What the hell is going on here? Already down Kevin Love (which actually helps Cleveland), the Kyrie-less Cavs are dominating the heavily favored Warriors, and no one outside of Cleveland saw it coming. I may have been in the minority when I wrote that the Kyrie injury wouldn’t hurt the Cavs, but I sure didn’t say it would help them. I stuck to my pick of Warriors in six games.
I’d like to revise my pick to Cleveland in six.
Which begs the question … How exactly are the Cavs doing this? And yes, the answer goes beyond just LeBron James.
It really comes down to Cleveland having a clear-cut defensive strategy, and executing it to perfection. Golden State, on the other hand, has a plan, but doesn’t seem to have bought all the way in. The two teams strategies are similar, yet so different when you really break it down.
The Cavs game plan is simple and effective: Don’t let the Splash Brothers beat us! Obviously, it’s working.
Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson will, and have, had their moments, but overall, they’ve been shut down. Some of it’s the fact that they’re just missing shots … Maybe the stage is too big for them at times. But a lot of it has to do with Cleveland’s defense.
There’s a reason Curry’s best game (although he bounced back nicely in the final minutes of Game 3), and only victory, came in Game 1. Matthew Dellavedova played nine minutes. When you watch Game 4, look for the difference in how Steph and Klay are defended. Their primary defender is up tight on them, and when they put the ball on the floor help is always there.
Cleveland is fine just leaving the others open … Besides Iguodala, nobody’s stepped up. With Mozgov at the rim waiting, the Cavs have the luxury of leaving their men on D often, and living with the results of a shot from Green (8-for-30 in the series) or Barnes (9-for-27). The Cavs are cutting off the head of the snake on every Warriors’ possession.
Golden State is attempting to do the complete opposite.
Consider them lucky to be in a 2-1 hole, as the ONLY period they’ve finished with the lead in the entire series is OT of Game 1. It’s time for Steve Kerr to switch things up heading into Game 4.
The Warriors have been allowing the head of the snake to feast … And has he ever. LeBron has us all wishing DFS was still going on this NBA season, dropping averages of 41 points, 12 boards and 8.3 dimes thus far on the grandest stage of all.
The Warriors’ gameplan? Shut down the Irving-less, Love-less role players on the Cavs. Sounds pretty simple, right? Welp, they’re failing miserably while watching the best player on the floor demolish them at the same time. Not a good combo.
Sure, no one saw Delly becoming the phenomenon that he’s become, but Golden State’s still doing a poor job. JR Smith has hit shots, Tristan Thompson is grabbing seemingly every offensive board, and Mozgov has been the Cavs second best player in the series (ok fine, maybe it’s Delly) by dominating the paint on both ends.
In all seriousness, you can argue Delly and Thompson are the second and third most important players to the Cavs in this series. Oh, and the only reason they’re starting (and playing in the neighborhood of 40 minutes) is because Irving and Love are hurt.
Although we know what the Warriors claim they want to do (play LeBron straight up), they seem like they’re not committed. If not, they’re at least unsure if they trust the game plan. Some plays they buy in and LeBron dominates (which is suppose to happen). Then the next play a Warriors defender will leave their man to overcompensate on LeBron, and he’ll hit the open man for a 3, or dump it to an open Mozgov under the rim. You can’t do this! It’s either keep letting LeBron score at will, or do what the Cavs are doing so well — Double team the star player!
Steve Kerr has to get his guys to buy into a game plan, any game plan, and more importantly stick to it. Otherwise, they’re going to be in big trouble by the time Game 4 gets underway at the Q. And at this point, the appropriate move is likely doubling James.
Sometimes it takes a learning experience like this to eventually reach the top. We all watched LeBron go through it. There’s still plenty of basketball in this series, but looking back, it’s silly that we thought the Warriors could march into the Finals and dominate without going through any of those growing pains that we mocked LeBron for years over.
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