LeBron James had one of the best games of his career in Game 5 of the NBA Finals on Monday, going off for 41 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists, three steals and three blocks. Unanimous MVP Steph Curry, meanwhile, needed 21 shots to score 25 points and shot just 5-of-14 (35.7 percent) from three-point range.
So, if James played as poorly as Curry did last night, what would we be saying about him?
“We’d be destroying him,” CBS Sports NBA writer Matt Moore said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “Everybody would just be all over him. Curry is the best player. I think you can say he’s the best overall player in the league. He’s the best shooter and definitely worthy of the MVP. But there’s this level of players who, if their jumper is not falling, there is so many other things they can do. Kevin Durant made the biggest impact in the playoffs versus the Warriors with his defense. With LeBron, he puts up the 41, but he gets to the rim, he hits the jumper, he’s rebounding, he’s finding teammates, he’s making plays at the rim defending, he’s creating steals – there are all these different ways that he impacts the game.
“With Curry, people say he changes everything because of how (teams) have to defend him, but he isn’t actually actively doing any of that,” Moore continued. “His passing has been mediocre-to-bad during most of the playoffs. While I think that you can definitely say that injury has played a part in his limited effectiveness, when he’s hitting his jumper, that overrides everything. But it does show you the difference between Curry and some of the other stars in their ability to impact the game on multiple levels.”
But isn’t that contradictory? If Curry is the “best overall” player in the league, shouldn’t he still be able to impact a game if his jumper isn’t falling?
“He is so exceptional in this one category,” Moore said. “He’s a 99 to 100 in shooting, and that makes up for him not being 80 and above in these other areas. It does provide an interesting question when we evaluate these guys because LeBron is an 80 in all of these different levels, but he’s not at 100 in any of them.”
Either way, the Cavs will host Game 6 on Thursday at 9 p.m. ET. Draymond Green will be in the lineup for the Warriors, but Andrew Bogut, who sprained his left knee in Monday’s loss, may not be.
If Bogut can’t go, how much will the Warriors miss him?
“It’s tough,” Moore said. “On the surface level, he does provide a lot for them. He’s always been kind of the safety blanket for rim protection. He’s able to set a tone from (a) physicality (standpoint). It allows them to ease into those smaller-ball rotations. When you throw one guy out, everything kind of gets changed. Guys have to play more minutes, and that affects how they play together. It limits the effectiveness. On the other hand, though, his overall numbers have been bad. They’ve been outscored when he’s been on the floor in this series. He doesn’t allow them to do the things that the small-ball unit provides them, so I think it’s kind of a mixed bag. I think overall – because you’re not worried about anybody for the Cavs as far as Tristan Thompson or Timofey Mozgov – you don’t have any sort of those interior threats that you’re really concerned with like Steven Adams. So I think it’s okay. It’s obviously not great, but it’s something the Warriors can survive, provided that Draymond doesn’t get himself removed again.”
One player the Warriors won’t have to worry about too much – with or without Bogut – is Kevin Love, who had just two points and three rebounds in 33 minutes of action in Game 5.
“The worst thing about Kevin Love right now is that he doesn’t matter,” Moore said. “He’s bad, but it doesn’t even really register. They don’t need him to be good. He can’t be good versus the Warriors. At the end of it, he had a good playoffs. He really did. He had some really good performances in the playoffs, especially versus the Raptors. He’s had his moments where he’s helped the team, but the only thing that matters is getting past the Warriors – because (the Cavs) can get past anybody else without him. So when it comes to the summer, they’re going to have to evaluate that. I don’t think Kevin Love’s career is over, but in terms of where he fits on this team, it just doesn’t work. They would be better off – even if they didn’t get a star back – getting more guys with versatility who can help them in areas that they need.”