No GM, No Big Moves, But Cavs Still Team To Beat In East

Ever since the Cleveland Cavaliers lost Game 5 of the NBA Finals, thus losing the series, it seems like a black cloud has followed the franchise, at least if you listen to the national media.

First, GM David Griffin and owner Dan Gilbert couldn’t reach an agreement on the former’s future with the team and parted ways.

Then, they tried and failed to get Paul George in a trade with Indiana before the draft, and despite the lack of a GM, this one is really on the Pacers, because their general manager killed the deal.

And according to who you listen to the Cavs have lost out on other free agents too, even though most of those players received contract offers much greater than the Cavaliers can pay because of the salary cap.

However, one thing has not changed with the franchise.  They are still the best team in the Eastern Conference and the odds on favorite to return to The Finals for the fourth consecutive year.

That, my friends gives them a one in two chance to win the Larry O’Brien Trophy as NBA Champs.

The team with the best record in the regular season in the East, the Celtics added the prime free agent available this summer in Gordon Hayward, but they also lost Avery Bradley, an excellent defensive guard in a deal with Detroit to clear cap space.

The other challengers in the East, the Wizards, really haven’t added a significant piece, although they helped their bench, and Toronto’s point guard, Kyle Lowry got another year older, and they traded D’Marre Carroll and lost P.J. Tucker as a free agent.

Meanwhile, the Cavs still have the big three of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love, who together have lost just one playoff series in the last three seasons.

They also still have Tristan Thompson, JR Smith, and kept shooter extraordinaire, Kyle Korver.

The only players lost to this point by Cleveland are the free agents, Deron Williams and James Jones, and the latter is probably going to retire.

Now, we aren’t thrilled with the Jose Calderon signing, but getting Jeff Green is a solid move, and we will have to wait and see if Cedi Osman will be able to play in the NBA.

Whoever the new GM is, and it will probably be Koby Altman, still has some of the mid-level exemption to use to sign more players, and of course, there is the veteran minimum as well.

Some of the players we have talked about recently (Shabazz Muhammad, Jeff Withey, etc.) are still available and with cap space drying up around the league, who knows, perhaps a player like that will fall into the wine and gold’s hands.

As for James’ future, which everyone nationally has him leaving after the 2017-18 season, for every reason “experts” speculate why he will leave, we can think of one why he will remain in northeast Ohio.

FYI, that’s not a prediction, because we don’t think anyone, except for LeBron and his people, knows what he is thinking about right now.

What we do know is the Cavaliers will be a very good team at the start of the regular season and everyone should enjoy it because they will be the team to beat in the East.

As for the West?  Houston and Oklahoma City are challenging Golden State, and you can never forget about San Antonio.

The national media’s worries?  First, the off-season still has about two and a half months to go, so more moves could be coming.

But really, nothing has changed since the Cavs rolled through the East with just one loss in the conference playoffs.

JK

 

Cavs Making Moves Anyway

The Cleveland Cavaliers might not have an official general manager, but the acting one made a move yesterday, and it looks like a solid one.

Koby Altman signed free agent forward Jeff Green, last with the Orlando Magic to a one year contract to a one year deal.

Green will be 31 years old this season, making him considerably younger than most of the players the wine and gold has signed or been linked with so far this summer.

The well traveled Georgetown product is 6’9″ and can play both inside and outside, especially in today’s NBA, where teams seem to be using smaller lineups.

The downside is he is coming off his worst season as a pro with Orlando, averaging just 9.2 points per game on 39.4% shooting, well off his career numbers of 13.5 points and 43.5% accuracy from the floor.

Hopefully, this is a case of a veteran playing better on a good team, because the year before, a season he spent with both the Clippers and Grizzlies, he scored 11.7 points per game on 43% shooting.

It has been reported that LeBron James spoke to Green prior to his agreement with the Cavaliers, and also it has been written that James is speaking to free agent Jamal Crawford as well.

This flies in the face of earlier news that The King is not actively recruiting players to join the franchise in Cleveland.

