NBA Finals: Thoughts going into Game 2

Jun 2, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) dunks the ball against Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love (0) in game one of the NBA Finals at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

One game is in the books and the Warriors have taken what feels like more than a 1-0 series lead on the Cavs. Despite holding the Splash Brothers to a combined 20 points for the game, the Cavs let the Warriors bench score 45 points and the Dubs pulled away from the Cavs to win by 15. After watching the game, I think the Cavs are still in it but there are some significant concerns based off their performance and Coach Lue’s, “I like how we played them” demeanor after the game:

  • For all the talk about the Cavs defense on Klay and Steph, they missed at least 10+ open shots both behind the arc and in the paint. Considering they tend to shoot at least 50% of these types of shots, the score of this game could have been much worse than the 15-point margin. If Lue assumes that the defense they played will continue to produce this type of result, he’s got another thing coming to him.
  • The Cavs role players off of LeBron need to realize that this defense is the best defense they’ve faced in the playoffs. Throughout the playoffs, ball screens and post-ups have provided double teams that lead to easy quick passes around the perimeter where Cavs’ shooters can be stationary. With the length and quickness the Dubs bring to the table (along with excellent switching on screens), they can’t stand and wait for LeBron to find them. Subtle off-ball movement will give LeBron improved passing lanes and force the Warriors defenders into one or two additional steps on their closeouts.
  • Kyrie needs to get his shit together. Kyrie seemed much more interested in winning the individual battle against Steph versus winning the game. Too many times he brought the ball up the court and immediately began an eight-plus second iso into a contested jumper. This stagnated Cleveland’s offense. Additionally, he just does not lock-in on defense and provide consistent effort. He got caught ball watching, didn’t fight through screens, and let guys blow by him. Don’t let his points fool you, he was not a positive for the Cavs in this game.
  • Cavs team defense in transition needs to clean up. Steph and Klay were open far too many times off the ball. Additionally, there were lots of possessions that had open Warriors by the basket for easy dunks and layups in delayed transition due to cross matches from the Warriors’ switching. The Cavs need to be awake and aware and find a man in transition and not give up easy looks for the Warriors.
  • Kevin Love post ups are not the answer. His post game is underrated but not when he’s forced to back down defenders for multiple dribbles – even if he has a height advantage. The Warriors will live with him shooting over Barnes, Iguodola, and even Klay because he plays much better when he only has to make one quick move and he’s close to the basket. If his offense continues to underperform, he needs to be off the floor because his defense is just terrible.

Much of this can be explained by the fact that the Cavs have not played a team as intense as the Warriors. LeBron looked ready to play hard but the rest of the team seem shocked by the flexibility and speed of the Warriors defense. The role players in particular looked out of sorts. I still think the Cavs can steal game 2 but there are a lot of issues that popped up in a game where they missed capitalizing on such a poor outing from two great shooters. And for all the talk about missing layups and shots in the paint, you need only look back at the WCF and see that sometimes, a great defense can force misses at the rim. The truth probably lies somewhere in between but if I’m the Cavs, Game 2 is a must win. Fortunately, they have the best player in a generation on the team and I expect LeBron to be even more aggressive tomorrow night. But with the lack of help and discipline the Cavs showed in game 1, you have to wonder if he’ll be enough.