OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) – When the NBA returned to a 2-2-1-1-1 format for the NBA Finals, it swung the advantage in Game 5 back to the higher-seeded team.
Under the system that was used for about three decades, the middle three games were hosted by the team with the worse record. Had that not been changed before the 2013-14 season, Sunday’s game would have been in Cleveland.
Critics of the 2-3-2 format argued that Game 5, often a pivotal game when the series is tied, should be a home game for the team with the better record.
Now the Golden State Warriors have it, and know they need to capitalize on it.
After going 39-2 at home in the regular season, they have lost twice at Oracle Arena in the postseason, including Game 2 of this series. They didn’t play well in Game 1, either.
”But I think we’re going to be really composed, really aggressive,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said. ”We’re going to feed off our crowd’s energy tomorrow, which we’re going to need because that’s why you play so hard during the regular season, to have home-court advantage, to be able to capitalize off of that in situations like these.”
The team that won Game 5 of the finals when the series was tied 2-2 won the title 20 of 28 times.
”I think it’s going to be a big momentum swing, whoever wins Game 5. That is pretty obvious with the series being 2-2,” Warriors forward David Lee said. ”But we’re not really worried about the result as much as we’ve got to come out and play the way we played in Game 4, and that is play Warriors basketball.”
Here are some things to watch Sunday:
STAYING SMALL?: Steve Kerr wouldn’t reveal whether he would stick with the lineup he used for Game 4, with Andre Iguodala in and center Andrew Bogut going to the bench.
The smaller lineup helped speed up the tempo and the Warriors had their best performance of the series in their 103-82 victory. Yet, they also won 67 games in the regular season with a conventional lineup, so either option could work.
”Obviously we won Game 1 with our normal lineup. We’ve had a great season with our normal lineup,” forward Harrison Barnes said. ”So it’s something we went through last (game) to get our offense going. So whether we stick with it or go back to the old one, we’ll see.”
LOOKING TO LEBRON: Held to 20 points in Game 4 after averaging more than 40 for the first three, LeBron James won’t go out searching for a certain number of shots or points, and coach David Blatt said the Cavaliers don’t want him feeling he has to.
”For me, from the perception, it’s a lose-lose when it comes to, `OK, well, in the first three games I score 40, but I shoot a lot of shots. Last game I scored 20, I don’t shoot as many shots, and we lose.’ So it’s like, what do you want?” James said.
”So for me, that’s not my thought process. I don’t really care about it. All I care about is how I can produce for our team.”
FEELING GREAT, MATE: The extra day of rest between Games 4 and 5 benefited all the players, but was perhaps most important for Matthew Dellavedova. The Australian point guard needed treatment for dehydration after his brilliant Game 3 performance and didn’t look recovered Thursday, struggling to 10 points on 3-of-14 shooting.
”I’m feeling great,” he said Saturday. ”I’m feeling a lot better and really ready to go for Game 5.”
NOWHERE TO GO BUT UP: J.R. Smith missed all eight 3-pointers in a 2-for-12 performance in Game 4. At least he knows things can only improve.
”It’s one game, so the best part about it, I can’t play no worse,” he said.
He certainly has to play better. The former Sixth Man of the Year is shooting just 29.8 percent from the field in the finals.