It was ostenibly a good night for Timofey Mozgov but Emmet Ryan says the Russian’s success was in many ways a by-product of what the Golden State Warriors did to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 103-82
Timofey Mozgov went big time on Thursday night. The Russian giant had 28 points on 9 of 16 shooting. He got to the line for 12 free throw attempts, making 10, and he managed to grab 10 rebounds. It was a singularly brilliant display and in isolation it looks fantastic. The Warriors couldn’t contain Cleveland’s big. The Cavs had won with size in Game 2 and Game 3, now here they were with their biggest guy dominating inside. It was all for nothing as the Dubs utterly routed Cleveland.
Mozgov certainly played well but he was in a position to dominate because of the approach Steve Kerr took to this game. If the Cavs were going to keep going bigger, he would go even smaller. Andrew Bogut was benched, in came Andre Igoudala from the start and the Warriors spent large chunks of the evening against a Cleveland side that had the three biggest men on the floor at any one time. The objective was simple. The Dubs needed to play with such speed as to prevent Cleveland’s punch in the face suffocatiing game from working.
From the off it was clear things were going to click better for Steph Curry and company. Space was plentiful as Iggy drove through the lane repeatedly for a couple of lightning fast dunks while the decision to play Shaun Livingston as a big small guy or small big guy depending on how you look at it kept the pace ticking along without allowing the Cavs to settle. Crucially the defence was there. With the Warriors able to play at the pace they wanted on offence, they were able to swarm back and keep their rotations flowing once Cleveland got the ball. Through the first frame the Cavs were able to keep up but the Dubs went into overdrive on D through the second quarter and put Cleveland in a hole for the first time this series.
With Mozgov and a game, albeit faltering, effort from LeBron James the Cavs were able to eat into the deficit midway through the third but once the Warriors had made their break, they never looked back. Mozgov’s success was partially the by-product of what the Warriors sacrificed to take command of this game. While he benefitted from Golden State’s willingness to let him control the paint, and he really did, David Blatt is smart enough to make the Dubs pay next time out.
Cleveland gets a few nights to think things over, the work out what they need to do to draw the Warriors back into a scrap and Mozgov could be crucial to that. Clever use of the Russian’s interior power could yet swing this series back their way. Sunday is going to be huge.