Here is a link to my column about the Warriors’ win in Game 5. The full text runs below:
The Warriors are going to win this series in six games.
The Warriors better win this series in six games.
After winning Game 5 104-91, the Warriors have made Tuesday night’s game in Cleveland a classic elimination game for Cleveland. Do or die. Win or limp into the offseason.
Eliminate the Cavs on Tuesday is what the Warriors are ready to do. Eliminators is the role they have grown into through the long weeks of this wearying postseason and the five games of these Finals, five games that have been vicious, mean, serious, as hard-fought as basketball could be. A perfect series.
The Warriors have run away from the Cavs the past two games. You see a pattern. Cleveland hangs tough — hangs in on the will of LeBron James. The Cavs hang tough for three quarters — for longer than they have a right to hang. And then natural law takes over — or something like that — and the undermanned Cavs tire because any shorthanded team would tire under those conditions. And the Warriors take over and show their superiority — they are superior — and win. On Tuesday they will take over and win the NBA championship.
The Warriors are such a rich team with players so versatile. They are a pleasure to watch and now we can watch them finish this out. There’s beauty in that. We will watch them do it in Cleveland in that loud arena before those adoring fans. Winning on the road will the beautiful bordering on heroic. It will mean something to do it over there by that lake in that grand old city. It will show the world the Warriors’ character and their pedigree and their grace under extreme pressure. It is everything this glorious season has led to.
But the Warriors must win that road game. No way they face a Game 7 — an elimination game for both teams. Anything can happen in a game like that. When the opponent has a player like that. Win this thing as fast as you can. End it fast. End it nicely. Or end it brutally, if it comes to that. Just end it.
Steve Kerr seemed preoccupied in the postgame interview room. Humbled before the enormity of what his team is about to do. He understands the Cavs are dangerous. They play so hard. And they aren’t dead until they are dead.
“The closeout game is always the hardest game in every series,” he said in a soft voice. “But particularly in the Finals. What I’m excited about is we can play a lot better and that’s what I told our team.”
I asked why the closeout game is the toughest. “Just is,” Kerr said. “There’s a lot of emotion. You’re right there on the cusp of something, but you still have to get the job done. We’ll be on the road against a great team. It’s going to be hard. We’ve got to play better the next game than we did tonight. There’s a long way to go.”
Kerr is lobbying for caution. He should. He’s also arguing to win Game 6. He should.
Stephen Curry adopted the same line. “We’re not getting ahead of ourselves,” he said. “In the locker room, if you walked in there, it was the exact same after a regular-season win.”
Cavs coach David Blatt met the media after Kerr. For the first time, he seemed worried. Showed no humor. His answers were clipped. He was impatient. He had good reason. The interview was like an interrogation centering on why he hardly used his center Timofey Mozgov. Don’t take my word for it. Listen to an edited version of his give-and-take with reporters — I was silent. See what it’s like to face the elimination game.
Q: What made you match Golden State’s small lineup?
A: The way we needed to play tonight to give ourselves a chance to win.
Q: Do you feel that gave you an advantage?
A: It looked like that. It sure did.
Q: How much (of the game plan was) using looks you hadn’t used in the regular season?
A: I felt we needed to respond to the last game. I don’t know what the final — the game finished 10-plus points, but it wasn’t a 10-plus game. That was the reason we played it that way.
Note: It was a 10-plus game because the score says it was. Back to Blatt.
Q: You talked about how you needed more rebounding. Today (Mozgov) was limited to 10 minutes. Can you explain your philosophy?
A: Well, we were in the game the way we were playing. We were right there. So, that’s the way we played it.
Q: (Not playing Mozgov) didn’t pay much result tonight.
A: And how did it do the game before?
Q: He was the best scorer, but you didn’t use him tonight.
A: What was the score of that game?
Q: You guys lost that game.
A: Yeah, by more.
Q: Can you explain why you didn’t use him, 28 points last game?
A: I thought I was pretty clear. I thought that was our best chance to win and we were in the game with a chance to win.
Q: Do you think you’re going to repeat the same game plan?
A: Not necessarily.
Good grief. For what it’s worth, Mozgov is not prepared to play against the Warriors’ small lineup. He’s too slow. Has bad hands. Falls down. Should change his name from Mosgov to Mosgoof.
We don’t know what Blatt will show in Game 6. He certainly will show James, the best player in the series. A once-in-a-generation player who doesn’t want to be eliminated in Cleveland.
“The opportunity we have on Tuesday is forcing Game 7,” James said. “We don’t want them celebrating at all — on our home floor or their home floor.”
The Warriors should take that seriously. They need to win Game 6 and it won’t be easy. Because, even though he’s exhausted and hurt and overworked and surrounded by ordinary players, LeBron James is coming. He’s coming. No matter what, he’s coming.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at email@example.com.