The Warriors had the best team in the NBA this year, by far. They did so by starting Andrew Bogut whenever he was healthy. Indeed, for several years the common wisdom that the Warriors possible success in the playoffs was dependent on the health of the oft-injured Bogut. Many attributed some of the Warriors' success this year to the fact that Bogut was, for him, remarkably healthy - he played 67 of the 82 games, starting each time.
The Warriors had the best team in the NBA this year, by far. They did so by bringing former All-Star (and still very good) Andre Iguodala off the bench. He had started every game in his career coming into this season. He did not start a single game this season, either in the regular season or the playoffs.
The Warriors had the best team in the NBA this year, by far. You knew that they would not panic just because they were down two games to one in the Finals. You knew that making drastic changes - by the team with the best record in the league, by far -- would be seen as a sign of desperation, the last thing Steve Kerr would not want with a young team that did not have a single player who had ever logged a single minute in an NBA Finals game.
You also knew that if Steve Kerr made drastic changes, and the Warriors lost, the critics would have a field day with the rookie coach panicking on the big stage. Kerr surely knew this too - and he didn't care. He did what he and his coaching staff believed gave his team the best chance to win.
He took Bogut out of the starting lineup and replaced him in the starting line-up with Iguodala. Kerr made 6'6" Draymond Green (who was awful the game before) the center.
How did this risky move work out? The Warriors went down 7 - 0 thanks to Cavs' offensive rebounds on their first two misses and a Shumpert open 3. Warrior time-out barely two minutes into the game. Panic city, right? Not so much.
But by the end of the first quarter, the Warriors were up 31-24, and Kerr was a genius, not a goat. Two great stats from Van Gundy at the end of that quarter - Warriors had 4 offensive rebounds to the Cavs 3 at the end of the quarter. Warriors had 9 assists to zero turnovers. I love it when the announcer supplies the exact stats that educate you about what you just saw.
As you can guess, what I really like about the Kerr move was the guts it took to make it. Coaches in all sports have a tendency to do what is expected of them. If the coach kicks the extra point instead of going for the two-point conversion, he won't get criticized, even if the numbers suggest the "riskier" two-point conversion was the better move. If the manager bunts the runner over to second instead of letting the batter swing away, he won't get criticized, even if the numbers suggest that giving away the out by bunting is a bad move.
Whether it worked out or not, the fact that Kerr did NOT do the expected thing, and was willing to bear the brunt if it did NOT work out, says a lot about this rookie coach. As does the fact that he willingly admitted misleading everyone about his plans - As he said, why would he want to let Dave Blatt know that he was making this move?
Will the switch continue to work? The one thing that these playoffs have taught us is that each game creates its own story. There has been very little carryover from game to game. Teams have bounced back from heart-breaking losses and blow-outs, and momentum has switched horses so many times the word loses any meaning. If you are not a fan of the Warriors or the Cavs, you are rooting for one thing - a seventh game. Let me correct that: A Game Seven.
1. Apparently some of the Cavs are pushing to have Coach Blatt play the "veterans" more. Gee, I look down at the end of the bench and see Mike Miller, Shawn Marion and Dead Man Walking Kendrick Perkins. Some of the Cavs want those guys to play more? For me, zero minutes a game seems about right for the Ghosts of Basketball Past.
2. The cameras focused on the Cavs bench showed trainers working feverishly on Dellavedova's legs because they were cramping up (his legs, not the trainers). They needed to get Delly back in the game! Read that again. In an NBA Finals game, a team was desperate to get undrafted Matthew Dellavedova back into the game. In a related note, he went 3 for 14 from the floor. He was still better than chief knucklehead JR Smith, 2 for 12 from the floor, 0 for 8 from three. One statement you have never heard: "Wouldn't it be great if JR Smith finally got a ring?"
3. Another statement you never thought you would hear after an NBA Finals game, especially one involving Lebron, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson: "Timothy Mosgov led all scorers with 28 points". In a strange way, that might have been the key to the Warriors' victory. Mosgov "going off" also meant that no one else on the Cavs did. Of course, the fact that the Cavs scored only 82 points might be another clue.
4. There has been a lot of talk about the Warriors depth. However, for one night at least, both teams did not go deep into their bench. Both teams played only 7 guys more than 10 minutes. Curry played 41 minutes, including the entire second half until the benches cleared with 3 minutes left. Lebron also played 41 minutes, but was clearly gassed. This was likely part of the residue of Lebron running the entire Cavs offense for all three prior games, Games One and Two in particular. He just wore out in this game. Even before he lost the fight with a baseline camera, he was clearly a step slower than normal.
By the way, why didn't anyone ask how the camera survived that crash? Super-son Lucas (an extremely talented photographer - see his work here) surely wants to know how the camera is. LeBron came back into the game right away. Did the camera? Has anyone seen the shot the photographer took as Lebron's head assaulted the camera? Inquiring minds want to know. (or not)
5. One thing that works in the Warriors favor is that they won, by a lot, without the Splash Brothers doing much. Curry had a quiet 22 points, Klay only 9. Both missed some wide open shots that would have turned this game into a blow-out much earlier. The other good news is that Green and Harrison Barnes, who I predicted would be the key to this game, both had games that made the flight home feel much better. Barnes had 14 points and 8 boards, while Green had 17 and 8 - and didn't get destroyed on the low block against Mosgov and Thompson. Perhaps just as importantly, while he had 5 fouls, Green was never in real foul trouble. He got his minutes, and was able to play real D without conceding anything. If you watch Green, you know he never wants to concede anything. I also want to mention Shaun Livingston. To play at this level, and play so well, after his injury as young player, is just amazing. Absent the injury, he might have become the best player of his body type since George the Iceman Gervin.
6. Circling back to Iquodala for just one moment. In my humble opinion, he is now the lead candidate for Finals MVP (assuming without jinxing that the Warriors prevail). While you could give it to Lebron, win or lose, I would love for (1) the Warriors to win in 6 or 7 games, and (2) Iguodala to win the Finals MVP for his all-around game, especially his D on Lebron.
Come to think of it, this could become the second year in a row that the ability to neutralize Lebron leads to a Finals MVP trophy.