• Max Russo

5 Keys for Cavs This Series


*Photo courtesy of USA Today

After a big Game 1 win against the Atlanta Hawks on their own floor on Wednesday, the Cleveland Cavaliers have taken the series lead. They’re three wins away from making their second ever NBA finals appearance, with their other one coming in Lebron James’ first stint with the team in 2007, against the San Antonio Spurs. Here are five keys for the Cavs that should help them fend of the first seeded Hawks, and catapult them into the NBA Finals.

1.Three is the Key

Take last nights game as evidence, where the Cavaliers made 10 threes on 26 attempts, which was good fro 38 percent for the game. J.R. Smith had eight out of those ten, setting a Cavs playoff record. With penetrators like Lebron James and Kyrie Irving, the Cavalier shooters are able to find open shots rather easily leading to a three-point assault on their opponents.

In the NBA in this day and age, the three ball is so prevalent, as seen by the fact that the remaining four teams in this year’s playoffs both live and die by the three-point shot. When the three is falling, as often with these teams it does, life is good. For the Cavs to make quick and easy work of this talented but broken down Atlanta Hawks team, the three’s must be falling.

2.The “New Guys” Must Make an Impact

When the Cavs made the trade to acquire Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith from the New York Knicks, basketball fans around the world had no idea of the results that would later ensue. After returning from his two game suspension from the Boston Celtic Series, Smith is providing an excellent lift of the shallow Cleveland bench, as seen the other night, with his 28 point outburst, really breaking the game open. Shumpert is also playing superb, with tough defense and contributing where needed on offense.

Is it the “boring”, “nightlife-less” city of Cleveland that is helping these two superb talents keep their focus only on basketball? Whatever it is, it is working and they are making one of the best basketball minds ever, in Phil Jackson, look just a little less godly. The tremendous play of both Smith and Shumpert must continue for the Cavs to move on to their first NBA Finals in eight years.

3.Rebound Rebound Rebound

Another key mid season trade pulled off by the Cavs was the acquisition of seven foot Russian center Timofey Mozgov, from the Denver Nuggets. He along with fellow starting frontcourt mate Tristan Thompson have the ability to control a very important statistic when it comes to success, rebounding!

At seven feet and one inch tall, Mozgov is taller than any player on the Hawks roster meaning he is very important when it comes to the rebounding battle, both on the offensive and defensive end. Playing next to Mozgov is Canadian Tristan Thompson who may just be one of, if not, the best offensive rebounders in the entire league. As evidence by game one, if these two big men are able to sway the rebounding battle in the Cavs favor, the Cavs will be booking their ticket to the Finals very soon.

4.Defending Penetration

The Atlanta Hawks finished the season with one of the top offenses in the league due much in part to their floor spreading offense creating open three-point shots. Penetration of the Atlanta point guards causes the opposing defenses to come to help leaving wide-open shots from the perimeter. If the Cavaliers can limit the penetration of the Hawks and not allow them to get into the lane as easily, then one of the Hawks biggest weapons, the three is affected.

All this however, is easier said than done, as the speed of the Hawks guards is something to be seen. Both Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroeder are among the quickest point guards in the league and pose a tough task for any team. For the Cavaliers to have success defensively in this series and ultimately come up victorious, they must stop the three-point attack of the Atlanta Hawks, and that starts with limiting the penetration of the speedy guards.

5.The Best Player Being the Best Player

After coming off of a poor series from an efficiency perspective, where he shot less than 45 percent from the field and less than 12 percent from 3-point land, Lebron James return to being himself. He is the best player on the planet and for the Cavaliers to advance and ultimately contend for a world championship he has to be at his very best. He must continue to attack rather than settling for mid-range jump shots and threes.

Simply put there isn’t anyone on the Atlanta Hawks who can guard him, as seen in game one. Furthermore, with the uncertainty of DeMarre Carroll returning to the Hawks lineup after suffering a knee injury in Game 1, Lebron James should have his way. Carroll is the Hawks best perimeter defender and was set to spend a lot of time guarding the King this series. The loss of Carroll gives James even more room to succeed offensively and make his fifth consecutive NBA finals appearance.

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