Friday, June 03, 2016

A Review of Game 1 of the 2016 NBA Finals

When you hold Steph Curry and Klay Thompson to 20 points on around 25% shooting, and your three best guys score 65 points, you think you ought to win, right? 

Wrong, Cavs did all of that and lost by 15.  It was the sort of loss that (as someone who used to coach) would keep me up at night saying "what in the hell can we do to compete with this team?"  Well, it would help if you kept their bench from shooting around 85% and got some production from your bench.  Good starting point. 

But if I told you instead, "Warriors will get 100% shooting from Livingston and Barbosa and they will score 30 points combined" you'd say "40 point blowout."  So it all depends upon how you look at the game.

Game Observations:

1) Kyrie Irving's presence is a stumper for Coach Lue.  If Kyrie cannot score, he is really killing you because he is clearly just a target at the defensive end.  So you need to let him score and give him opportunities, but he cannot have a 35% Usage rate and dribble 22 times a possession.  That is insane.

2) Coach Lue may have to completely scrap the playing of J.R. Smith as a starter or guy who gets 20+ minutes.  J.R. had a Game Score of 0.  In 4 of J.R.'s last 7 Finals games, J.R. has had a Game Score (15 is good) of under 4.  His Usage Rate last night was 5 (so he was significantly involved in about 5% of offensive plays).  Despite rarely ever touching the ball and almost never taking a shot, he regularly got winded and begged to be taken out.  He looked about as ready to play as I would. 

3) LeBron needs to be more aggressive offensively.  Now, that said, the Warriors played a TON of illegal defense last night (the overhead shot of the Warriors' "great defense" in clogging the lane showed that three of their guys were in an illegal defense position).    But LeBron is the only hope for Cleveland.  He needs to have 30+ point triple doubles every night.  If he shoots 35-40% in that effort, so be it.

4) LeBron could not be any more aggressive on defense.  My goodness, he was basically hugging Curry and Klay off ball screen action and there were times when he literally had both arms surrounding them when they dribbled.  If LeBron is allowed to do that, you are not going to score much on him, no matter who you are. That is like being guarded by a large bear with "call your own" fouling rules.

5) The "too many holes in the dyke" theory comes around again for Cleveland.  Curry can't get hot - put LeBron on him.  Thompson can't get hot - put LeBron on him.  Livingston is killing us - they actually did put LeBron on him eventually.  You cannot win games that way.  Sorry.  Some non-star at least has to do some guarding. 

6) Iggy plays with Draymond Green and he gets upset when he get an inadvertent slap in the balls?

7) Draymond Green is so happy to be away from Steven Adams.  Draymond is now one of the biggest guys on the court and doesn't have someone 5 inches taller taking his rebounds and outworking him.

8) Kevin Love missed a bunch of bunnies, but he was adequate defensively and tried hard.  He'd be all-NBA if he was willing to give a similar effort every night in the regular season.

9) Ty Lue tried one offensive set with LeBron off the ball -- didn't work.  Never had anything else to even try? 

So, what do you do as Cavs coach (other than cry)? There are no really obvious good options, but let's go with the not-so-worst ones that I can imagine:

A) You have to play Delly, Shump, Jefferson and Frye more.  You just have to.  Kerr isn't going to suddenly play 6 guys, so you have to play your bench more.  Hell, even try Mozgov for 5 minutes when Curry is not in.  Cutting JR's minutes is a start. 

B) LeBron needs to run the offense.  Sorry, Kyrie, but your low efficiency high usage play just destroys the team rhythm.  The fact of the matter is that if LeBron cannot 30+ point triple double every night, you are gonna lose.  So if he tells you as coach "I cannot do that any more and chase Curry also" then you need to go back to the "cry" option.

C) You probably have to play faster.  It is basically "pick your poison" here.  Play slow and struggle to score 80 or risk giving up 120.  I don't see the Warriors ever losing a game where their opponent scores 80.  So you have to hope you shoot well, make their life hard and try to win 118-115.  (Hey look, nothing is easy, so this idea may be a disaster, but at least 150 year old Barbosa isn't going to enjoy this pace of play).

D) For God's sake, run some passing sets.  The Warriors line up very much like the 2008 Celtics when they see LeBron with the ball up front -- basically turn toward the ball and stand on the corners of the lane.  The only tweak is that they never leave J.R. Smith.  LeBron to succeed will need to beat a good defender in Thompson, Iggy or Barnes, and then be faced with bigger guys at the rim (note that Kerr still plays a center a lot).  Try to run some sets where the opponent gets backscreened or diagonally cut against; do something.  How about just some basic screening away from the ball when LeBron is posting?  Moving a couple feet when your guy turns his head? 

As I previously stated, the Warriors are a terrible matchup for Cleveland.  They can exploit every Cleveland weakness and Cleveland has a far worse coach than GState, so the Cavs will always be a step or two behind in adjustments.  So, I predicted Warriors in 5 and certainly nothing in Game 1 changed that. 

As I said on Twitter -- barring injury or Pop coming in to coach the Cavs, Cleveland stands very little chance.

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