To say we witnessed greatness last night would be an understatement. LeBron James, arguably, put on the greatest all-around performance in NBA Finals history. And with the help of Kyrie Irving, the duo put on the greatest two-man performance in playoff history. The absence of Draymond Green clearly hurt the Warriors, but Klay Thompson showed up and dueled with Irving and James for most of the game. On the other hand, Stephen Curry, the back-to-back MVP didn’t play like it, but we’ll talk about that later.
The first quarter started, the fans in Oracle were raucous as ever as they showered James with boos, and the Warriors jumped out to a quick 12-5 lead. It looked bleak from the get go, but Cleveland was able to fight back and finished the quarter trailing by three, 32-29. It started with Curry and Klay, who got going early and led the Warriors with 18 combined points on 4/8 shooting from downtown. Andre Iguodala started in place of Green and imposed his will early, putting up numbers very similar to Dray: eight points, four rebounds, three assists, two steals.
What the Cavs needed was aggression from LeBron, and it’s exactly what they got. His perimeter shot got going — a rarity — which opened up driving lanes even more. He accounted for 12 of Cleveland’s 29 points, was 2/2 from deep and 4/7 overall, and hauled in four rebounds. Irving and J.R. Smith were just as lethal, and Smith had ten, and Kyrie chipped in seven. The Cavs’ success on offense can also be attributed to Smith’s decision to attack the paint and not settle for outside shots.
In the second, Klay Thompson got hot. Super hot. He came out, knocked down four threes in four attempts and finished with 18 for the quarter. Cleveland was doing a terrible job on screens, and he got loose on either two or three pin downs and knocked down the open looks; it didn’t help that J.R. wasn’t glued to Thompson on the weak side. Despite the outburst, no one else on Golden State helped out, and they mustered 29 points. The Cavs flipped the script and dropped 32. James and Kyrie effectively took over the game at this points and behind LeBron’s 13 and Uncle Drew’s 11, Cleveland was able to tie the score 61-61 entering the break. Just for good measure, LeBron made sure to volleyball swat a Curry layup attempt into the second row courtside, drawing some “oohs” from the fans.
It was scintillating to watch James, Thompson, and Irving trade buckets throughout the second quarter and it was just a small sample.
LeBron and Kyrie continued to decimate Golden State, as both were hitting shots from all over. Their scoring lines were identical, 11 points, 4/5 shooting overall, 2/2 from three, and James was, somehow, able to dish out five assists in the period. The Warriors’ offense stagnated, and the Splash Brothers had a very mediocre shooting performance. Thompson managed to put up nine after going 5/5 from the charity stripe, but Curry was nowhere to be found. He was just 1/5 from the field, including 1/4 from three, for five points. Not to put all the blame on Curry and Klay as the Warriors shot 29% as a team, but the star players — especially the two-time MVP — can’t allow a half to start like that. After a 32-23 quarter for Cleveland, their lead stretched to 93-84.
Kyrie Irving showed he is a cold-blooded killer with the way he played in the fourth quarter. He went at both Curry and Thompson for the entire time he was on the court and used his incredible dribbling and finishing skills to carve up the Splash Bros. for 12 points on 4/5 shooting. Now, since I like to be objective, I need to get on LeBron if I’m going to get on Curry. After three stellar quarters, LeBron lost his mojo and missed on five of his seven attempts in the fourth. He was productive on the glass and didn’t turn the ball over, but without the “offensive brilliance” (per Jeff Van Gundy) of Kyrie, the fourth would’ve been a lot more interesting. As for Golden State, no one had an answer Uncle Drew, and Curry and Thompson had issues with their shots. Steph was more aggressive, taking eight shots but only connecting on three for seven points; Klay, who was scorching not too long along, attempted just two shots while Harrison shot 0/6. Granted, Cleveland was letting him shoot because of his lack of confidence.
By the end of the night, there were absurd numbers in the box score:
LeBron James: 41 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists, three steals, three blocks, 16/30 FG
Kyrie Irving: 41 points, three rebounds, six assists, two steals, 17/24 shooting
Klay Thompson: 37 points, 11/20 overall, 6/11 from three, 9/9 from the line
Curry did manage to put up 25, but it was a very inefficient 25. He needed 21 field goal attempts and only made eight; 14 of those attempts were from distance, and he only connected on five. We know he can close. After all, he averaged almost 29.3 in Games 4-7 against OKC.
LeBron James and Kyrie Irving by the numbers in Game 5
James and Kyrie become first teammates ever to score 40+ each in a Finals game (via ESPN Stats & Info)
Irving became the only player since 1964 to score 40+ on 70 percent shooting (via Basketball-Reference)
James recorded the only playoff game in since 1964 with at least 41 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists, three steals, and three blocks (via Basketball-Reference)
Both scored or assisted on 97 of the Cavaliers’ 112 points (via ESPN Stats & Info)