And we’re all tied at 3-3 in the 2016 NBA Finals. Mainly because of LeBron James’ superhuman basketball skills, the Golden State Warriors' 3-1 series lead has vanished and we’ve got ourselves an upcoming sudden-death encounter. With their 115-101 victory in Game 6 and King James’ majestic stat line (41 points, 11 assists, eight rebounds, four steals, three blocks), the Cleveland Cavaliers did not only force a seventh game but also shifted the series’ momentum to their side, big time. That’s why, while the Warriors are still the favorites when they play the decider at home, you can’t help but feel how the championship is starting to slip away from Golden State’s grasp.
Even unanimous MVP Stephen Curry might be feeling it. Just look at him lose it after getting called for his sixth foul.
The league fined him $25,000 for his outburst.
But all is not lost for the defending champs. They’re not dead yet and they’ wouldn’t have been a 73-9 team if they weren’t capable of overcoming adversity at all. In order to regain a firm grip on the Larry O’Brien trophy and eventually put it back in Joe Lacob’s safe, the Dubs must focus on these things when they battle the surging Cavs on Monday (Manila time).
A strong start for the Splash brothers
In Cleveland’s two home victories, the slow start of the Warriors have resulted in them getting blown out in the first period, which carried over 'til the end of both games. A big reason for the Dubs fatally succumbing to the Cavs’ initial assault is the poor performance of the Splash Brothers in the early going.
In Game 6, the Cavaliers’ came out of the gates like a juggernaut, while Steph’s response was a basket and two fouls that took him out of the floor. Klay, on the other hand, didn’t make a field goal until the third quarter. The outcome was a 31-11 first 12 minutes in favor of the Cavs—a lead that would prove to be insurmountable. The Warriors cannot afford to have another puny opening salvo in Game 7, or else they’ll be practically handing the crown to their already very confident foes. For the Warriors to avoid sinking that deep, their two best players must provide stability from the very beginning.
Harrison Barnes must step up
Harrison Barnes has been a non-factor in the last two games. Despite seeing wide open looks in Games 5 and 6 as much as we’ve come across Taylor Swift-Tom Hiddleston memes, the former Tar Heel hit only two of his last 22 attempts. If that’s not bad enough, he hasn’t even contributed in the rebounding department—an area that GSW really need a lot of help on.
Barnes is too talented to play like a benchwarmer. Plus, his team needs him to be at his best for them to repeat as champs. The good thing is he’s got an opportunity for redemption. What he can do in Game 7 is to forget his last miserable outings and zero in on the task at hand. More than connecting on a few easy shots, he must attack the boards like there’s no tomorrow and snatch caroms above the rim. One thing that’ll help him accomplish that is remembering his moniker, The Black Falcon.
Help each other in the paint
Bogut is out. The Warriors must live with that reality. The Dubs must approach their inside game guided by their team mantra—Strength In Numbers. The only way to fill in the void that the towering Aussie has left is for Barnes, Iggy, Draymond, Ezeli, Varejao, and even Marresse Speights to come together, score and defend the paint in synergy with each other. They can’t let LeBron and Tristan Thompson (15 pts, 16 rebs) destroy the interior at the Oracle Arena like they did in Game 6 at the Q. Considering what had transpired in that contest, an adjustment as simple as not allowing a single Tristan Thompson dunk could mean the title for the Warriors.
Let LeBron do all the work
In Game 5, Kyrie scored 41 to aid LeBron who himself also dropped 41 points. In Game 6, Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith (14 pts), and Irving (23 pts), chipped in significantly to ease up on LBJ’s scoring load. Both of those meetings ended up with Cleveland coming away with the big win. The lesson for the Warriors to learn here is to dial in on stopping James’ supporting cast. LeBron will be productive no matter what. Coach Steve Kerr and his boys must keep it a all-LeBron show for Cleveland by shutting down the other guys.
Trust the system
The Warriors have reached this point and have looked invincible plenty of times this season by playing near-perfect team basketball. Sure, Steph and Klay’s spectacular long range exhibition instantly come to mind but what truly made the 2015-2016 Dubs click offensively are the crisp passing, the perpetually sharp cuts, and the unselfishness of all the players.
But in their losing efforts in the finals, usually amid a strong Cavs run, the Dubs would uncharacteristically turn away from their once dreaded ball movement and repeatedly go for isolations. Klay and Steph’s one-on-one plays did work for stretches but never enough to get the win. In Game 7, when the going gets tough, GSW must stick to who they are. Their identity as a basketball team is to include everyone.
Get Iggy a witch doctor
Golden State’s medical staff needs to relieve the stiffness in Iggy’s back, which was pretty evident in how Andre struggled running around in Game 6. We don’t know how they’re going to do it but GSW must pull all the stops in order to make sure that their Finals MVP is ready for Game 7. Iggy is a big shot-maker and most importantly, he’s the only guy in the NBA, aside from Kawhi Leonard, who can decently stay in front of LeBron.
If the Dubs’ primary defender on James will be in full capacity on Monday, we like the Warriors chances. Somebody call Iggy a witch doctor, an albularyo, someone help the Dubs please.
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