The Golden State Warriors are one win from repeating as NBA champions. They will have an opportunity to pick up that one win on a home court that has seen them post a 98-7 record in two years under Steve Kerr.
Golden State will also be looking to accomplish this feat without All-Star forward Draymond Green, who was suspended for Game 5 after an incident with Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James on Thursday.
It’s a huge loss for a Warriors team that performs at a much higher clip with Green on the court. In fact, he finished this past regular season with the top plus-minus in the history of the Association.
Thus far in the playoffs, the Warriors have outscored their opponents by 173 points with Green on the court, including a plus-37 mark in the first four games of the Finals.
This is primarily due to the fact that Green is among the best defenders in the entire Association. After all, the likes of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are shooting a combined 14-of-39 from the field with Green guarding them in the series.
One thing that’s going to have to happen here if the Warriors are going to close out Cleveland in Game 5 will be improved performances from those a bit further down on the totem pole.
Whether it’s Marreese Speights or James Michael McAdoo, someone will have to play a larger role with Green out. Simply put, Golden State can’t rely on its small-ball lineup at a higher clip with Green sidelined.
While Andre Iguodala and Harrison Barnes will surely be playing together a great deal on Monday night, that doesn’t answer the question regarding who will play center when the team does go small.
If it’s Speights, that will give the Warriors more of a scoring punch. If it’s McAdoo, athleticism could become an issue for Cleveland.
It’s in this that the Warriors shouldn’t be overly concerned with Green missing Game 5.
No one in Cleveland wants to see Love attempting to guard wither Iggy or Barnes out on the perimeter. That’s not a recipe for success. And when the Cavaliers decide to use James at the four, that also brings up issues with Richard Jefferson attempting to guard whoever is at the three.
Green may be Golden State’s catalyst on offense due to his elite-level passing ability. But the likes of Iggy, Shaun Livingston, Stephen Curry and even Klay Thompson have proven that they can move the rock.
If the Warriors decide to go more traditional with Green out, that will also give them an advantage in the low post with Andrew Bogut, one of the best passing big men in the entire Association. How will Lue combat that lineup? That’s going to be the biggest question moving forward.
Defensively, Golden State does have an issue here. Green’s perimeter defense makes him such a difficult matchup for Cleveland’s win players.
And while Iggy will surely find himself matched up against James here, who is going to go out and challenge Love on the perimeter? Who is going to stop the drive and dish mentality that helped Cleveland earn its second consecutive trip to the NBA Finals?
That’s going to be the biggest key here.
But make no mistake about it, there’s very little reason to believe the Warriors are going to come out flat in this one. They have an opportunity to clinch the title on their home court.
They are doing so with a bit of anger directed at the Cavaliers following Thursday’s game. That’s going to play huge role come Monday night.
Strength in numbers has been Golden State’s motto throughout the past two years. In this, it has the ability to make up for the loss of a key cog.