Here is a link to my Friday column about Game 4 betwee Warriors and Cavs.The full text runs below:
CLEVELAND — This is an homage to Steve Kerr. Pure praise. What he did on Thursday night, what he did to change the NBA Finals, to change the finals in midcourse, was daring, brazen and brilliant. The Warriors players won the game 103-82. But the hero of the game, and almost certainly the hero of these finals, is Kerr.
He had been stodgy and predictable in the first three games, and all that was taking down his team, making things more difficult than they had to be. He had played the Cavaliers’ slow-down game. And that was bad. And uninteresting. So, Kerr changed everything. It was startling what he did. He removed his center Andrew Bogut from the starting lineup. In Bogut’s place, Kerr inserted small forward Andre Iguodala. It was exchanging an elephant for a chipmunk. And it worked. Wow, did it work.
What Kerr did was more radical than the crucial fourth game in the Memphis series. The Warriors were down 2-1 in that series just as they were down 2-1 to Cleveland. Kerr did something unprecedented against Memphis. He decided not to guard Tony Allen. Dared him to shoot. A brick maker. The strategy worked and the Warriors ran the Grizzlies out of the postseason.
What Kerr did on Thursday in Game 4 of this series was even more risky. If the strategy failed — this going small, this playing without a real center — it would have been on Kerr. Enormous courage. Enormous gamble. By sitting Bogut, by putting Draymond Green at center, by using Iguodala from the start, Kerr changed the nature of a Warriors-Cavaliers game. Changed the basic equation, if you will.
The Cavs players could not cope with the Warriors’ small lineup, which was so much more athletic than the plodding, slow-it down Cavaliers. Kerr’s small lineup exposed the Cavs for what they are. The Cavs are a bad-shooting team — including LeBron James — that tries hard. Tries harder than anyone you can imagine. Give them credit for that.
But they lack talent and speed and they depend way too much on one player, even if it’s THAT player. What Kerr did to basketball was as radical as Pablo Picasso painting a face with both eyes on one side. Kerr took a creative leap, re-imagined his team. It is so hard to do that heavy mental lifting. The Warriors got Kerr precisely for this kind of thinking and risk taking, and these things set him apart.
Because understand this. The series was going down the tubes for Kerr. The games were way too tough. Getting a good shot was sheer agony. It never ever should have been that way. And Kerr seemed hypnotized, unable to act. And then he acted and changed everything. Call what he did mind over matter.
Game 4 was, I believe, definitive. The Warriors showed their superiority that always was there but was latent. Kerr found the key to the Cavs’ lock and it’s hard to imagine Cavs coach David Blatt making an equally radical move.
By going small, Kerr got Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green good shots. They had been spectators and now they were involved. And, curiously, Cavs center Timofey Mozgov guarded Iguodala. Mozgoz was slow and lumbering, and Iguodala lit him up, ended with 22 points. Iguodala is a big-game player. And he should have started.
“The actual move changes the chessboard,” Kerr said. “It was important to get better spacing. We had five guys out there who can run pretty fast. We got up and down the floor pretty quickly. That helped us get out to a better start.”
Before the game, Kerr said he didn’t anticipate making any lineup changes.
“We made the decision this morning,” Kerr admitted after the game. “And so when I was asked today, I lied. No, I did. I mean, I lied. I figure I have two press conferences on the day of the game, so I’m asked a lot of strategic questions.
“My options were to tell the truth – and I was asked both at the shootaround and before the game. If I tell the truth it’s the equivalent of me knocking on David Blatt’s door and saying ‘Hey, this is what we’re going to do.’ I could evade the question, which would start this Twitter phenomenon. Or I could lie. So, I lied. Sorry, but I don’t think they hand you the trophy based on morality. They give it to you if you win. So sorry about that.”
We forgive him.
Kerr also spoke about Iguodala. “He’s been our best player through four games,” Kerr said. “He guards LeBron pretty much every possession he’s out there. And his offense has been terrific.
“He’s one of our two captains. He’s our most experienced player and he’s one of the smartest players I’ve ever been around. The guy is brilliant at both ends. He sees the game. He’d be a great coach, although he says he’d be too impatient. He’s got a great basketball mind.”
Let’s say this. Finally, these are the Warriors we remember. They had amnesia for a while, forgot who they were. They thought they were a slow team, thought they were Cleveland. But the amnesia passed and they remembered — gee whiz — they are the best team in the league.
One other thing. I exclusively quoted Kerr in this column. He made the difference. He was the smartest guy in the game. This is his story.
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