True Hoops

True Hoops

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Hot in Cleveland

I can't watch this enough times:

The combination of  LeBron with his arms in the air then spiking the ball into the ether (as soon as he touches it), then not holding holding anything back in celebration....followed by Dellavadova hugging T. Thomspon.....

This is what team sport is all about.
This is what being the underdog is all about....

......that ball hasn't come down yet, you know.

The rarest of occasions
Steph Curry missing a left corner three pointer???
Holy Sh$T!

To remind you, Steph was shooting over 92% from that spot coming into the Finals, and he made one in game 1....for a total of 13/14.

He is now just 13/15....and will have to settle for ~87%.

What exactly does a Steph Curry missed left corner three look like?

Again....that's a missed shot.

An occasion not to remember

Trust me, as a New Yorker, I know how painful this stat is....lucky for Curry and Golden State, this was only game 2.

Delly does it all 
Up in Curry's body practically all night.
You'll hear that Curry didn't make a shot when Dellavadova was his primary defender.....I guess we'll see if that trend continues in game 3.

But perhaps as impressive, after not scoring in the first 7 quarters of the Finals, Delly scored 7 points (which is like exponentially valuable in this series) in the 4th quarter...and two free throws to put the Cavs up OT with 10 seconds to play!

Throughout the playoffs, Delly has had a knack for coming off high screens and then floating alley ops to T. Thompson or Mozgov. However, he was unable to connect in game 1 - more than likely because Golden State scouted that play and positioned themselves for the pass.

But in the 4th, Delly made the adjustments and took what the defense was giving him. Check out the floaters early in the video below:

By the way - in a brutal, low efficiency defensive battle - those are two skill a defensive specialist!

The Grit squad
Speaking of brutal defensive battles, LeBron what do you think about how your team plays?

"It's the grit squad that we have. If you're looking for us to play sexy, cute basketball, that's not us......everything is tough."
Welcome to Eastern conference basketball!

It may not be the most skilled, or the most aesthetic.....but it uses it's resources to muck up the game with physicality.

And perhaps that physically is helping drive Golden State off the three point line and/or shooting a lower efficiency with it's broadened butter. In game 2, the Warriors shot 8/35 from three (22.9%).

I think we're starting to see an interesting contrast in defensive philosophies.
If Golden State's plan is to be satisfied with LeBron scoring 40 and stopping everyone else, it seems as if the Cavs plan is to let anyone besides Curry and Klay shoot and beat them. Essentially, the Cavs ran a triangle and 2 defense, where they face guarded and tried to deny Curry and Klay the ball (though, they're still gonna get shots). To make it harder, they also sent multiple defenders on screens. It seems that the Cavs will be satisfied with Iggy, Barnes, and Green taking shots and making plays.

By the way, in regulation the Warriors are averaging 92.5 points for Finals. Seems like the only time they were able to break free was in overtime of game 1.

Which do you think will happen first:
A Warriors offensive onslaught or JR, Jones and co. going off for threes?

The Hip squad
You know you're good when you have players bumping to the National Anthem:

And just because I'm always looking for an excuse to watch this:

I'ma call him Klay
One super bright spot for the Warriors?
Klay Thompson.
34 points on 50% shooting (14/28....though only 4/12 from three).

As good as Delly was on Curry, he was essentially helpless against Klay - who hit him with an assortment of post-up moves, drives to the basket, and mid-range game. The Cavs, I think, actually put Delly on Curry because he couldn't guard Klay.

Quite an impressive repertoire:

From Russia with Love
What would you say if I told you Timovey Mozgov would be the second leading scorer for the Cavs?And he did't even play in the 4th quarter!

Finishing with 17 points and 11 rebounds (averaging 16.5 and 9 for the Finals thus far), at one point it seemed as if Mozgov kept the Cavs in the game. Clearly benefiting from LeBron operating in the post  - he's been doing a great job of cutting to the basket from the weak side elbow and finishing at the rim.

He's pretty big - and perhaps surprisingly mobile for his size.

F%$King JR Smith
I feel like I don't have to write anything here to convey what I mean.
But just in case: three fouls in the last 8 minutes (including overtime)...leading to 7 Golden State points.

You really (no, really) can't fault JR for the the and-1 foul on Harrison Barnes (he was going for a block) or the getting caught in the air in overtime by a Curry pump fake (he did it twice in overtime in game 1). Though, fouling Curry >80 feet from the basket when over the limit and ~2 minutes to go in regulation was fairly egregious.....

Still, 13 points off the bench in conjunction with 8 from James Jones gave the Cavs the edge in bench scoring, 21-17. Perhaps JR is due for a 'breakout' game?

Having your boy's back

Minutes before game 2, on the ABC pre-game show.....the crew gave their predictions for the game, and the series (I'm gonna paraphrase):

Jalen Rose: "I mean, I picked the Warriors in 5, before Kyrie got injured! The Warriors are gonna buck convention - they are going to win the championship as a jump shooting team, and Steph Curry is gonna win championship as a point Guard MVP."

Coach Doug Collins: "I don't know how Cleveland is going to score 100 points!"
(They didn't, by the way).

Sage Steel: (smiling and almost laughing) "Well Dywane, what do you think?"

Dywane Wade: (Pause, and then a smile) ".....let me see what Cleveland does tonight before I make any predictions."