Perhaps this is a sign that James isn’t headed to the Lakers after this season.

As for Crawford, we are a little ambivalent about that because of his age, he will be 38 during the 2017-18 season, and he is a defensive liability which Green isn’t.  The latter has had success guarding on the perimeter.

On the other hand, the man can still shoot, hitting 36% of his three point attempts last season, and at age 37, he played in all 82 games.

Still, we believe Cleveland needs to get longer, younger, and more athletic off the bench, and inking Crawford to a deal doesn’t accomplish any of that.

Nor did agreeing to a deal with Jose Calderon, and bringing in one of James’ old mates in Miami, Udonis Haslem, doesn’t do it either.

One of the players we suggested last week, Tyreke Evans, went to Memphis for less than the full mid level exemption.

We can definitely see Altman or whoever is running the Cavs try to move Iman Shumpert, Channing Frye, and even Richard Jefferson for younger players and/or non-guaranteed contracted players, who Cleveland could release and thus create some space under the salary cap.

With the huge deals given out to players already this off-season, there will be good players, who will be available on veteran minimum contracts.

At the very least, the Cavs have to still be considered the favorite to get to The Finals again next year.  Yes, Boston signed the best free agent in Gordon Hayward, but let’s match up the “Big Three’s”…

Kyrie Irving > Isaiah Thomas
LeBron James > Hayward
Kevin Love > Al Horford

We maintain the biggest threat to Cleveland in the East will be Washington and Milwaukee.

However, we are sticking with our theme of younger, longer, and more athletic for the wine and gold this summer.  Still, if you can get Carmelo Anthony without moving a valued rotation piece, we are on board.

And we will ask this question to those criticizing owner Dan Gilbert for not paying David Griffin or Chauncey Billups…would you rather have him spend cash on players or front office people?

Thought so.

JK

 

Some Options For Cavs Still On The Market.

As the NBA free agency period is going on, the Cleveland Cavaliers have made one major move in re-signing three point shooter Kyle Korver, and a minor move in inking point guard Jose Calderon as a free agent.

At the end of The Finals, we thought the Cavaliers needed to get younger and longer on the bench, but neither of the moves made accomplished that as Korver is 36 years old and Calderon is 35.

And Calderon is coming off his worst season as a pro, averaging just 3.4 points per game, and seeing his three point shooting percentage drop to just 31%, down from his career norm of 41%.

His defense is also non-existent

Also, Richard Jefferson announced he will be returning for his 17th season, and he will be 37 years old for the 2017-18 season.

Not exactly accomplishing what we think should be the goal for next year, is it?

Here are some guys who are still out there as unrestricted free agents that we would be interested in for the wine and gold this summer:

Shabazz Muhammad:  He will be 25 years old next season and is 6’6″.  His career scoring average in 9.7, with a high of 13.5 in his second year with Minnesota.

He’s a decent defensive player too, and should get better with experience.

Terrence Jones:  He’ll be 26 years this season, and at 6’9″ has a career 10.5 scoring average and 5. 7 rebounds in 24 minutes per night.

He also has solid defensive metrics for his career.  The negative is he’s been with three teams over the last 12 months.  He scored 36 points in a win over the Cavaliers last season while with New Orleans.

Tyreke Evans:  Evans will be 28 this season and is coming off two injury plagued seasons.  In his last full season, he averaged 16.6 points and 6.6 assists per game with New Orleans in 2014-15.

He’s 6’6″ and before he was hurt, his defensive metrics were okay.  He is a player who can create his own shot.

Jeff Withey:  We like Withey as a veteran big off the bench.  He’ll turn 28 during next season, and averages about two rebounds and a blocked shot per game in the 10 minutes he gets.

He’s not spectacular, but does a solid job.  He may not be able to play in a Finals matchup with Golden State, but you have to win the Eastern Conference first.

We understand these guys aren’t familiar to many basketball fans, and they don’t shoot the three like the players Cleveland has pursued for their bench in recent years.

