Kyrie and LeBron combine for 82 points in Game 5, sending series back to Cleveland

Kyrie Irving erupted for 41 points in Monday's Game 5. Golden State will have two more chances to close out the series, starting on Thursday. (photo by Ezra Shaw)

By Connor Buestad |

If ever there was a theme of the the 2016 NBA Playoffs, the cliche “expect the unexpected” does well to describe it. From Steph Curry’s overtime outburst versus Portland on a bum knee, to the historic rally down 3 games to 1 against Oklahoma City and everything in between, these playoffs have surprised us at virtually every turn. The only thing we’ve been able to count on is that every time the media convinces us of a trend or a sure bet, the opposite has reliably unfolded. Monday night in Oakland was no different.

Even with Draymond Green serving a suspension at the A’s game with Marshawn “Forest Gump” Lynch, it still seemed as though the Warriors would seal the deal at home on Monday. The fans wanted it badly, could taste it even. It all made sense, considering the Warriors have proven their superiority over the Cavs time and time again up to this point. Add on the fact that they were at home where they don’t lose, and you had yourself a mortal lock. But this is the 2016 Playoffs, so inevitably the exact opposite happened. LeBron James and Kyrie Irving went into NBA-Jam-Mode, to the tune of 82 points and the Dubs were left packing a bag back to Ohio while cold champagne was wheeled out the back door of Oracle.

I suppose it seems safe to count on the idea the Warriors couldn’t possibly lose three games in a row, especially when you consider that they made it through an 82-game schedule without once dropping back-to-back games. Dubs fans can also hang their hat on the stat that zero teams have successfully clawed back from down 3-1 to win a Finals series.

Things looked more than promising for the Warriors as they headed into halftime of Game 5. Klay Thompson’s jumper was silkier than normal, pouring in 26 points with six three pointers by intermission. Yes the score was tied at 61 and LeBron and Kyrie were in a groove, but it still felt like Golden State had taken Cleveland’s best punch and withstood it in style; not to mention Oracle was rocking. “The Cavs can’t contain that type of shooting,” the talking heads told us. There again, they were wrong.

Irving and James picked up where they left off in the second half, wearing out a Warriors defense that lacked Draymond and, eventually, Andrew Bogut due to a knee injury (MRI is looming). The Cavs duo was clicking in all facets, including from beyond the arc, which makes them virtually impossible to stop. Can the Cavs continue this type of Splash Brethren shooting form for two more games? If not, they are likely done, but what if they do? Well pass the Prilosec in that case.

Golden State woke up on Monday with three chances to nail down the greatest season in basketball history, against a player in LeBron who has plenty of chinks in his big game armor. At this point it’s hard to say who has the upper hand. Is it the Cavs riding high off a win in Oakland and a favored spread (-2) at home in Game 6? Or perhaps it’s the Warriors, who won their championship last year in Game 6, against the same team, on the same court? And if it goes to Game 7, who does the pressure fall on? The Warriors battling the ghost of the ‘96 Bulls or the Cavs trying to slay the Curse of Cleveland.

At this point, it’s anyone’s guess. In the meantime I’ll try to figure out what to expect, then bet the opposite.