With their backs against the ropes, the two superstars for the Cleveland Cavaliers came out and took over Game 5 in Oracle Arena. LeBron James and Kyrie Irving each scored 41 points in a 112-97 Cavs victory to force a Game 6 on Thursday night back in Cleveland.
The performances from James and Irving on Monday night were for the ages. This is the type of game they needed to have if they didn’t want to hit the vacation spots early. Both players were aggressive and attacked the basket. They combined to score or assist on 97 of Cleveland’s 112 points.
In the process of getting the win and extending their seasons, James and Irving became the first pair of teammates to score 40-plus points in the same NBA Finals game.
There is absolutely no debate on who the best player in the world is when LeBron James has games like he did on Monday night. The Warriors went under screens, daring James to shoot. He did just that and made Golden State pay. He was 16-30 from the floor and 4-8 from beyond the arc. He got in a groove early and never slowed down. In the first four games of this series, he scored 23 points on 9-28 when shooting outside the paint. Monday night he had 20 points and four three-pointers outside the paint.
Not only did James have 41 points, but he also grabbed 16 rebounds, dished out seven assists, three blocks and three steals. He stepped his game in the biggest way possible in the biggest game of his brilliant career. He was so aggressive in the first half, scoring 25 points, that he didn’t register one assist.
Kyrie Irving, aka, Uncle Drew was cooking all night long. It didn’t matter who was guarding him, he was not going to be denied. When he got the matchup he wanted in Steph Curry guarding him, he attacked Curry off the dribble and attacked the basket. Klay Thompson played as good of defense as anybody could have during certain shots, but Uncle Drew was having none of it. He became just the fourth player in Finals history to shoot 70% while attempting 20-plus shots. The other three were Shaquille O’Neal, Larry Bird and Hakeem Olajuwon.
The absence of Draymond Green proved to be a big loss for the Warriors. That certainly is not an excuse the Dubs will use nor should they, but the fact of the matter is they missed the physicality of Green. Tristan Thompson was setting screens to allow James and Irving to either take the shot or attack the tin as well doing work on the boards. He hauled in 15 caroms which led to second-chance points.
The Splash Brothers combined to score 62 points, but it was not enough. Klay Thompson caught fire in the first half, leading the Warriors with 26 points. He had knocked down six triples in the opening half. However, he only managed 11 points in the second half.
Curry scored 25 points, but didn’t have one of his typical shooting nights. He shot 8-21 overall and just 6-14 from three. He seemed to be off his game each time Irving took him to the rack. He isn’t known for his defense and he is not the worst defender in the league, but Irving made an example out of him tonight.
One of the biggest factors the Cavs were able to force a Game 6 and extend their season was the three-point shooting from Golden State. The Warriors shot 14-42 from beyond the arc. To put that into perspective, Golden State had more misses (28) than Cleveland had three-point attempts (22). The Cavs were also able to win the battle in the paint 28-9.
James and Irving combined to score 82 points on 33-54 shooting, hand out 13 assists and steal the ball five times. The Warriors starting five combined to score 82 points on 27-68 shooting to go with 12 assists and three steals. Some of the Warriors called James a “cry baby” after what occurred in Game 4 that led to the Green suspension. These comments were the likely catalyst of one of the most mesmerizing performances in Finals history. You knew he was going to get his, but which teammate would step up and assist him to guide this team back to Cleveland for a Game 6? The answer was Uncle Drew as he put on a show of his own that will be mentioned forever.
Kevin Love, the other member of the big three, scored just two points, grabbed three rebounds and handed out one assist in nearly 33 minutes.
It is very unlikely that the two superstars erupt like this again in Game 6, especially with Green back to clog up some of the lane, but if they do, there will be a Game 7. The Warriors will remain calm, cool and collected and try and do what they did a season ago; close out the Finals in Cleveland, Ohio.
Monday night’s Game 5 was the LeBron and Uncle Drew show.