And in spite of our contention that the Cavs need to get younger, if the New York Knicks do buyout Carmelo Anthony, we would love to have him as another scoring option for the team.

Remember that in The Finals, Tyronn Lue received little or no production from his bench outside of Jefferson.  They didn’t contribute on offense, and that was supposed to be their strength.

So, if you can’t get offense, perhaps giving the team better defenders off the bench would be a different tact vs. the Warriors.  We believe younger players would give you a better chance of that.

The longer the players listed remain unsigned, the better chance the Cavs have of getting these guys with the limited room they have due to the salary cap.

That might be their best chance to improve this off-season.

JK

 

Kyrie’s “Shot” Doesn’t Mean He Can’t Improve

Besides all of the Kevin Love trade talk swirling around the Cleveland Cavaliers this week, there were a couple of rumors involving another member of the “Big Three”, and that would be Kyrie Irving.

The wine and gold social media went crazy, insisting Irving is untouchable.

A bit of truth here.  One of the trade scenarios was Cleveland dealing Irving to Phoenix for the fourth overall pick in last week’s draft, and guard Eric Bledsoe, who averaged 21 points and six assists per game.

The Cavs would have spun that pick to Indiana for Paul George, giving the Cavaliers a starting five of LeBron James, Bledsoe, George, Kevin Love, and Tristan Thompson.

Our confession is we would have done that deal.

Look, we have said this before, Kyrie Irving is a gifted basketball player.  There may not be another player in the NBA who is as creative around the basket as Irving.

And he made the greatest shot in the history of the franchise with the go ahead basket in Game 7 of the 2016 Finals.

He will always be a “made man” in Cleveland sports because of that.

But let’s not pretend Irving is perfect and doesn’t have room for improvement.

First, he doesn’t put forth a lot of effort on defense.  We know that many stars pick their spots defensively, and we get that.  That’s happened in the NBA for 40 years or more.

The problem for Irving is he takes entire games off defensively and there is no excuse for that.  As the great John Wooden said, the same skills that make players great on the offensive end can be used to play great defense.

Irving’s quickness can get him to the basket on any possession within a game, so it can be used to stay in front of his man on defense too.

The other criticism of Irving is when James is off the floor, the ball sticks in his hands as he waits for an opening to drive.  On a team who plays its best when the ball moves, this is frustrating to watch.

Check out these numbers from last season:

When Kyrie has 10+ assists in a game:  Cavs record is 8-0
9+ assists:  11-2
8+ assists:  12-5
7+ assists:  20-7
3 or less assists:  6-10

When Irving takes 25 or more shots in a game, the wine and gold is just 4-5.  There is no mistaking that when Kyrie Irving is moving the ball, the Cavaliers are a much better team.

And by the way, in those 10+ assist games?  Irving scored more than 25 points in five of them.  The ability to score and pass is there.

Because he is so gifted and just 25 years old, we have confidence that Irving will continue to improve and learn the game.

On the other hand, if you view his game realistically, he isn’t one of the top five point guards in the NBA.  We would rank Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, John Wall, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden better than the Cavs’ point guard.

Would our choice be to trade Irving?  No, but we wouldn’t deal Kevin Love either.  We are just saying that anyone can be tradeable if it makes the team better, and that Irving shouldn’t be untouchable because he made “The Shot”.

He’s not in the same class as LeBron James, yet.

JK

 

Cavs Need Tweaks, Not Overhaul

With the NBA Draft occurring this past week and the beginning of the free agent period dawning next weekend, there has been a lot of talk about what the Cleveland Cavaliers should do this off-season.

Most of it comes from the uncertainty surrounding the franchise because LeBron James’ contract expires at the end of the 2017-18 campaign.

In our opinion, whoever the new Cavs’ GM is, probably Chauncey Billups should tweak the roster, making the bench younger and more athletic because that’s where The Finals were lost, when James was off the floor.

Look, most people, especially the national media have painted the Golden State Warriors as this unstoppable team, which we don’t buy into.

