The Cavs beat the Warriors 112–97 on Monday night, but you already knew that. Let’s examine some of Game 5’s other winners and losers.
1. Kyrie Irving
What an incredible advertisement for hero ball. I’m not sure what’s crazier: that Kyrie dropped 41 points on a mere 24 shots, or that anyone would suggest that his time in Cleveland may be coming to an end as recently as eight days ago. We’ve seen Kyrie go off like this before, but his Game 5 performance felt revelatory — one LeBron James said “will go down in the all-time greatest performances in Finals history.” Down 3–1 in the Finals to the 73-win Warriors, facing a hostile Oracle crowd — this is when max-contract players need to step up. And Kyrie finally did that on Monday night.
It’s crazy to think how far he’s come since that time he asked Mike Miller if a 2014 regular-season game was what playoff basketball felt like.
2. LeBron James
There is nothing like elimination-game LeBron. James also dropped 41 on Monday. He beat the Splash Brothers at their own game, summoned the aggression of the Undertaker, and had a chase-down of Steph Curry that was the basketball equivalent of the beat drop in “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1.” LeBron was the Cavs’ backbone in Game 5, refusing to flinch in the face of deafening boos. His performance kept his teammates at ease and the Warriors on edge, paving the way for Kyrie to take over in the second half. The New York Times’s Paul Sullivan has defined clutchness as “the ability to do under pressure what you do under normal circumstances,” and LeBron treated Game 5 like it was just another game. He’s used to this stuff by now:
3. Draymond Green
Draymond watched the A’s crush dingers against the Rangers in a luxury suite while Steph went 8–21 from the field. I’d call that a win.
1. Harrison Barnes and Kevin Love
Remember when Harrison Barnes was going to get a max contract this offseason? Good times. He shot 2–14 in Game 5, making his agent’s job much more difficult in the process. Meanwhile, Kyrie’s masterful performance means that K-Love, who scored just two points, is poised to take most of the blame if the Cavs lose the series. LeBron set the tone for this early:
2. Anderson Varejao
I’ve never heard a human being exude more disgust than Jeff Van Gundy describing Varejao’s Oscar-worthy flops on Monday night:
(Of course, these are the sorts of plays I’d cheer endlessly when Andy was a Cav, but those days are in the past.)
3. Klay Thompson’s breath
Hey, Klay, maybe ask your dad if you can use some of your allowance money on a bottle of Listerine.