Maybe desperation inspired the Cleveland Cavaliers to bring some force to the NBA Finals.
Since Cleveland’s Game 4 victory Friday, there has been a lot of talk of how the Cavaliers were the more physical team, with the bigger question being why it took the Cavs so long to assert themselves.
“I’m not sure,” Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said Monday before Game 5 at Oracle Arena. “We talked about it coming into the series that we wanted to be physical, we wanted to be on bodies.”
Most of the Cavaliers believe their best chance to win the series was to be the more physical team, something that came out with Cleveland down 3-0 in the best-of-seven series.
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Warriors coach Steve Kerr acknowledged the Cavs were more physical Friday.
“Being physical isn’t just about pushing and holding and grabbing,” Kerr said. “It’s about fighting over a screen, it’s about playing the game plan the way you’re supposed to, knowing personnel and being a step ahead of the game.”
Kerr didn’t like the lack of fight the Warriors showed getting through screens in Game 4. Kerr said when a player fights over a screen and is grabbed, a foul will be called.
But if a player chooses to “die” into a screen and not fight through it, there will be no call, even if he’s grabbed.
“We were dying into a lot of screens,” Kerr said. “We didn’t deserve a lot of calls the other night. They were just the aggressor. Every time in my experience in the Finals, when you have one team that’s much more aggressive than the other, things tend to go their way and Cleveland earned everything the other night.”
It got especially physical in the first half of Game 5. With 3:08 left in the second quarter when Warriors forward David West got tied up by Cleveland guard Kyrie Irving.
Cavs center Tristan Thompson took exception to an extra shove by West and quickly ran to stand up for his teammate and got in West’s face.
After everyone was separated, technical fouls were called on Thompson, West and Cleveland’s J.R. Smith.
Plenty to lose – There’s a line of thinking the Cavs could play freely because they were down in the series 3-1 entering Monday.
The idea being all the pressure is on the Warriors to close out the series as the favorite, so the Cavs have nothing to lose.
Someone who doesn’t agree with that is Lue.
“We do have something to lose – a championship,” Lue said. “I never understood that thing anyway with talking about we have nothing to lose. We do. We’re competing to win a championship and we have everything to lose.”
Kerr said there’s pressure on the Warriors, too. His team blew a 3-1 lead last season, but “probably not s as much pressure as they (the Cavaliers) do,” Kerr said.
“There’s always pressure,” Kerr said. “It’s The Finals. There’s pressure on both teams, a lot at stake.”