They are a great team without a doubt, with two titles in the last three years, and in between a record setting 73 win team in the regular season.

But we can’t help but think what would have happened if Kyle Korver (and we aren’t blaming him) makes the corner three in the last three minutes of the third game of the championship series.

If he does, Cleveland wins that game and is trailing 2-1 with the fourth game at The Q.

We believe even the smug Steve Kerr would admit the wine and gold outplayed his team for the majority of the third and fourth games of the series.

You do not break down and reconstruct the roster for several reasons.

First, as long as you have James, you have a chance to win the title.  That’s how good he is.  So, any talk of trading him (even though he has a no trade clause) is stupid.  You ride it out with him.

Second, remember that the Cavs went 12-1 in the Eastern Conference playoffs and one of the East’s best players, Jimmy Butler, went to the West.

Our point is that there is no team in the East challenging Cleveland right now.

Oh, what if Boston signs Gordon Hayward?  Here are the Celtics three best players:  Isaiah Thomas, Hayward, Al Horford.  We rest our case.

The Celts are trying to build to be the best in the East when James finally slows down, retires, or leaves.

In The Finals, we believe we can all agree Tyronn Lue received no help from his bench, outside of Richard Jefferson.  Korver, Iman Shumpert (who played three minutes in the last game), Deron Williams, and Channing Frye were non-factors.

Taking a non-emotional look at the Cavs, the five players mentioned need to be replaced, although we would understand keeping one or two for experience.

We would also look to move Tristan Thompson, who after six seasons still makes you cringe when he is taking a shot from longer than five feet.

Thompson is making a ton of cash ($16.4 million next season), and we believe you could get a similar player AND someone else who can help for that amount of money.

Look around the NBA, there are a lot of players who do what Thompson does.  He’s an very good defender and he’s an energy guy who grabs a lot of rebounds.

We say take emotion out of it because these guys won a title here, the first seen in northeast Ohio in 52 years.  Of course, we love them for that.  But you have to think about the upcoming season.

And whoever is running the Cavaliers has to make the roster better.  And to do it, you don’t move your three best players, all of whom are all-stars, you fix the rest of the team.

Break up the Cavs?  That’s just stupid sports talk conversation.

JK

Lack Of Respect For Love Is Confounding

One of the confounding things about sports fans in this area is what athletes they seem to adore and who they want to make whipping boys when something goes wrong.

With the Indians, for example, Bryan Shaw is a guy who unless he is perfect draws the ire of the ticket buying public.

There are examples the other way too.  Really, because this is a blue collar area, fans love the gritty, hard working player.  Consider the admiration for Matthew Dellavedova during his tenure with the Cavaliers.

That brings us to perhaps the least respected all star athlete to wear a Cleveland uniform in a long, long time, Kevin Love.

When we were growing up, there weren’t many top notch professional players on the northeast Ohio sports scene.  There were no LeBron James or Francisco Lindor.  To have a player like Love would have been tremendous.

Love is a four time all star, a member of the US Olympic team, and was twice second team All-NBA.

He was a key member of the only NBA Championship this city has ever seen, and this year averaged 19 points and 11 rebounds per game, figures only three other NBA players matched in 2016-17.

Those three players?  Try DeMarcus Cousins, Karl Anthony Towns, and Anthony Davis.

He has finished in the top ten in scoring twice and five times has ranked in the top ten in rebounding in the NBA.

Despite all of those accomplishments and accolades, the first player mentioned when talking about improving the Cavaliers going forward is Love, and we just don’t understand it.

One reason is always that Love doesn’t match up well with the team the Cavs faced the last three years in the NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors.

In the first year of the trilogy, Love was out with a shoulder separation.  Last year, he missed part of game two and all of game three with a concussion.

Healthy in game one last year, Love scored 17 points and had 13 rebounds, and in game five was +18 and in the title clincher, he was a +19 and snared 14 boards.

This past season, he was Cleveland’s best defensive player in the season by the metrics, and put together two 20 point games and three games of more than 10 rebounds, including 21 in the first game.