Translation of Wade's response: "That's my boy down there. We fought together. I love him and I believe in him. I know what he is capable of doing and I'm not gonna pick against him.....there is always a chance."

One of the cooler things to see this year was Wade and LeBron mainting their close friendship even after LeBron went home. And the NBA got it right by doing this during all-start weekend:

I just watched this video for the first time in 4 months....and I still couldn't stop smiling.
Wade's continued support of LeBron, as a friend first, is really something all fans of the game should be proud of.

Random stats
*The first time the first two games of the NBA Finals have gone into overtime
* The Cavs shot under 33% from the field.....and won.
* The Cavs shot 1/8 in overtime.....AND won!
By the way, that one shot? Of course made by Iman Shumpert.....New York! Your Knicks are balling in these Finals!!!!!!!
* This is the 6th year in a row the Finals are tied 1-1
* This is the 9th straight victory for a LeBron James team when trailing 0-1
* This was LeBron James' 5th career Finals triple double (only Magic has more, with 8)
* LeBron is the 2nd player in NBA history to have at least 35 points, 15 rebounds, and 10 assists (James Worthy, 1998).

What's working
Speaking of Shump making the only Cavs bucket in overtime.

Screening for LeBron up top on the three.....with a shooter.
If the Cavs spread the floor with shooters in each corner and place a big in the weak side short corner, there are multiple options when LeBron comes off the screen.

When primary defenders don't hedge or trap off the screen, and LeBron turns the corner:
1) Get to the basket for a layup
2) Get to the mid-range for a floater
3) Get to the basket and then drop off to a big on the weak side for a layup
4) Get into the paint and then kick to the strong corner shooter if the defense helps off

If primary defenders do hedge or trap off the screen:
1) Reverse pass to the screener/shooter for an open three (Shump's OT three pointer)
2) Reverse pass then one extra pass to shooter in weak side corner

Working off LeBron in the Post.
This also works, depending on on the defense plays it:
1) Post up mid-range shot for LeBron (1-on-1)
2) Strong side post entry passer cuts to the basket
3) Shooter at top of the key replaces cutter and spots up
4) Weak side big start at elbow, then cuts to basket (Mozgov has done this a lot).
5) Weak side big can also set a screen for the weak side corner shooter

In essence, LeBron can run point either a the top of the key or in the post. Either way, there are a lot of options, just by running some motion.

Klay in the post
See above.
Even if Shump guards him, he has the size advantage to get his shot off whenever he wants.
He's become quite adept at positioning his body to either:
1) Fake spin, reverse pivot, then fade-away for a mid-range jumper
2) Face up then step back into a mid-range jumper.

Klay off a down screen
Options galore with this.
1) Catch and pivot into his shot.....even out to the three point line
2) Curl off screen (when defense trails) to basket
3) Curl off screen to foul line
4) Catch in mid-range, then go into post game

Just based on his shooting numbers, seems like the Warriors are gonna score 50% of the time they run this for Klay.....and in a brutal defensive battle....that's unheard of.

What can work
Screen for Curry in the backcourt
If Delly wants to face guard Curry all over the court, that's fine. But the Golden State bigs need to make him feel their presence and set some screens to get Curry free.
In particular, if Delly shadows Curry in backcourt (>80 feet from the basket), perhaps a back screen is in order...which in turn can sort of simulate a fast break situation, causing Cavs defenders to help early in the possession far from the the Warriors a numbers advantage towards the basket.

Double screen for Curry
The Cavs have been doing a great job of not letting Curry turn the corner or getting threes off of screens on the ball - by hedging out and trapping, with Delly either fighting over or trailing on the play. In response, the Warriors actually ran a double screen for Curry (two screeners on the ball on the same side) which made it much harder for Delly to trail, got Curry open, and gave the Warriors two players that could either roll to the basket and/or pick and pop.

Might be worth trying this again, especially in critical situations.

Let Curry take Delly off the dribble
Sometimes simplicity is profound.
Steph Curry, in addition to perhaps being the best shooter ever (already), is one of the league's best ball handlers (top 3).

Yes, Delly did a great job on him and made him work. But, the reality is Curry can still get his shot off anytime he wants. And if he can dance with the ball a bit, get some swag - I'm sure he can (re)find a rhythm. He's great at making contested shots, can pull up off the dribble, and can freeze defenders. All he needs is a split second to get his shot off. So just get him the ball and let him work, without screens (and help defenders).

Isn't this great?
A team of elegant offense vs. a team of rugged defense.
Depth vs. iron man ball.
One of the best teams statistically in history vs. one of the best players in history.
A team of inevitability vs. a team of destiny.

This is an amazing moment.
That is reveals a lot about it's well as it's fans.

Before game 2:
"How many minutes can you play in a 48 minute game?"
"At a Finals? ....40,41,42. In a regular season pace I can give you all 48. I play extremely hard throughout the postseason and I'd be cheating my team if if I said I could go out and play all 48 minutes. I think that's impossible."
.........LeBron James played 50 MINUTES in game 2!

After game 2:
"You mentioned I believe yesterday, could play 41, 42 minutes. You played well over that tonight and still played - you were a force each and every minute on the court......can this continue? Are you built for this?"
"Well, am I built for it? Well, of course I'm built for it (laughing). I mean, it's a maximum of five games left in the NBA season. So I/m ready for whatever."
LeBron, what's it gonna take?

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