Dribbles: Cavs will be dismissed again, but this is tied, not over
CLEVELAND -- Random dribbles from the Cavaliers' 103-82 loss to the visiting Warriors in Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Thursday:
1. No one said it would be easy. No one said LeBron James was Superman -- or even a real-life super hero. No one figured the Cavs would sweep, and no one predicted they'd be up 3-1 after losing Kyrie Irving in Game 1. Quite the opposite, actually.
2. This was the Cavs' only bad game of the series. Granted, it's the Finals, and you can't really afford to have any. But when you consider there's no Irving, there's no Kevin Love, and there's not much of a bench, well, the Cavs were due for a night like this. They looked tired, confused and couldn't make an outside shot.
3. But hey, give the Warriors some credit. Coach Steve Kerr went to a small lineup and forced a faster pace. Good idea, as the Warriors can't beat LeBron and the Cavs in a half-court game. The Cavs are tougher, more physical and just generally scrappier. So the Warriors caught the Cavs off-guard, and then flourished.
4. Then again, coach David Blatt said the Warriors' small-ball lineup wasn't "the main thing" in the Cavs' loss. "I sensed we were tired. ... We didn't make shots."
5. LeBron seconded that philosophy, pointing out how the Cavs finished a miserable 33 percent shooting, and 4-of-27 on 3-pointers. "We'll take those looks again," he said.
6. James himself was rather ordinary, finishing with 20 points on 7-of-22 from the floor. It was the first time all series he was held to less than 39 points.
7. Meanwhile, J.R. Smith has struggled for about two weeks, and man oh man, the Cavs could really use his help. He finished 2-of-12 shooting and summed up his overall Finals in just one word. For the record, it was another word for "horse manure."
8. LeBron on J.R. Smith: "I don't put too much pressure on anyone else. You continue to stick with them. We all struggle at times. We all have a couple games here, a couple games there, where we won't play so well. We know we can help the team, but it's just not falling for us."
9. So what do you do? "You don't give up on anyone," James said. "We all got to this point together. (Smith) has been huge for our team all year. We wouldn't be at this point without him. Hopefully, he can get it going. We believe (he will)."
10. Thanks in part to the Warriors' smaller starting five, as well as just general aggressiveness, center Timofey Mozgov was the man of the hour for the Cavs. He demanded the ball in the post and delivered a game-high 28 points. But that was both a good thing and a bad thing.
11. As Warriors forward Draymond Green said, "I think he's one of the most underrated players in the league. But at the end of the day, you're going to want Mozgoz to beat you. You're going to take the chance on Mozgov beating you before you take the chance on LeBron beating you."
12. Cavs power forward Tristan Thompson also did a fine job with 12 points and 13 rebounds. Aside from that, it was pretty much yuck, yuck and double yuck from the Cavs.
13. So, now it's on to Game 5. Is anyone really surprised this thing is tied at 2-all? As LeBron said after, it's really not much different than if both teams had just won their home games (instead of splitting). The only thing different is how the stories are spun.
14. Bottom line: This is a three-game series and only one team has LeBron. It may end up meaning nothing. But I'd sure rather have him than not have him -- especially in this situation. He's the only star here with two rings and five straight Finals appearances.
15. Now, get ready. You're going to hear from the same people who predicted doom for the Cavs after Irving got injured. You're going to hear from the national media, which is paid lots of dough to analyze, criticize and make controversial claims. You're going to be told this is Cleveland, and nothing good ever happens here. But don't listen to any of it.
16. Instead, understand this team will give it everything it has in the next two, perhaps three, games. The good news is the Cavs have typically bounced back after nights like Thursday. Home, road -- none of it has mattered. The Cavs also get two days rest before saddling up again Sunday at Golden State. And man, they need it.
17. Read: It ain't over 'til it's over. I've said it a thousand times, and I'll keep repeating it until I'm officially proven wrong: When it comes to basketball, all is possible with LeBron. At the very least, he is the frontman for a team that Cavs fans can be proud to support. No Irving, no Love, and the Cavs are tied 2-2 in the Finals with the mighty Warriors? You gotta be kidding.
18. LeBron on the series: "If I told my teammates six months ago that we had an opportunity to be 2-2 in the Finals and going on the road, would (they) take it? I think all of them would accept that. Win, lose or draw, you go out and compete. That's all that should matter. It shouldn't matter what everyone is talking about or if everyone is putting pressure on you. You go out and you play, and you live with the results after that."