We still hear some fans saying David Griffin should have never traded Anthony Wiggins for Love, and the wine and gold would be better off with a one dimensional scorer than a player that provides rebounding, three point shooting, very good passing, and perhaps the only low post offensive player on the team.

We just don’t get it.

In our opinion, when basketball fans in this area visualize a power forward, they think of Karl Malone, and since Love doesn’t remind them of Malone, then he’s just not good enough.

We even heard one person question Love by asking when was the last time the former UCLA standout made an All Star team…he made it this year.

We also don’t understand how trading Love for a player such as Paul George or Jimmy Butler makes the Cavs significantly better. The latter two players are the flavor of the month, big scorers.

Remember that Love was a big scorer in Minnesota too, he has sacrificed his scoring when he came to Cleveland.  Can the players people want to trade Kevin Love for do the same?

As several basketball people have told the Cleveland media, be careful what you wish for.

The Cavs do need to improve the roster to win an NBA title in 2018, but dealing Kevin Love probably isn’t the way to do it.

JK

 

Cavs Unsettled At Wrong Time

It was just eight days ago that the Cleveland Cavaliers ended their reign as NBA Champions, losing The Finals to Golden State four games to one.

It was the third straight championship series appearance for the wine and gold, all guided by GM David Griffin.

Last night, word came out that Griffin and the team agreed to part ways mutually.  This means that the now former GM and owner Dan Gilbert couldn’t come to some sort of agreement in regards to either the future of the franchise or how much power Griffin should have in determining what will happen in the future for the Cavs.

It has been reported that the departure of Griffin was concerning to the team’s resident superstar, LeBron James, who already has trust issues with the owner.

The most troubling thing about the change in the front office is no one knows who is making the decisions at Quicken Loans Arena now in a very critical time of the year for an NBA team.

This Thursday is the NBA Draft, and although the Cavaliers do not have a selection, it is also a period where moves that will effect next year’s roster are made.

The beginning of the free agent period is also dawning, and there is no one around to be making these key decisions, especially for a franchise with championship expectations.

It does not mean however, that Gilbert is planning a massive rebuild following next season.  As long as James is here, the Cavs will be a contender.  And although there are rumors from every place concerning where The King will play in 2018, if Cleveland wins another title next June, it is difficult to see James leaving.

And if Kyrie Irving is on the roster, it would be difficult to find another NBA roster that could sign James as a free agent, with as dynamic a player as Irving on the team.

This isn’t to say James will definitely not leave when his contract ends after next season, no one knows that except LeBron himself.  However, if the Larry O’Brien Trophy comes back to the north coast, it would be odd for a player who wants titles to turn his back on a repeat chance.

Griffin did have an ability to take limited assets to turn them into players who could contribute, such as his deals for Kyle Korver and the signing of Deron Williams.

In the end though, the lack of athleticism on the bench cost the wine and gold against the Warriors.

Maybe Griffin wanted more veterans and Gilbert wanted more youth.  Maybe Griffin wanted more offense and Gilbert wanted defense.  Who knows?  All we know is there will be plenty of speculation.

Before bashing ownership, we want to see who is brought in to run the show, and we will give them a chance before hammering, if merited.

Cleveland fans will always have a warm feeling for David Griffin, who was the architect of the first championship team in the city in 52 years.  That doesn’t mean he is the only person with good basketball team building skills.

The new GM could wind up being a genius.

The problem with making the move now is it is difficult to find a good thing in being unsettled right now.  And it looks like Gilbert is meddling again in basketball affairs, which is not a good thing.

The pressure regarding this move falls squarely on the owner.  If things don’t work out, and James leaves after next year because he’s not happy with the direction of the Cavs, Gilbert will be vilified by the media and fans alike.

On the other hand, Gilbert hired David Griffin, and we know how that worked out.

Let’s see who takes over and how it turns out before pressing the panic button.  It’s not the end of this successful run for the Cavaliers…yet.

