The Golden State Warriors defended home turf as they defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers in the series-opener of the 2016 NBA Finals, 104-89. Yes, it was a decisive 15-point win for the Dubs but there were certainly opportunities presented during the contest that would’ve merited Cleveland a more favorable result had the Cavs fully capitalized on them. The problem was King James and his cavalry failed to see those openings.
If we were part of Coach Tyronn Lue’s staff, we would advise him to make these adjustments in Game 2 to avoid falling to a 0-2 hole:
Move the ball
Cleveland’s offense was as stagnant as a zombie and as predictable as a zombie movie. It was all isolation plays for LeBron, Kyrie and Kevin Love, which left the other Cavs disengaged on offense. By the fourth quarter, the Warriors had an easy time playing D as they’ve already figured out Cleveland’s bland offensive pattern. They need to move the ball to keep the defense guessing and at the same time, get more people involved in getting buckets. Outside of LBJ, Irving, Love and Tristan Thompson, the Cavs scored a measly 13 points in 18 shot attempts. That’s easy pickings for Golden State. To score more, the Cavs must pass more.
More bench production
Coach Lue must find a way to make his bench more productive. Perhaps a few more set plays for Channing Frye and unleashing the cryogenically frozen big man Timofey Mozgov would do the trick. Imagine Frye knocking down three 3-pointers a game. That’s already a big scoring boost for Cleveland right there. And just as Steven Adams punished the Warriors in the paint during the Western Conference Finals, Mozgov could pose the same problems. The coach and the star players must trust the subs for this to happen. The GSW bench scored 45 points in the first game to the Cleveland reserves’ 10. That type of disparity must never again see the light of day as far as the Cavs are concerned.
Prepare for the Splash Brothers
Steph Curry only scored 11 points and Klay Thompson just had nine markers—and they still won. The Splash brothers will not shoot the ball like D-Leaguers again in the second game. Great players are known to bounce back in a huge way after a bad performance. Steph and Klay are surely itching to shoot the lights out as soon as they step on the court. In the next outing, Cleveland better keep an eye and a body or two at all times on the two shooting specialists—or else, it’ll be 2-0 Warriors.
Respect the other Warriors
It seems like the Cavs spent all their energy trying to neutralize the Splash brothers, which they did quite successfully. The only backlash of that strategy was that they forgot about the other Warriors. Led by Shaun Livingston (20 pts), Golden State’s role players went nuts offensively, virtually outscoring the whole Cavs team.
Cleveland must realize that they are no longer facing the weaker teams of the East. In their series with Toronto, they only needed to stop the Raptors’ best two players and watch the rest of the team unfold. In taking on a 73-9 squad in the Dubs, LBJ and his boys must know that they’re up against a very special team. Every guy that Steve Kerr puts in the game is a threat and must be guarded with the same grit and intensity as they would cover the Warrior’s main men.
More aggression from the King
As much as we admire LeBron’s unselfishness and his willingness to let his teammates shine, there were moments in Game 1 where he needed to be extra-aggressive to put his team over the hump. Looking at the way he played the curtain-raiser, it seemed that ‘Bron (23 pts, 12 rebs, 9 asts) was just utilizing 70 percent of his power as he was keen on trying to get Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving rolling.
With James’ lack of assertiveness, the Dubs never really felt that they were playing against an unstoppable force, giving them more confidence in playing tough aggressive defense. The King must go full blast and barrel his way into the lane 10 more times like we know he’s capable of in Game 2. He needs to impose his will on the Warriors to somehow make the reigning champions second-guess themselves. LeBron cannot allow Golden State to stay as zen as they are right now.
Game 2 will be played on Monday, 8 a.m.. Let’s all cross our fingers for a classic!
Photo via NBA.com