Why the Cavs are still in the Finals

This year is different, and the Cleveland Cavaliers will never repeat the avalanche of 3-point shooting and Kyrie Irving one-on-one brilliance that walloped the Golden State Warriors from jump street in Game 4. But in Cleveland, the Cavs bent some of the trend lines in this series more in their direction, and in ways that might be sustainable in another do-or-die game.

The Cavs are dangerous. They believe. Golden State has to stamp out that belief tonight.

They slowed the pace a bit in Game 4, and leaned harder on the Warriors with sheer physicality that will take more of a toll the longer this series goes — provided the officials allow it. Tristan Thompson woke up. And their two transcendent offensive fulcrums are gradually figuring out ways to puncture the Warriors’ defense, just as they did over the last four games a year ago. LeBron can solve almost any defense if he sees it enough.

James and Irving have shifted their pick-and-roll attack from Stephen Curry to Golden State’s trio of slow-footed centers — Zaza Pachulia, the utterly hopeless JaVale McGee, and David West. They know the Warriors do not want to switch those behemoths onto Irving or James. Golden State’s only alternative is to put two defenders on the ball until the defense can reset itself.

If the Cavs slip the ball through those traps, they ignite the kind of four-on-three passing sequences that fuel their 3-point shooting game. They have several tricks to make those passes easier. Sometimes, their screeners slip away before really setting a pick — providing an easy passing lane for Irving and James. Richard Jefferson was especially crafty at this when Steve Kerr tried to hide Golden State’s centers on him.