CLEVELAND — The Golden State Warriors looked like the NBA’s best team. The Cleveland Cavaliers looked like a tired one.
Game 4 was the first blowout of the NBA Finals, with Golden State pulling away for a 103-82 victory Thursday that tied the series at 2-2.
The Warriors changed their lineup but just as importantly changed their mentality, believing they hadn’t competed hard enough in dropping the previous two games.
“I think if we played as hard as we were playing the last couple of games, it would have won us probably 67 regular-season games, but it would have lost us the finals 4-1, and that’s what we had to change,” forward Draymond Green said.
Game 5 is not until Sunday at Oracle Arena, and the Cavaliers look like they could use that extra day of rest. LeBron James had a scoreless fourth quarter and finished with 20 points after averaging 41 in the first three games, and Cavs coach David Blatt will try to use the off days to figure out how to get James some help.
“We don’t have many options as far as lineups we can go to, but we can make adjustments,” James said. “That’s what you do throughout a series. We’ll get to the film and make the necessary adjustments coming into Game 5.”
Some things to watch from Game 4 when the series resumes:
KERR-AGEOUS COACH: Right around the corner from Cleveland’s casino, Steve Kerr did some gambling of his own. Shaking up the starting lineup of a team that had won 80 games already this season wasn’t an easy decision, but the rookie coach let the Warriors know Thursday morning that Andre Iguodala would start and Andrew Bogut would sit.
“Not afraid to take a chance and obviously it’s not a blind guess,” Stephen Curry said. “He’s obviously invested in our team and a smart coach that is willing to … make adjustments to help us be in a better position to win a game.”
But Kerr also warned the Warriors that whatever he does in Game 5 isn’t guaranteed to work again.
“So he mentioned, obviously, just because we started that lineup tonight doesn’t mean you can just go out there and expect to have the same results in Game 5,” Curry said. “We have to actually do something about it and execute the game plan, whoever’s out there.”
ALL THE KING’S MEN: Cleveland has been playing seven or eight guys against a Golden State team that can go 10 deep, and the Cavaliers looked tired in Game 4.
Using more players would help, but there don’t appear to be many that Blatt feels comfortable inserting.
“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.”
SLUMPING SMITH: J.R. Smith went 0 for 8 from 3-point range, part of the Cavs’ 4-for-27 performance. The notoriously streaky shooter is 7 of 28 on 3s in the series — one fewer than he made in a game earlier the postseason — and used an expletive to describe his play in the series.
“We’re going to go with him, we’ll continue to give him the ball,” James said.
MONSTER MOZGOV: Golden State’s small lineup had no answer for 7-foot-1 Timofey Mozgov, who scored a playoff career-high 28 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. That will probably be available for the Cavaliers as long as the Warriors stick with the small lineup, but Mozgov knows it may also be difficult to keep him on the floor if he has to be defending perimeter players.
“I need to learn how to play with a small lineup if Coach wants me on the court,” Mozgov said. “We’re going to see what we can do better.”