NBA Finals: The Dubs without Day Day

hi-res-871d88404497c8e1b3c9897fc6be55d0_crop_northYesterday the NBA announced that it had upgraded Draymond Green’s non-foul against Draymond Green to a Flagrant 1. That led to a hilarious day on Twitter with people talking about “hurt feelings” and “taking the high road” culminating it what may have been the most hilarious tweet of the day from NBA First Lady, Ayesha Curry:

“High Road. invisible bridge used to step over said person when open floor is available left to right.”

My only comment is that the high road is usually taken without declaration. I’m pretty sure that by letting people know that you’re traversing said road, you immediately get booted off by high road patrol and land on either the mid-level or low road…

People can talk about whether or not this was the right decision but based off the letter of the law in the NBA rulebook it’s certainly fair. The thing I find most interesting is that for a team that claims they’re confident they can beat the Warriors, the Cavs players and organization seemed to be doing a lot of lobbying for the punishment. This is all neither here nor there as the Warriors are now faced with the unfortunate truth of the matter: they will be playing without their (arguably) most important player.

As I mentioned previously, I don’t think the Warriors will beat the Cavs without Draymond. He is the key to their switch-happy defense; his physicality and length allow them to play “small” because he can bang with the bigs. He is also the player that makes guys like Frye and Love unplayable. He neuters them offensively and they can’t keep up with him defensively. Losing Green’s versatility basically takes the Warriors’ strategic identity away from them.

But that’s not to say they can’t win. Here are some things the Warriors can do to beat the Cavs without their vocal, emotional, and spiritual leader:

  • Bring the intensity. This is not strategic. This is responding to this suspension with more energy, more anger, and a rockin’ Oracle Arena. Shooters shoot better at home, rotations move more quickly, role players play with better rhythm. The Warriors should come out swinging and firing – if they can overwhelm the Cavs initially, they may be able to steal a win with heart and grit.
  • Start Iggy and mirror LeBron’s minutes. Kerr has been bringing him off the bench but with Green out, now is not the time to try to maintain rotations. This is a closeout game. LeBron struggles against Andre and with unavailable to play clean-up on defense, the Dubs need to do everything they can to keep LeBron out of rhythm.
  • Use Festus against Tristan Thompson. He is a much better rebounder than Bogut and has the athleticism to deal with Thompson on the boards. With Draymond out, the Warriors will have to play more lineups with a traditional center and securing defensive boards is a much bigger deal without Draymond in the lineup. Festus can help that issue.
  • Use the 1-2 pick and roll more. As mentioned previously, the Cavs have had a hell of a time dealing with the Klay/Steph action. In Oracle, where their shots have been dropping at a more consistent rate, they should play this advantage up as much as possible. Both Klay and Curry have gotten better at attacking defenses while moving downhill and this will force Kyrie to expend more energy which will hopefully hurt his offense.
  • Trust in Barnes. He’s not the playmaker that Draymond is but he can attack Cavs bigs off the dribble and has been underrated during this finals on defense. This is a chance for him to step up and if his clutch shooting has been any indication, I think he’s ready. Try getting him in some 4-on-3 situations in the half court. Outside of attempting to run a fast break, this is the time for him to show he’s ready for the moment.

Without Draymond to anchor the defense, I see this as being more of a shootout. The Warriors can probably score with the Cavs but it will take a lot of strong individual performances. The space they get when Draymond is on the court will disappear. Also, be prepared to see Love and Frye on the court more because they can now hide on GSW’s centers on defense. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see the Warriors play super small with Barnes at center – a high risk/high reward strategy they may need to pull out to try to throw the Cavs off their game. He just can’t handle defensive rebounding the way Draymond can.

As much as my head tells me not to, my heart will say the Warriors win this game. I have real concerns with Lue and his ability to take advantage of Draymond being out. I haven’t been a fan of the way he’s coached so far in the series. I also think the Warriors play best when they are facing adversity and it doesn’t get much tougher than this. I think Steph goes off for another 30+ point game and you’ll see lots of perimeter guys with 4-6 rebounds to help make up for Dray’s absence. They’ll come out swinging and the Cavs won’t be able to deal with the intensity within the Roaracle. Finals MVP goes to Steph.