7 questions the Cavs have to answer to win Game 5 of the NBA Finals

(Ken Blaze/USA TODAY Sports)
The Cleveland Cavaliers are two games away from their first NBA Championship, but the chasm between that final victory grew much larger after the Warriors victory in Game 4.

This really is a series full up enigmatic questions that really aren't easy to answer. When you take a look at the Cavs decimated roster, it's hard to believe that we're even having this conversation.

Yet here we are.

Game 5.

Can the Cavaliers pull off a victory in the hostile environment by a fantastic fan base in Oakland?

It's not a question that's easily answered...but here we go...

Can J.R. Smith regain his mojo from the Chicago and Atlanta series? Whenever the 2015 season ends, regardless of who ultimately wins the title, part of the 2014-2015 storyline will be the resurgence of the enigmatic Smith, who was stuck at the end of the Knicks bench when he was dealt to the Cavaliers in early January.

Perhaps Smith has run out of "breakout games."

Perhaps Golden State has figured him out.

Perhaps the clock has struck midnight, and the aura of what made Smith outstanding has drifted away, leaving the broken player that the Knicks so easily cast aside.

He may just be beat down tired.

I'd love to sit here as a true analyst and be able to break down Smith's play over the past four games, but there really isn't an easy answer. Smith is just missing shots, and he's missing a lot of them.

If you were to pinpoint an answer, it's likely not anything that I've mentioned as of yet. My best guess with regards to Smith's offense is that he's pressing to replace the shots that Kyrie Irving would be taking.

I know what you're thinking: Irving missed significant time in earlier series, but Smith stayed hot. This is true, but there was never a point until the Golden State series in which Kyrie wasn't coming back. Now, it's all on his shoulders, and I think he's pressing. For the first time in his career, Smith wants this title.

I'd love to tell you it's for Cleveland, and there's certainly a small part of him that has adopted our beloved city as his home-away-from-party, but I think he wants this for another reason.

Smith wants this title to shove it up the back-ends of the Knicks brass that essentially were ready to let him rot on the bench. He wants to give the middle-finger salute to every person that said, "He's done, and he's trash."

But there really is a new piece to Smith's persona since arriving here in Cleveland, and I do wonder if this has become, well, BIG.

In the end, what J.R. Smith brings to the table is on exuberant, overconfident, offensive whirling-dervish, and if good friend and mentor LeBron James has gotten into his head over the past two days, we could see a breakout. If everything else stays the same, and if Smith can have one of those three-point runs, I don't think the Cavs can lose.

That's a big if.

Can Matthew Dellavedova stay on the court?

In Game 3, Delly pulled a Smith, scoring 20 points, with five boards and four assists, but to sum him up with data isn't giving him his due.

What Delly has done since taking over the starting point guard role is ripe full of catchy terms, like "gritty" and "gutsy," but at the end of the day, he's just annoyed the heck out of just about everyone wearing the Golden State Warriors Blue and Yellow. He's completely taken Stephen Curry out of his normal offensive rhythm, and it's been the key point to the Cavs being able to successfully slow the game down.

The Warriors were able to speed up play in Game 4, and some of that can be attributed to the fact that Delly spent the night after Game 3 in a hospital recovering from dehydration and exhaustion, and after draining two threes at the beginning of the third quarter, had to come out of the game because he could barely move his cramping legs.

This is a pretty big deal.

But he's in Curry's head, and you can see it from game-to-game. Sure, Curry has had his moments, but for anyone to say that he's been the same player as he has been the rest of the season is simply kidding themselves.

If Delly is healthy, and I suspect that the Cavs medical staff has done everything possible to make sure that their starting point guard is eating the right foods, and hydrating enough to make sure that he can make it through Game 5. If he can't, and if Curry can finally break through, I'm not sure the Cavs can win.

Golden State will be looking for the dagger strike tonight, and Curry will be the one leading the charge, unless, of course, he's caught charging into a reinvigorated Matthew Dellavedova.

Can Timofey Mozgov continue his finals onslaught?

Mozgov is averaging 16.8 PPG and 8.3 boards per game, but often has to come out in fairly large stretches because of the Warriors small lineup of Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green. It's tough for the big man to stay in the game, not because he can't run the floor, but he can't guard the smaller players on the perimeter.

This is when I get strategically curious about David Blatt.

Can he find a way to make the Warriors react to a lineup including Mozgov, or will he continue to have to react to the smaller lineup?

