony Allen, and it's that Barnes is supposed to be a skilled offensive player, but too often on stages like this, he looks timid, nervous, and out of place. To whichever team that gives Barnes a max deal this offseason, have fun. (And with that, the Rockets' chances of being that team just shot up to like 93 percent.)
3. Kevin Love
In a way, Kevin Love doesn't have to worry about his meekness, since Cleveland already gave him a max deal last offseason. Throughout this series, Love has looked completely befuddled and miscast, and on Monday night he finished with two points. Put simply, Love is being exposed on this level of stage as skilled player who is better suited to score a bunch of meaningless points for a crap team like his old Wolves teams than being a prominent featured player on a title contender. Also, I think he's trying too hard to make friends.....
2. Golden State sign makers
Um, is that a term paper or a sign? If it's more than ten words, it's no longer a sign, it's a postcard. Also, nice burn on LeBron ... "LOSER CRY BABY JAMES"..... boom, roasted, LeBron.....
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One of the many LeBron signs here at Oracle. pic.twitter.com/lG4LaEHYE1— Stefan Bondy (@SBondyNYDN) June 14, 2016
1. This poor bastard
True or false ... If this were a Belichick press conference, this poor guy mysteriously disappears the next day... pic.twitter.com/DBtwHOBgIw— Sean Pendergast (@SeanTPendergast) June 14, 2016
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.