After a promising first quarter-and-a-half in Game 2, everything unraveled for Cleveland in Oracle once again.
The Warriors have wasted no time in the NBA Finals, jumping out to a convincing 2–0 lead over the Cavaliers. In both games, the Cavs have been held to 36.8 FG% and 27.3 3p%, they’ve yet to score more than 90 points or record more than 20 assists in a game and have turned the ball over 35 times. Meanwhile, the Dubs have shot 51.8 FG% and 40.0 3P%, have outscored Cleveland by a combined 48 points and have 55 total assists with 30 turnovers.
Watching the two games, it’s felt too easy for the Warriors. They haven’t been forcing many things on offense, because they simply haven’t had to do so. Following Game 2 on Sunday night, Draymond Green spoke to how they’re adjusting to Cleveland’s defense, saying:
“They’re really collapsing on Steph and Klay. Guys get the ball into the paint and they’re collapsing down, and I was spotting it up, and they found me in a great spot to knock shots down. I caught a couple of interior passes from Andre (Iguodala) to put me in great position to score.”
“So I’m really just taking what the defense gives me. And if that’s the shot they’re going to give me — and I know the amount of work that I put in — I can step up with confidence and try to knock it down.”
When Green wasn’t canning wide open threes, The Warriors were picking apart the Cavaliers in the half-court with their passing. Like Green identified, the Cavs’ defensive strategy has been focused on the Warriors’ backcourt, mainly Curry and Thompson. Their execution has been sloppy though, failing to cut off passing lanes and too often getting hung up on screens and pin-downs. This has allowed Golden State’s tremendous passers to find open guys for easy layups and uncontested jumpers. The Warriors live in the negative space of games; they thrive in broken down plays, love pushing the pace to find mismatches, and squeak the ball through the smallest of gaps created by their motion offense. Cleveland won’t be able to slow Golden State until they stop making careless defensive mistakes, plain and simple.
To make matters worse, Cleveland has been seriously lacking rim protection. One of Oklahoma City’s saving graces in the WCF was their ability to still contest shots around the rim even if they had been beaten on a Thompson cut or Bogut pass. The Cavs might be forced to play C Timofey Mozgov substantially more minutes in Game 3 to stop the onslaught of Warrior drives and layups. We’ll know soon if Kevin Love is healthy enough to play on Wednesday after sustaining a concussion in the first half of Game 2, but as of Monday he is considered day-to-day.
On offense, the Cavaliers have looked even more uncomfortable. A few times, LeBron James was able to gain steam and run downhill to the basket for a quick score. Kyrie Irving had some early success as well, hitting a couple pull-ups and driving to the hoop off the high pick and roll with Love and Tristan Thompson. But thanks to the Warriors’ ability to switch on the pick and roll, as well as incredible post defense from Andrew Bogut, the Cavs have been forced into too many post-up and isolation plays. For a team that relies on LeBron and Kyrie getting to the basket to open up space for their shooters, they’ve effectively had their main offensive weapons shut down.
The Cavs need to amp up their ball movement in Game 3. The Warriors are crowding their shooters and sagging off everyone else, and the only way to overcome that is to force GS into recovery-mode by moving the ball out ahead of the charging defender. This was how the Cavs were able to pick apart the Atlanta Hawks and and Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Playoffs, as it opened up huge lanes to the basket and gave their shooters space.
Back on their home court, Cleveland faces a must-win situation in Game 3. They will need to dig deep for extra effort and focus, or else we can expect the same results from the first two games. We’ve seen flashes of great play from Cleveland despite dropping two in Oakland, but we’ll see if the Cavs can prevent the Warriors from dominating both sides of the floor again on Wednesday.
What do you think? Can the Cavaliers bounce back in Game 3, or will the Warriors push LeBron to the brink of elimination? Download Sporting Vote, the #1 social app for sports news and opinions, and join the conversation. appstore.com/sportingvote