When the Golden State Warriors were up 3-1 in the NBA Finals, you didn't have to go far to find someone to claim the deck was stacked against the Cleveland Cavaliers. By and large, these were Cavs fans.
Now that its tied at 3 with Game 7 looking in Oakland, Calif., on Sunday, it's the opposite. The league favors LeBron James. Add the wife of Stephen Curry, Ayesha, to the chorus of nonsense that's inevitable this time of year.
The truth is, the NBA Finals aren't easy. The opponent just doesn't lay down. It's about adjustments (even to how games are being called to take advantage), lineup changes, strategical moves and health. One game doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the other. The only common theme has been the margin of 19.6 for the winning team. Golden State has won by as many as 33 points and Cleveland by 30. All margins have been double-digits.
After Curry was sent to the bench with his sixth foul and ejected for tossing his mouthpiece and eventual $25,000 fine, all hell broke loose with his wife venting on social media (always a bad idea), his coach Steve Kerr railing against game officials for being inconsistent that drew a $25,000 fine (probably a good idea given how it worked for Cavs coach Tyronn Lue).
The reasons the series changed have nothing to do with officials:
- When James has a mismatch, he's not hesitating. He's no longer being indecisive and going at Golden State's guards on switches immediately. Earlier in the series, he hesitated and tried to avoid contact when defended by Curry in the mid-post. He was bailing him out by falling away and an added benefit is putting Curry in foul trouble early.
- Harrsion Barnes, who turned down a $64 million extension before the season and is expected to get a max offer in July, has continued to show why he comes with major question marks. In Games 5 and 6, Barnes has a total of five points on 2 of 22 shooting. If he's not burying the corner three-point shot, he has been almost useless.
- Kevin Love is being paid $22.6 million this season and there seems to be this obligation Lue feels to put him on the court. But the less Love is on the floor, the better. He's averaging 6.2 points in the last four games and hasn't had more than five rebounds or made more than one three-point shot.
- Kyrie Irving can be a drain defensively but he has mostly stayed away from those dribbling exhibitions that cause the offense to stall. When Golden State has made its runs, this still happens but Irving is making quicker decisions when he sees mismatches, too. He either goes at his man or moves it to the mismatch, such as James on a post up, and then spaces the floor properly by staying at the arc to make double-teaming from the strong side impossible.
- Tristian Thompson has feasted with 21 points and 26 rebounds in the last two games. All of his points are at the rim, with many of the assists courtesy of James for splittng double-teams with pinpoint passes.
- And as Mike Prada of SBNation points out here, the Cavs have gotten away with a lot of grabs and holding to disrupt the Warriors on both ends. It has prevented proper switching on defense and cutting on offense. Thompson also is setting screens like Al Horford of the Atlanta Hawks, who has a tendency to stretch what's legal vs. illegal because of how he disguises it. He'll set the screen, turn and back into the defender fighting over it. Thompson has adjusted to how the game is called (same with Horford) and if the whistles are blown the Warriors have to do more than complain about it if they hope to win Game 7.
MORE WIZARDS: CURRY FINED, NOT SUSPENDED FOR HURLING MOUTHGUARD