It is always funny to read social media postings during a sporting event in Cleveland, most notably because the default in this area for many is that when the team loses, the coach or manager did a bad job.
Going into last night’s Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Cavs’ coach Tyronn Lue obviously wanted to limit the open looks of the Golden State Warriors’ two best offensive players: Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
Sounds like a good plan, right? To be sure, Warriors’ coach Steve Kerr probably wants to make it difficult for LeBron James and Kyrie Irving too.
Well, Lue’s blueprint worked out. Curry and Thompson were held to just 20 points, on a combined 8 for 27 shooting night. For the most part, there weren’t a lot of open looks for these two.
However, we are sure that the Cavs’ coaching staff did not figure on the trio of Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, and Leandro Barbosa going a combined 18 for 24 from the field, scoring a combined total of 43 points.
Those three averaged 19.7 points per game together in the regular season, and in the playoffs they were averaging 22 points per night.
So, they basically doubled what they did in the post-season last night.
While, Lue’s plan was sound, but the results don’t show it because those three players off the Golden State bench had extraordinary nights.
And while Curry can come to the post-game press conference and talk about the difference their bench makes, the numbers show they don’t usually make that kind of impact on a game.
On the other hand, Iguodala seems to see a Cleveland uniform and turns into a combination of J.J. Redick and Kyle Korver. He is a career 33% shooter from three point range, but in the seven playoff games vs. the Cavs, he has made 16 out of 39%, more than 40%.
It didn’t help that Cleveland shot poorly either, making just 38% of their field goal attempts, with a lot of misses right at the rim. Is that great defense? In some cases, yes, but the wine and gold shooters missed some clean looks around the basket as well.
The Warriors seemed to play a lot of attention to JR Smith and Channing Frye, two of the hottest Cavs from behind the three point line. The two combined to take just four shots and score five points.
Lue and his staff have to figure out a way to get them some open looks, although both players appeared to be a little passive as well.
Cleveland also got away from the ball movement they have displayed throughout the playoffs, totaling just 17 assists last night, nine by James.
Lue attributed the isolation style of play to the Warriors’ switching defense, but there can be a happy medium with good ball movement with some one-on-one play mixed in.
Let’s not forget that the Cavaliers had a one point lead late in the third quarter, before Livingston started the fourth quarter with a flurry. So, it wasn’t exactly domination by Golden State since the tipoff.
There is no doubt Curry and Thompson will shoot better going forward, but it is also likely the Warriors will not get this kind of production from their subs.
The Cavs will also shoot better.
We have always felt that until the seventh game, the even numbered contests are most important, and this is no different.
The Warriors can take a commanding lead with a win on Sunday, while the Cavs can get right back in it, and steal home court from Kerr’s team.
Cleveland didn’t lose the series last night. There is a long way to go. But it will the route will get shorter with another loss on Sunday.