Nobody said it was gonna be easy....
Stop Steph Curry? Perhaps the best shooter in NBA history (already)?
Defeat the Golden State Warriors? A team that's only lost three game at home all season?
Not even a 44 point performance by LeBron James (most in Finals career) and a 14 point 1st quarter lead could do that in Game 1.
Now, you want the Cavs to do it without this guy?
23 points, 6 assists, 7 rebounds, 4 steals, and 2 blocks.
That's pretty good for a Finals first timer playing on a hobbled leg.
Can the Cavs possible rely more on LeBron James?
Especially when game 1 was a prime example of.....
When the best is not enough
44 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists, on the road.
Make no mistake - this was a masterpiece.
LeBron working the post during game 1 truly was a thing of beauty. He is, without a doubt, the best post player in this series, by far.
How many times did we see him fake spin, reverse pivot, and then hit a fade-away mid-range jumper? Or get into the paint for a hook? Or a one-legged floater? How many times did we see him make these shots over multiple defenders, like this:
Are the Warriors cool with LeBron putting up big scoring numbers?
Letting him shoot
As the picture above suggests, LeBron had this to say about the Warriors "letting him score 40:"
"Well, first of all, you can't let me have 40. You don't let me have 40. I go get 40."I love it.
But perhaps the Warriors are okay with LeBron shooting 38 times?
Here is an interesting graphic from Grantland:
LeBron was 18/38 in total shots.... for 47% shooting.....but was only 2/8 in three point shots.
From inside the arc, LeBron was 16/30.....for 53% shooting.
Again, coming into the game - LeBron was shooting ~17% from three. Certainly not a strong suit.
I know some of those missed threes came in overtime when the game was already decided. And, certainly, LeBron made a three late in the 4th to tie the game. But I wonder if the Warriors would "let" LeBron shoot as much if he decided not to take as many threes.
LeBron wasn't in the post for his potential game winning shot.
Game of inches (Shumpert)
Speaking of which, how close were the Cavs to being up 1-0, stealing home court, and presumably not losing Irving for the Finals???
Let me restate, from my last post:
"You always feel that someone like JR Smith can help you smoke out your opponent....you're just not sure if he'll burn down your house in the process"And...
"Is he another John Starks type.......probably."3/13 in game 1.....all 9 points in the first half.....
Well, again let me restate:
"The good thing about JR Smith is that he's not afraid to take any shot.In this case - it's probably a good thing for the Cavs, as I'm almost sure that JR will come out in game 2 guns blazing.
The bad thing about JR Smith is that he's not afraid to take any shot.
Bottom line: JR Smith doesn't give a F%$K."
Still, if you look at the matchup between Klay and the Knicks shooting guards in game 1:
Klay = 21 points on 5/14 shooting
JR + Shump = 15 points on 5/19 shooting
Was this the difference maker? Probably not.
But moving forward I think JR/Shump combined will at least have to neutralize Klay, if not be better.
Getting Iggy with it
15 points on 6/8 shooting (2/3 from three)
This might have been the most significant contribution of the game.
And these might have been the most important plays of the game.
Closing out the 1st and 3rd quarters with dunks are huge momentum shifts.
FYI, Iggy outscored the Cavs entire bench.....
Good defense.....is not enough
Coming into the Finals, Steph Curry - setting the NBA regular season and playoff record (both this year) for most three point field goals - shot 8 and 11 three point shots a game during the regular season and playoffs, respectively.
In game 1, the Cavs did an excellent job of forcing Curry off the 3...limiting him to 6 attempts (~half his playoff average), with Curry only making 2 three pointers.
And with the exception of giving up only 1 slightly uncontested left corner three, the Cavs did a pretty good job of contesting all of his shots.....
......yet, Curry still finished with 26 points on 10/20 shooting to go along with 8 assists.
Making a plethora of, dare I say, mid-range jump shots (heaven forbid!) - mostly off the dribble, many in clutch situations.
Yep. That's LeBron getting shifting completely out of defensive position.
What more can you really do with this guy?
