That one point deficit turned into a 15 point lead....... real quick.
How do you stop this?
I'm not sure if you do....
Remember that high school drill where you only had three dribbles to try to get off a shot and score?
With the general rule of thumb being - if you had to dribble more than three times to score - then it was too much? Yeah....I think they're gonna have to modify that drill just a bit...
Let's reiterate, for Steph Curry:
Regular season record for most threes
Playoff record for most threes
Finals record for most threes in a quarter
Trails Danny green for most three in an NBA Finals by 4 (currently at 22)
This seems statistically significant.
By the way, 15 of Curry's Finals threes have come in the last 9 quarters. Anyone taking bets on wether he'll get 4-5 more threes tonight?
Is there really anything else to talk about???
What has LeBron done this Finals?
~37 points, 12 rebounds, and ~9 assists a game.
While playing point center in game 5.
What more do you want? For LeBron to guard Steph Curry in the 4?
Is that humanly possible?
With Delly and Curry getting medical attention this series for dehydration - I'm scared to think of the toll that would take on LeBron.
This is somewhat obvious, and so it the concept that win or loss - LeBron probably should be the MVP......which is what makes this such a curious statement.
Was it to put more pressure on himself?
To give his teammates confidence?
Or to rile up the Warriors and Steph Curry and try to turn this into a one-on-one battle?
By the way, speaking of pressure, I wonder - has anyone (in basketball) ever faced as much as LeBron James....from high school till now? That's 12-13 years. Just FYI - I've said it before and I'll say it again - at multiple stages in his career LeBron has had impossible hype to live up to......in in almost every occasion - he has actually been better than the hype.
Pulling a Curry
Remember after game 3, when the Cavs were up 2-1, Steph Curry said LeBron wasn't the reason the Warriors were down in the series??? Kind of funny to hear LeBron, after game 5 and down 3-2 say this about Curry:
"I thought he was great. You tip your hat off to a guy like that. He made seven threes.....were any of them not contested, hand in his face, falling, step back off the dribble? I'm okay with that. We're okay with that. He's the best shooter in our league.....But's that's not why we lost. We gave up 18 fast break points. We gave up 15 second chance points. Steph was special, obviously, but him hitting those setback threes is not why we lost the game."Uhhhh......15 points in the last 7:30 of a game the Cavs were winning by one.....
After 28 points and 10 rebounds in game 4, Timovey Mozgov played less than 10 minutes with 1 shot attempt, 0 points and 0 rebounds in game 5.
Whether playing Mozgov was right or wrong (the Cavs lost by 22 with Mozgov as the center piece on offense, they were up 1 in the 4th last game), it is clear that the Warriors are dictating the terms of engagement in the Finals now.
Yes, there are problems with going big against the Warrirors, in particular:
1) T. Thompson and Mozgov have to guard either Iggy, Barnes, or Green on the perimeter
2) With the LeBron in the post and T. Thompson and Mozgov crashing the offensive glass, any Cleveland missed shot (and there have been many) leads to a Golden State fast break.
It would seem to me the later is more concerning, as it speeds up the pace of the game.
But there are also problem with going small (especially with LeBron at center), in particular:
1) Jones and/or Miller have to guard Iggy and Barnes, who have the advantage on the glass.
2) Preventing the Cavs from getting second chance opportunities on offense (and there have been a lot of opportunities).
Certainly the pros and cons of each situation need to be assessed.
But from a defensive perspective, I guess you have to ask - would the Cavs benefit if Iggy, Green, and Barnes try to take the Cleveland bigs off the dribble? Probably, if it limits Curry from shooting.
So, what now?
Double Curry in the 4th
He's just too good.
Look at those shots above, that's great one-on-one defense.
But Curry excels at making difficult three point jumpers.
So, when golden State puts him in a screen (though not sure why they would) - double him and get the ball out of his hands. It's that simple.
Curry has been a willing passer, and is doing an excellent job of reversing the ball to Green in the middle - who becomes wide open for a shot or drive to the basket. First of all - you would rather a Green shot or drive than a Curry three. Second of all, the adjustment Cleveland might want to make is rotating a weak side defender over to guard the screener - so they are no longer wide open. Making a reverse pass to the screener is feasible for Curry when doubled. But making a skip pass to the weak side of the floor is a bit more challenging. And even if the pass is made, defenders have a better chance to recover on a cross court pass.
Screen with Klay
Screening with a shooting is always an interesting idea - especially if they are screening for another shooter of someone able to turn the corner on a pick. When Iggy, Green, or Lee have set screens for Curry in the 4th, they tend to be wide open when Cleveland doubles. So, imagine screening with Klay Thompson and then having him become wide open on a Curry double team.
That's a guy the Warriors wouldn't mine shooting either.
Screen on Iggy
Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson made an interesting point last game: the Cavs should put LeBron in high pick and rolls/pops when Iggy is guarding him. That's not to say that LeBron can't take Iggy in the post - he can. But his advantage isn't as decided as it is against other warriors defenders. Rather, if you put LeBron in a pick and roll - you get a switch of defenders.
If you screen with a big - Green has to guard LeBron.
If you screen with a guard - Klay or Curry have to guard LeBron.
Those are better matchups - and puts the defense in a position looking to help (and freeing up others).
So this is what it's come down to huh?
Think of the other high powered offense in these Playoffs. The Clippers.
How do you slow them down? Put Jordan on the foul line and disrupt the rhythm of the game.
Why not do the same with the Warriors?
Iggy was 2/11 from the line last game.
Worst case scenario - Iggy makes two foul shots.....that's still better than a Curry three.
Best case - he consistently misses 1-2 foul shots. And if so, it may force Kerr to take Iggy out of the game. Mind you, Kerr said himself that Iggy has been the Warriors best player in the Finals.
Regardless of what happens - it slows the Warriors down and gets them out of rhythm.
It's not pretty or cute - but it mucks up the game and enables Cleveland to once again dictate the terms of engagement. Isn't that what grit ball is all about?
Here is a fact: every time the Warriors score 100 points in these Finals - they win.
Both Cleveland wins? 93 and 91 points for the Warriors, respectively.
And the other game Cleveland could have won in the final seconds? The Warriors had 98 points in regulation. (Also, in games 1-3 the Warriors shot ~28% from three, in game 4 and 5, they shot 43%).
That's not to say giving up 103 and 104 points in games 4 and 5, respectively, is bad defense.
It just means that Cleveland is either going to have to hold the Warriors to under 100...... OR going to have to score ~105 points to win.....which is not impossible.
What would that look like?
LeBron = 40
T. Thompson = 13
Mozgov = 15
J.R. = 15
Delly = 8
Shump = 8
Jones = 6
So, at home, with the best player in the world, and the season on the line:
1) Double Curry
2) Make Green, Iggy, and Barnes run the offense
4) Get reasonable scoring help from the supporting cast
It's as simple as that!