JK

 

 

Blaming Lue Is Lazy Way Out

With the Cavaliers losing the NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors, there is, of course a lot of scrutiny on the organization, and what the Cavs will do going forward.

There is the matter of whether or not GM David Griffin will stay on in that capacity, and what changes in the roster will be made for the 2017-18 season.

One of the things the lazy fans and media have talked about is the possibility of a coaching charge, which we find ridiculous.  You cannot point to anything Tyronn Lue did in The Finals to cost the Cavaliers the series.

Is this to say Lue is the greatest coach in the NBA?  No, but we would put him in the upper tier of head coaches in the Association.

He was hamstrung against Golden State because his bench contributed basically nothing, so he was manipulating his reserves in order to get his starters some rest without the game getting out of hand.  That causes him to be in a defensive coaching style.

On the other hand, a criticism of Lue was that he didn’t develop some of the players on the bench during the regular season.  The Cavaliers played very well in February and Derrick Williams was a solid contributor during that month, yet he disappeared in March and throughout the playoffs.

We don’t go to practice, so we don’t know if something happened to cause Williams to fall out of favor, but he is the type of player who it seems could have helped against the Warriors.

Again, just because we think Lue is one of the NBA’s better coaches, doesn’t mean there aren’t things he should do differently next season.

The first is to establish more of a defensive mindset from the start of training camp.  After the calendar switched to 2017, the ability to stop opponents from scoring fell greatly.

Once the playoffs started, the Cavs used some different schemes and the defense improved, that worked, but it shouldn’t come down to that.

And it has been reported that the head coach himself takes more of a role in the defense once the regular season ends.  It starts with the individual, but perhaps there should be more of a mindset on that side of the ball right from the get go.

The second change that needs to be made is monitoring minutes, especially for James, who will turn 33 years old during next season.

In conjunction with this, the coaching staff must come up with a plan to play better when James isn’t in the game.

Even when James is on the bench, Lue still has Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love on the floor, and it shouldn’t be difficult to make sure those two are on the floor when James isn’t.

The ball movement that is present when James is on the floor seems to stop when the best player in the game isn’t on the floor.  The coach has to insist the same style of play occurs no matter who is on the court.

That was also evident in the playoffs when Irving was playing iso ball, and his shot wasn’t going down.  That isn’t pretty basketball, in fact, it is conducive to the other team going on a run.

The point here is Lue was good enough to guide the Cavs to a title a year ago, and this year, some of his moves didn’t work because his bench didn’t help him out.

So save the hot takes to get a new coach.  Tyronn Lue is the man for the job.

JK

Cavs’ Decisions? Keep Emotion Out Of It.

The Cleveland Cavaliers lost the NBA Finals last night, dropping Game 5, 129-120, thus losing the series, four games to one.

Now, comes the silly season for the NBA and their fans.  The draft, which the Cavaliers currently will not be part of, is in two weeks, and then the free agency period starts.

The first thing the Cavs’ front office will do, and we say the front office, because GM David Griffin is currently without a contract, is act without emotion, something fans cannot and will not do.

This particularly pertains to Kevin Love, who is consistently the team’s whipping boy for the fans.  If the wine and gold do not win, it is obviously Love’s fault.

However, Love averaged 16 points, 11 rebounds, and two steals in The Finals, shooting 39% from behind the three point line.  And he had the best defensive rating on the team.

This is not to say Love should not be traded.  Our belief is anyone can be traded if the return in right.

For example, right now, no one would want to deal Kyrie Irving, correct?  But if New Orleans called and offered Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, you’d make the trade.

Kevin Love is a top 25 player in the NBA, if you move him, you have to get somebody who’s a better player.  And that’s not easy to do.

You would have to replace Love’s size (he’s the only other offensively skilled big man on the team besides LeBron James), his three point shooting, his rebounding (he led the Cavs), and his passing.

Good luck with that.

What the Cavaliers need to do is upgrade their bench to contend with the Warriors, because Kyle Korver, Iman Shumpert, Channing Frye, and Deron Williams provided little in The Finals.