A New Hope
As per NBA.com, there is something to the notion that the Cavs can survive and thrive without Irving (and Love):
Yes, they become even more reliant of LeBron.....but hasn't that always been the case.? At this point, might as well go all in and embrace the situation. And in doing so, the Cavs have actually been pretty good.
Yes, they'll have to make up the 23 points Kyrie scored in game 1. But maybe that means more ball movement, which will enable Smith, Shump, Delly, and Jones to get going.
Turning LeBron back into Magic
I have argued against this before.
When LeBron tried to play like Magic against Dallas in '11 and the first three games against San Antonio in '13 it wasn't in the best interest of his team. When he dropped 45 against Boston in game 6 of the '12 ECF and 38 against the Spurs in game 7 of the '13 Finals it was.
It's not that you want LeBron to turn into a 19, 10, & 10 guy.
No, no, no.
You need him to be a 30, 10, & 10 guy......just like he was in the Eastern Conference Finals against Atlanta (truth be told....44, 8, and 6 is pretty close!).
Is this fair to ask? No.
Everyone has always complained LeBron didn't shoot enough (including myself). Now, everyone is wondering if he shot too much in game 1 (though probably not). Clearly, the Cavs supporting cast has to regain form.
In general, I have also argued against LeBron running the point. I'm not sure if having T. Thompson or Mozgov screening above the three point line is the answer. But, it could be an interesting look to have a shooter (JR, Shump, or Jones) set a screen for LeBron up top and then spot up if Golden State hedges out and/or leaves the shooter.
Also, Miami used to run some interesting sets where LeBron was the screener on the top of the key for Mario Chalmers. Because defenders paid so much attention to LeBron, it enabled the point to come off the screen and turn the corner to make plays. And if the defenders hedge/leave the screener - then you have LeBron open in the middle of the floor to make plays.
Finally, there is precedent for LeBron making plays out of the post - in particular against OKC in the '12 Finals. LeBron averaged 29 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists for the series while mostly attacking the basket and operating out of the post. Check out LeBron's numbers for the last two games of that Finals:
Game 4: 26 points, 9 rebounds, 12 assists.
Game 5 (closeout): 26 points, 11 rebounds, 13 assists.
Again, this was mostly operating out of the post.
Most people are saying that the Warriors played LeBron 1 on 1.....this is not entirely true. Look at the picture above of LeBron's floater over Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. That seems like a double to me. And how do you think Mozgov got open on so many plays towards the end of the 4th and beginning of overtime? For the most part the Cavs were successful with this. Mozgov got dunks or fouls by cutting to the basket, but unfortunately was called for a questionable travel late in the game as well. Still it means the Cavs can do more with LeBron in the post and look to get creative by cutting to the basket or screening away from the ball to get three point shooters open....especially if they are sending Green to double.
Guess who will be in attendance to help broadcast game 2 of the Finals.....
I wonder if LeBron and Wade will have a chance to talk before the game......any chance the Cavs have an extra jersey?
Moving off the ball
It's hard to know what the Warriors can do better in game 2.
They only had 12 turnovers.
They out rebounded the Cavs.
Their bench won 34-9.
And Steph Curry shot 50% from the floor.
I guess you can say, maybe getting off to a better start, and not falling down 14?
Another thing might be to not let the Cavs force Curry off the three point line or let the Cavs play big. Seems to me the the Warriors best lineup had Iggy at the 4 and Green and the 5. So, maybe put Curry and Klay at the wings, coming off down screens and spacing the floor for Livingston at the point? Maybe a least for stretches.
Curry might be able to shoot more threes coming off the ball - as opposed to dribbling off screens in which the Cavs are hedging and switching. The switching worked towards the Warriors favor in OT, as Curry knocked down mid-range jumpers, had isolations on bigs, and was able to get to the foul line. He also had 8 assists. That's good to know in crunch time.
But if threes are Curry's and the Warriors' bread and butter, perhaps moving Curry off the ball, again, only for stretches, might be a good way to get some open threes. And here is Curry's shooting percentage when shooting without a dribble, as per Sports Analytics: