Earlier in the year, when both the national media and local scribes and broadcasters seemed obsessed with the Golden State Warriors, we told people to stop comparing the Cleveland Cavaliers with the defending champs, because they were doing something off the charts.
Our opinion was that the only time Cavs’ fans needed to think about the Warriors was if and when the wine and gold meet Golden State in the NBA Finals.
That day is now here. The Cavaliers will be in Oakland Thursday night to begin The Finals after the Warriors eliminated Oklahoma City in a hard fought seven game series.
As you would imagine for a team that won a league record 73 regular season games, the Warriors don’t have any glaring weaknesses.
They are the top three point shooting team in the NBA, the top shooting team regardless of distance, and are in the top five (4th) in rebounding.
Defensively, they rank 1st in defensive field goal percentage against the three point shot, and third in all shots.
Perhaps a reason for that is many teams trying to play the Warriors game, something we don’t believe will work in the long run. We understand Tyronn Lue wants the Cavs to play with pace, but we think the wine and gold will play faster than last year, but they will want to control the tempo.
One thing the Cavaliers have to do defensively is not leave Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson alone. The players defending those two can absolutely not leave them to play help defense.
That duo take 19.3 three point shots per game. And for all the hype about Golden State’s reliance on the long range shot, those two are the only players who average more than 3.5 threes per game.
Cleveland has five such players (JR Smith, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving, Channing Frye, and LeBron James), meaning Golden State has to honor the long range shooting of many, not just a few.
When the Cavs defeated the Warriors last season in the regular season at The Q, then coach David Blatt said they knew Golden State was going to take three point shots, but they wanted them to be taken by players other than Curry and Thompson.
It didn’t work in The Finals because Andre Iguodala shot the long ball like he never has in his life.
However, we would still try to chase Golden State shooters off of the line and force them to come inside and take two point shots.
As for the “Splash Brothers”, you have to pick them up as soon as they cross half-court, and hope either Draymond Green and/or Andrew Bogut don’t set one of their famed moving screens to get either player free.
We believe Lue may have to forsake his mantra about not complaining about officials to draw attention to this tactic that was used last year in the championship round, and now most coaches see the same thing.
Golden State’s defensive rankings are very good, but it helps if you can put pressure defensively on Curry, and Kyrie Irving can do that.
However, in saying that, we don’t want to see the one-on-one play that comes when Irving is play iso-ball.
Cleveland needs to move the ball, and when Irving gets it with Curry guarding him, he has to attack.
The Cavs also have to exploit the Warriors lack of size when they go to their small lineup. None of those players can handle LeBron James in the post, so Cleveland needs to go to him to force Steve Kerr’s hand.
There is no question this is the toughest test yet for the Cleveland Cavaliers. They have to go through the defending champs, and they will have to win at least one game on the road to bring home a title.
Let the series begin on Thursday!