Those four contributed just 49 points combined in the five contests.  Compare that to the 97 points supplied by Andre Iguodala, Shawn Livingston, and David West.  You can make a very good argument that this is where the series was lost.

We believe Cleveland needs to get longer and more athletic on the bench.  By longer, we mean players who are in the 6’6″ to 6’9″ range, with quickness and the ability to make an open shot.

Yes, they should be looking for “three and D” players.

Derrick Williams, who was missing against Golden State, would seem to be an ideal player.  It is a little curious that Tyronn Lue didn’t find a role for him in The Finals.

When Cleveland had a great record in February, Williams was a key contributor.

This is not to hammer on Lue, who did a solid job considering he wasn’t getting anything from his non-starters.

We would guess some of the roster changes will come naturally.  James Jones will probably retire, and he may be joined by Richard Jefferson, who hinted at doing so last season.

Will Deron Williams return, and what about Frye and Korver.  The latter two provide shooting, so they would be useful, but they should be in a diminished role.

Also, Tristan Thompson needs to be more of an offensive player.  He must develop a reliable shot from ten feet out so defenses have to pay attention to him.

As we said previously, the front office needs to step away for a few days, while the emotion of losing is still raw, and make decisions to get back to The Finals with a chance to win a title.

It could be an interesting summer at Quicken Loans Arena.

JK

 

Cavs Need To Try Something New Now.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have given no indication they can win the NBA Finals based on the first two games.

The Golden State Warriors won both the first two games rather easily, winning by 22 points in game one, and 19 on Sunday night.

This makes Wednesday night’s game three a must win for Tyronn Lue’s squad.  Lose that one, and it looks like a sweep for the Warriors, not only in The Finals, but an unprecedented undefeated run throughout the playoffs.

Can the Cavs win game three and get back into this series?  Of course, no team is unbeatable, but it will be very difficult for the wine and gold if they continue to play at they did in Oakland.

First, we believe they cannot continue to play at the Warriors’ pace.  We understand Lue normally wants the Cavs to play fast, up tempo, but Golden State is better at it than Cleveland, so you must try something else.

That is not to say never run.  When the Warriors miss a three and it develops into a long rebound, grab it and go, and get an easy hoop.

We said in the middle of the regular season that no team’s defense is more dependent on its offense than the Cavaliers.  That is because, by and large, their transition defense is poor, maybe because they have some age on them.

So, if they don’t have a fast break opportunity, slow the game down.  Take as much time as you can on the shot clock and still get a decent shot.  Keep the number of possessions down, and perhaps you can frustrate Golden State with the slow pace, forcing them to take quick, bad shots.

Second, you must take care of the basketball.  You simply can’t turn the ball over, giving the Warriors easy looks.

The wine and gold also need to continue to attack the basket.  Steve Kerr’s team doesn’t really have a rim protector, particularly when they go small, and you have to take advantage of that.

LeBron James and Kevin Love have done a good job around the rim.

By the way, speaking of Love, hasn’t he laid to rest the theory that he can’t play against the Warriors?  He had a 21 rebound game in the first contest, and scored 27 points on Sunday.

They also need Kyrie Irving to play like an all-star.  Irving has shot just 40% in the first two games, and made curious shot choices both nights.  It was odd to see Irving trying to drive on Kevin Durant in game two.

The Cavs have to do better from three point range.  In the regular season, the wine and gold actually shot better than the Warriors from beyond the arc, but have hit just 31.7% from distance thus far in the series.

That seems to be a lot that has to change, but outside of changing the pace, which is difficult and takes discipline, all of the others are possible, because it was done in the playoffs.

This isn’t last year, and there is nothing to indicate the Cavaliers will be able to come back from a 3-1 deficit again this year.  They have to win on Wednesday, or this series will be ending much quicker than anyone in northeast Ohio would like.

They have to take it game by game.  Win game three, and you are back in the series.  Forget about the rest of this series, do whatever needs to be done to win on Wednesday night at The Q.

JK