There could be two games remaining in the NBA Finals if the two best players on the floor in Game 5 have anything to do with it.
The Cleveland Cavaliers still need to win both of the potentially remaining games and the Warriors need only one, but LeBron James and Kyrie Irving put on a show that may have some thinking twice about who’s going to win this series.
The Elias Sports Bureau’s research shows that James and Irving became the first pair of teammates to score at least 40 points in a Finals game.
Each had their first 40-point game of the season in the NBA Finals. Only three other players have scored 40 in the Finals after not scoring 40 prior to that, according to Elias. They are Cliff Hagan (1961 Hawks), Magic Johnson (1980 Lakers) and James Worthy (1989 Lakers).
Elias also notes that there are only three other instances of teammates scoring 30 on the road when facing NBA Finals elimination. Jerry West and Elgin Baylor did so in 1962, 1963 and 1966.
How they did it
James and Irving scored or assisted on 97 of the Cavaliers’ 112 points in Game 5 (87 percent). That’s the second-highest percentage of points they’ve scored or assisted on as teammates, surpassed only by the 89 percent of points they accounted for in Game 1 of last year’s NBA Finals against the Warriors.
Each of the Cavaliers’ final 25 made baskets were either scored or assisted by James or Irving. The team's final made basket that wasn’t scored or assisted by those two was an Iman Shumpert layup at 5:27 of the second quarter.
James’ 41 points were his second-most in an NBA Finals game, surpassed only by the 44 he scored in the aforementioned Game 1. All four of his 40-point games in the NBA Finals have come against the Warriors.
James made eight shots on 19 attempts outside the paint, including four 3-pointers. He totaled nine made shots on 28 attempts from outside the paint, and five 3-pointers in Games 1-4 combined.
James was also more aggressive against Andre Iguodala, who shut him out in Game 4. He went 6-for-10 (3-of-4 from 3-point range) for 15 points when Iguodala defended him in Game 5. His only turnover came on the first play of the game.
James did a little bit of everything Monday night. He’s the first player to record at least 40 points, 15 rebounds and five assists in an NBA Finals game since Shaquille O’Neal did so for the Lakers in 2001.
Irving scored 22 points on 10-of-15 shooting on plays in which he dribbled the ball up the court and didn't pass. He was 13-of-39 on those plays in Games 1-4.
Irving finished with the fourth-highest field goal percentage by a player who took at least 20 shots in an NBA Finals game. The three players ahead of him, per Elias, are a heck of a trio: O'Neal (2004 Lakers), Larry Bird (1984 Celtics) and Wilt Chamberlain (1970 Lakers).
James and Irving combined for 18 drives in Game 5, which netted the Cavaliers 31 points on 12-of-17 shooting. Cleveland shot 4-of-5 when the pair drove-and-dished.
Overall, the Cavaliers scored 42 points on 17-of-25 (68 percent) shooting off drives in Game 5. They averaged 22.5 points on 42 percent shooting off drives in Games 1-4 combined.