The Cleveland Cavaliers are down two games to none to Golden State in the NBA Finals, and many feel it is a foregone conclusion that the series will end quickly, with the same result as a year ago.
That’s the popular view.
On the other hand, the Cavs had an outstanding chance to win game one, until some questionable decisions, both by the wine and gold (JR Smith) and the officials, late led to an overtime loss, and really, on Sunday night, Cleveland still had a shot until Stephen Curry got hot in the fourth quarter.
The Warriors are shooting 54% from the floor in the first two games, compared to 43% for the Cavs, and based on that, you would think both games were blowouts.
This year’s games were decided by 10 (in overtime) and 19 points, compared to 22 and 19 a year ago.
Still, a few things need to be addressed for Cleveland.
First, the switching defense was horrible in game two. There were far too many instances of Kevin Durant being guarded by Smith and George Hill, and Curry being checked by Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, Jeff Green and Larry Nance Jr.
We have said it all year. Switching is lazy and it allows the offense to dictate who is guarding who. The Cavs themselves like nothing more than to see Curry matched up with James.
The Cavaliers have to try something different and cannot allow wide open layups and dunks off the high pick and roll. We say this knowing this has been a weakness all season long, so it will be difficult to improve at this stage of the game.
In terms of the players coach Tyronn Lue is using, it may also be time for some alterations.
Smith continues to struggle with his shot, hitting just 5 of 19 shots from the field, and just 3 of 10 from distance. Although we have buried Rodney Hood recently, it may be time to see if he can provide some energy and shot making.
Jordan Clarkson is another who looks like the moment is too much for him. He’s also not shooting well (3 for 13), and seems to be playing over 100 miles per hour when the game is being played at 60 MPH.
And Kyle Korver is struggling much like he did a year ago in the Finals. It seems like the Warriors are long enough to contest his long range shots, and they are also doing what the Cavaliers did to him when he played for Atlanta.
They aren’t leaving him open.
The Cavs shot 37% from three in the regular season, they are making just 30% in the first two games of the series. They need to find someone to make shots. Only James and Hill have made more than 30% in The Finals.
It is also time for Cleveland to get more physical. Golden State has collected ten more fouls in the series than the Cavs (they have probably really committed 30 more, but that’s another story), so Lue’s group needs to make their presence felt.
Don’t be afraid to play a little bump and grind with Curry, Klay Thompson, and Durant. Because of the overtime game, this trio along with Draymond Green are averaging 40 minutes per game.
Make an effort to wear down the Warriors, and do a better job attacking players with foul issues. Durant picked up two in the first quarter on Sunday, and it seemed like Cleveland did not attack him.
Obviously, the Cavs need to win Wednesday night and get back in the series, going down 0-3 means it is over for all intent and purposes.
It is not the time for out and out loyalty based coaching. If guys aren’t getting it done, you have to try someone else.
A win in Game 3 puts the Cavs back in the series. No question about that.