5 Keys for the Warriors
*Photo via Getty Images
Nearly everyone I’ve spoken to about the upcoming Finals matchup has seem to say the same thing: “The Warriors have the better team, but they’re playing a guy named LeBron James,” which I couldn’t agree with more. Will James and his ragtag Cleveland crew be able to stop the league’s best team and it’s MVP to claim those accolades for themselves? If the Warriors follow these keys, they won’t.
Keys 1 and 2 go hand in hand: Defending LeBron James and Playing Team Defense.
Whenever you have a player on the opposing team proclaim himself unstoppable before a NBA Finals series, you should probably take note of that. While he was also addressing Stephen Curry in the same light this still can be used as some blackboard material, regardless the Warriors should take this statement to heart because LeBron James is right.
James is the Cleveland Cavaliers. No matter if Kyrie Irving had a 57-point game during the season or J.R. Smith’s three point shooting is spectacular, the Cavs need King James to be the workhorse he was in the Atlanta Hawks Series- nearly averaging a triple double. The Warriors will not stop LeBron, but they can limit his impact on the game.
Expect the Warriors to start out with Harrison Barnes guarding LeBron but this will most definitely change. The only way to slow down a player of this caliber is to throw different defenders his way. We’ll likely see a mix of Barnes, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, and possibly even Klay Thompson on LeBron in order to constantly change the pace and manner of his play- the idea here is to make the King of the Court feel uncomfortable on the court.
I really hope to see Draymond Green defending LeBron late in games. Green is a guy who can get an opposing player very aggravated with his relentless and gritty play. He will not give up on a possession and this will surely frustrate the King. Likewise, Green needs to be careful about getting in foul trouble and technicals due to his own frustrations in playing against the league's best.
Moreover, when defending their basket, Golden State needs to stay extremely disciplined in the defense they choose. This essentially revolves around how they defend LeBron, whether they choose to double or not. If I’m Golden State I look to see which one of our guys can defend him best one-on-one before jumping the gun on a double team.
Regardless, when you’re playing the league's best player your defenders are bound to get beat. The Warriors must execute their rotations to perfection because James is essentially an oversized point guard, he will find the open man.
3. Win the Guard Matchup
This may be easy to say when you have the best guard combo in the league but it is absolutely vital for the Warriors success. I don’t think Kyrie Irving will be able to stick with Curry and while Klay Thompson is an exceptional defender, J.R. Smith can shoot lights out if he can find the switch. Klay Thompson must exceed Smith’s productivity, which he is more than capable of.
This key is more reliant on the Warriors bench. Too many times we have seen Matthew Dellavedova (who?) and Iman Shumpert make a huge impact coming off the bench. Shaun Livingston and Leandro Barbosa must not only outplay this Cavs duo but they have to out hustle them. If Dellavedova starts coming up with loose balls and Shumpert begins to hit threes while LeBron is sitting (Curry and Thompson as well, for that matter) then the Warriors may find themselves in trouble. This shouldn’t be too difficult for two guys who have been in the league for a combined twenty years.
4. Ball Movement/ Sticking to their Offense and Limiting Turnovers
A lot of the Cavs’ offense revolves around one-on-one play and beating the opposing team’s defender (because they have a player that can beat anyone). This style of basketball only works for so long until the defense starts jumping their passing lanes and creating turnovers.
This key is twofold. If the Warriors stick to their offense, which is crisp and fast ball movement than they are likely to see a victory. Yet, if they play into the Cavaliers’ style (which is easier to do than it seems) the turnovers will start to pile up leading to fast break points for their opponent. In remaining disciplined to their offensive scheme, Golden State will outscore the Cavs, while hindering them from getting their own opportunities.
Tristan Thompson is average four offensive rebounds per game in these playoffs. He has created four-second chance opportunities for Cleveland alone every game in the postseason. This is a huge stat. This coupled with his nearly ten total rebounds per game and his ability to finish at the rim should be marked by Golden State.
If the Warriors allow Thompson his way inside, they not only allow Cleveland a new shot clock and a second chance, but they hinder their own ability to do what they do best. The Warriors must rebound the ball if they want to run the court. Their ability to push the ball and run a high tempo game stems from rebounding. Andrew Bogut, Draymond Green, David Lee, and Festus Ezeli must really be on their P’s and Q’s this series.
The Finals begin Thursday, June 4th at 9pm on ABC. Oracle Arena is sure to be loud. It’s going to be a fun one.