If you watched Game 4 of the NBA Finals, you probably noticed that the physicality between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors reached an all-time high.
Players dove for loose balls, there was a lot of scratching and clawing, and bodies were thrown all over the floor, fighting for position on every possession.
Down 3-0 in the series, the Cavaliers showed up with an historic offensive performance in Game 4, winning 137-116, but Cleveland’s head coach Tyronn Lue credits their willingness to win the physical battle on the floor as the main reason why they came out with the win in front of their home crowd.
Additionally, he told Dave McMenamin of ESPN that he was displeased with his team’s lack of toughness and grittiness in the first three games of the series, all of which amounted to losses.
"Me personally, I liked it," Lue said of the physical nature of Friday's game. "I thought the first two games [we] were being too nice. The first three games, helping guys up off the floor, smiling, talking to guys and -- yeah, I didn't like that. So I think Game 4, talking trash, being physical, whatever you got to do to try to get that edge to win, you got to do it.”
Therefore, don’t expect any Cavalier to help a Warrior up off the court in Game 5 or to make any small talk. At this point in the series, it’s a win-or-go-home mentality for Cleveland, and their coach wants his squad to play with not only desperation, but brutal physicality.
"Bringing a physicality, being physical," Lue noted. "Our mindset has to be winning games and not smiling back and forth or talking and playing. I mean, they're coming right after us, so we have to go after them. I don't see anything's funny or anything's to smile about. So hitting and being physical and just everything they do to us in the first three games, we have to do that. Last game, in Game 4, I thought that's who we are. Got to be physical. If it's talking trash or knocking guys on the floor, whatever you got to do, you got to do it.”
It may be the new school, but that’s definitely an old school mentality.
Outspoken Cavaliers shooting guard JR Smith weighed in on the notion that he and his teammates treated their opponents differently in Game 4 and backed up what his coach said.
"I think we were being too respectful, honestly," Smith told ESPN. "There's a level of respect you want to give your opponent and a level of respect you don't want to give them. So, I think we've found that medium.”
Game 5 on Monday might at Oracle Arena not be as one-sided as it was in Game 4, but the Cavs proved last year and in Game 4 that they’re still an opponent to take seriously until the final whistle blows.