Tristan Thompson had a brutal first three games of these NBA Finals. The Cavaliers forward was averaging 2.7 points and 3.7 rebounds entering Friday’s Game 4. He was shooting a horrific 36 percent from the field, so it wasn’t just that Thompson was generally uninvolved on offense. He was both uninvolved and bad.
Thompson made important strides in the Cavs’ 137-116 win against the Warriors in Friday’s Game 4. He wasn’t an offensive focal point, and he’ll never be one in a series where he’s always matched against Draymond Green or Zaza Pachulia. But Thompson made two of his three shots from the field and, far more importantly, had 10 rebounds and five assists. He was particularly adept at grabbing offensive boards (four of them) and using them to set up open or cutting teammates for quality looks.
Cleveland almost never plays with a true center on the floor. Thompson is really a power forward, but he functions at the five. My favorite play of his on Friday was when he walked Pachulia, a behemoth of a “true” center, out beyond the arc. Thompson decided to try to be Kyrie Irving, and while it wasn’t pretty, he beat Pachulia off the dribble, sucked in a helping Green, and found a wide-open Kevin Love for a three-pointer.
On another Thompson-Love connection, Thompson took a pass from LeBron James in a phone booth under the basket. Love camped in the corner, and Thompson found him with a bullet pass that set up another open triple. (Three of Thompson’s five dimes on the night were to a gorgeously uncovered Love on the wing or in the corner.)
When the Cavaliers are at their best, Thompson is using his most power forward-ish traits to put more lumbering centers at a defensive disadvantage. He did that in Game 4, and he was a key cog in the Cavs’ offensive outburst. That doesn’t mean the team’s defensive woes are anywhere near solved, but having a good Thompson is vital.
Game 4 was a wild affair all the way around.
It was one monstrosity stacked on top of the next.
Seriously, it was ridiculous.
The referees did not have a good night:
This is a series that has LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, and Kyrie Irving in it, among other likely future Hall of Famers. Everyone tuned in Friday to watch those players play, not to watch the officiating crew officiate.
The Warriors wanted to win in Cleveland. Irving didn’t like that:
“We knew what we were faced with, that was what it was. But then you add of course, some chatter in there. That adds some extra motivation and you give us a day in between. We were ready to come out, especially me because that taste wouldn’t have been the same tonight if we would have lost on our home floor.”
Thompson was in the spotlight for a few minutes at the beginning of the game, when Jeff Van Gundy made an important point about criticism of Thompson’s girlfriend.
I don’t know what a Gatorade baby is, but LeBron is one, per J.R. Smith.