It will be hard-pressed for the Cavs to push the issue with such a small, seven-man rotation, but if Blatt can continue to get his LeBron-led Cavs to dictate a slower pace, it's possible that he can force Steve Kerr to continue to alter his line-up, and not vice-versa.

While a good case can be made that Blatt has outcoached Kerr for much of this series, I do think this has been an interesting case study in coaches.

Both are damn good, and Blatt has continued to find Mozgov on open pick-and-rolls. LeBron, realizing that Moz was the only player with legs left in the fourth quarter of Game 4, continued to goto his big man, who continued to finish, and make foul shots when he was forced to the line.

What a series it has been for the best Cavs big since a healthy Zydrunas Ilgauskas toiled on the court at Quickens Loans Arena.

Andre Iguodala killed the Cavs in Game 4, right?

On the outside looking in, the first-time-during-the-2014-2015-season-starter hit every big shot, and the Cavs didn't have an answer.

But I have to ask: if you're going to press a team defensively, as the Cavs have done, who do you allow to take open jumpers?

I'm not even going to run through the roster, because you know where I'm going with this. You are going to begin and end with Iguodala, and while some will point out that this is a mistake, then I follow up with: so you just ignore Curry and Klay Thompson?

If Iguodala (and to some extent, Green) hits from the outside, you have to be okay with it. You just have to match it on the other end. The Cavs just hasn't been doing that. As I mentioned earlier, J.R. Smith hasn't hit a thing, and Iman Shumpert has struggled a bunch as well, likely from getting knicked up in both the Atlanta and Golden State series.

If they can't match offensively, than they had better step up their defense on the fringey players on this team, or LeBron is going to have to score 100 tonight.

Has Golden State "figured out the Cavs," or is Cleveland just beat-down tired...or both.

Kerr had a splashy move to start Game 4, as mentioned, by taking Bogut out, and replacing him with Iguodala. It worked, after a bit.

The Cavs DID score the first seven points, but the Warriors ran from there. Keep in mind, though, that Golden State didn't run away with the game until the fourth quarter.

The Cavs made several runs in the third quarter, but in typical fashion, the "run" ended with a super tired team in critical condition.

Curry was better, but not great.

Thompson was whispering, but was offensive sludge.

And Steve Kerr was full of gamesmanship, but a huddle in the first quarter spoke clearly of his "great coaching." He told his team that they would "wear down the Cavs' 7-man rotation." Now this isn't a knock on Kerr, but it's not exactly rocket science either.

The Warriors can go 10+ men deep, and in reality what happened here is that he ran the Cavs out of their legs.

So my question here is, Can the Cavs figure out a way to keep their legs?

Will David Blatt utilize the older players on his bench, or will they continue to sit?

The Cavs are seven players deep. Every once in awhile, you see Mike Miller, but that's few and far between. Shawn Marion is a mop-up player, and Kendrick Perkins hasn't had anyone to beat up in awhile (although there are a couple of refs I would have liked to see bounced).

Brian Windhorst reported that there were some issues at the end of the bench.
"...there is also a strong feeling within the team, multiple sources said, that coach David Blatt could rely more on the veterans he's been leaving unused on the bench."
Windhorst then noted that LeBron James himself "hinted it could help him...get more rest."
"That's the coach's decision if he decides he wants to go deeper in the bench," James said. "We haven't played many guys throughout this playoff run. I think it would help some of the guys that are playing some high minutes, for sure. Just give guys a couple minutes here, a couple minutes there. But I think the coaching staff will try to do what's best to help us be physically and mentally prepared for Sunday."
My general feeling here is that Blatt is a pretty smart guy, and a really good professional basketball coach. Don't you think that he would be playing these guys if he thought he could keep this team from getting blown out?

I'm not saying that you don't ask the question. I'm not even saying you can't have the opinion that Blatt is messing up. I am saying that I think Blatt is just better than NOT utilizing more players when he knows his team is decimated health-wise.

He just knows how good the Golden State Warriors are, and folks, they are damn good.

I truly believe that a combined 10-15 minutes of Marion, Miller and/or Perkins could give the Warriors the run that ends the series.


So we'll see if Blatt uses the bench. As to the Windhorst piece, I just feel like competitors are going to want to play. Nothing really new there.

Can LeBron James regain his 40-point, triple-double form? Good lord, did I even say that out loud?

Yes, he will.

This is his series.

This is his team.

This is his town.

If LeBron is LeBron, all the other questions posed today may just be metaphors during a summer break not felt here in Cleveland since 1964.

In the end, it's all about what LeBron James can do, and if he CAN DO, the Golden State Warriors are in a boatload of trouble.
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