The NBA Finals are underway with the two best teams for the past three years fighting for their second title in the past three seasons and after just two games we are at a similar position.
The Warriors have been the dominant team once again to start off the series. In terms of positive production on both offense and on defense, both games 1 & 2 belonged to the Warriors.
The Warriors began the series red hot and defended their home court as they should, they were the more physical and aggressive team on both sides of the ball from the get go. And most importantly they shared the ball and made sure no one player felt forced to be the primary scorer.
So what needs to change in order for the Cavaliers to turn the series around in Cleveland tonight?
- Tristan Thompson, JR Smith, Deron Williams and Kyle Korver need to get going
If you’re playing a team like the warriors you should expect their supporting cast to play decent minutes and be productive. Players like Andre Iguodala, JaVale McGee and Shaun Livingston who have been essential to the Warriors success in the playoffs. Thursday night the three combined for one of their playoff lows: 13 points, 4 assists and 9 rebounds, showing it could’ve been a lot worse.
It’s unrealistic to ask the Cavaliers players to shut them out while running around after Steph and KD. But what you can do is match their play on the offensive end.
In game 1, Tristan Thompson, JR Smith, Deron Williams and Kyle Korver combined for just 3 points 4 assists and 11 rebounds. They combined for more turnovers than assists. When you’re playing the warriors you can’t win with a stat line like this. Kyle Korver has yet to score more than 20 for the Cavs, he went 0-3 from both inside the perimeter and beyond the three point line. Deron Williams also had a quiet game, going 0-4 with one more turnover than assist. JR scored the first three of the game but was quiet after that, he played 28 minutes and only came up with three points and two turnovers.
Game 2 was a little better for Korver and Thompson but still was nowhere near the level of expected play from the four. They combined for 16 points, 5 assists and 9 rebounds. Two straight poor performances leading two straight double digit losses.
If Cavs want to turn around the series, these four need to play the supporting role well, to a level where they can matchup and even surpass Golden State’s supporting cast.
So how can they do that?
Double doubles from Tristan Thompson, being one of the league’s best offensive rebounders it’s essential he gives the Cavs more second chance opportunities. A balanced offensive performance from Deron Williams, meaning more aggressive play while at a reasonable level where he’s not turning the ball over every time he looks to score while sharing the ball and racking 4+ assists. Better defensive game as well as a better game scoring, JR is considered one of the most aggressive defenders on the Cavs and he is tasked with defending arguably the best shooter the league has ever seen, although it’s impossible to shut him out, he still needs to do a better of job of lessening the damage while also playing just as efficient on the offensive end, meaning more points and less turnovers. Last but not least Kyle Korver needs to score! Simple. That’s why he was brought to Cleveland to shoot and score but he hasn’t been doing that. In 19 minutes of action he failed to score. He’s a player you can expect 5 or 6 threes a night from but for game 3 in cleveland with the pressure of being down 2-0 in the finals on a player who has never made it this far into the season 2 to 4 3’s is a good place to start.
- Protect the ball on offense pressure the ball on defense!
The Cavs had a very surprising unlike Cavs performance when it came to protecting the ball. When the Cavs play a team like Golden State, they can’t afford 20 turnovers. In fact they can’t afford any turnovers, they need all the chances they can get.
The Warriors are one of the league’s best when it comes protecting the ball, they are among the top 10 teams to have the fewest turnovers per game. Their efficient offense is easily complimented by their stellar defense and are 1st in the league this season in steals and they displayed that in game 1. The Warriors had 12 steals while the Cavs failed to record even one. In game 2 the Cavs did a better job protecting the ball as they only turned it over 9 times, a good sign and for the Cavs as they head back to Cleveland for game 3.
To have any chance of winning the series, the Cavs can’t play sloppy ball. They simply can’t afford to turn it over as many times as they did in game 1. It’s simple, if they’re going to win this game they can not make as many mistakes as they did game 1. They need to duplicate what they did in game 2 as they turned around their -16 turnover ratio in game 1 to a +11.
What worked well for them in game 2 was there was less isolation basketball. They played more aggressive in the first half, had more fast break opportunities and players like Korver got open more giving each other more options on the floor.
What needs to change?
Although there was less isolation basketball in game 2 than in game 1, there was still more than there should’ve been from mainly Kyrie Irving who shot 8-23 from the field.
For the Cavs to regain offensive efficiency there needs to be more ball movement, to create the best possible shot every possession. That way, there isn’t as much pressure on one player to be the hero(Lebron James), because of the pressure that’s on him he felt forced to be the one to create opportunities for not only himself but whoever is on the court with him at the time leading to his turnovers in game 1.
Now, can the Cavs get back in this series by making these adjustments? Yes, the question is will they but it won’t be an easy journey. Although they were in this position last year and did comeback to win, it’s hard to see it happen again for one major reason, a 6’9 freak named Kevin Durant. With the new Golden State Duo playing their best, both averaging above 30 ppg, 7 apg and 8 rpg it’s going to be hard to beat them 4 times.
But if there’s anyone in the league up for that challenge it’s Lebron James, now it is a question of whether or not his teammates are as eager and are as willing as he is to work hard enough to earn this championship.