• Dicky Fung

NBA Finals: Cavaliers Must Go Back to the Drawing Board


Domination. Easy. How about unfair? The 2017 NBA Finals didn’t exactly satisfy craves as it featured two lopsided victories when the Golden State Warriors took a 2-0 lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers. It was almost as if the Cleveland Cavaliers were playing the Western All-Star team in the NBA Finals. This certainly wasn’t expected, and the Warriors are making the Cavs look bad because they have just been superior in all aspects thus far. What must LeBron James and his boys do better to make this a series? Let’s take a look.

An Answer for Kevin Durant

Its Kevin Durant’s world, we’re just living in it. For the Warriors, Kevin Durant is proving to be the ultimate difference maker this year, as he is clearly playing like the unstoppable MVP-caliber player he is. Always a dominant individual scorer, KD is now one of the most effective defensive players in the NBA. His 7-foot 240-pound frame combines the size and reach of a center with the speed of a guard, and he can switch screens and lock up perimeter players as easily as he can protect the rim.

Kevin Durant has been a monster, defensively and offensively.

Look again, that ain't Harrison Barnes

KDTrey is averaging 35.5 PPG, 11 RPG, 7 APG with 1.5 STLs and 2.5 BLKs through 2 games. Want to know how easy he’s doing it too? On 56% FG, 50% from 3, and 91% FT. He’s the clear runaway MVP if this series was to end today. Stopping KD won’t be easy, or possible at all. But if Kevin Durant is going to average an easy 35 points on 50%+ from the field with minimal shot attempts? The Cavaliers are cooked.

Kevin Durant joins some elite names on this list

The Kyrie Factor

Remember when I mentioned in my preview Kyrie Irving has to absolutely win the match-up against Steph Curry? Well, that hasn’t happened.

Kyrie: 21.5 PPG 2.5 RPG 4.5 APG 1 STL 40% FG 50% 3-P 67% FT

Steph: 30 PPG 8 RPG 10.5 APG 2 STLs 46% FG 45% 3-P 100% FT

Double dribble? You make the call.

Curry has dominated Kyrie in this match-up production wise, but give credit to Klay Thompson, who has been playing lock-down defense on Irving so far. If Cleveland wants to have any chance to make this a series, Kyrie has to be better. It’s that simple.

Slow down the Pace

In the first two games, the Warriors are attempting a staggering 195 shot attempts, in which 76 of them are from deep. The team is shooting 47% from the field and 40% from 3. The Cavs are playing at the Warriors pace, and they have shot 186 shot attempts as well. The difference? The Cavs are shooting 40% from the field, and just 32% from 3. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know the Warriors defense is affecting the Cavs.

The Cavs must slow the pace down. Truth is, that might not even happen. These two games in Oracle Arena have exposed the age and lack of athleticism on the Cavs bench. Kyle Korver, Richard Jefferson, Channing Frye and Deron Williams can still do their roles in limited minutes, but they cannot be relied upon in a shoot-out with the Warriors. It’s hard for them to keep up with the fast-paced Warriors, and Cleveland’s lack of athleticism on the wings negates a lot of the value of LeBron serving as a small-ball center. The Cavs need to rely heavily on J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert in this series, but both of the guards have been a non-factor.

In the end, the frenetic pace will favor the Warriors. They just have too much offensive firepower, and increasing the number of possessions is only going to give the Warriors the advantage.

Lineups Changes?

If I had an answer to counter Golden State’s attack, I could probably be a coach. However, I’m not sure I do. They are superior in almost every player down the roster except for LeBron James, and Durant is arguably out-playing LeBron in this series.The Cavs are just flat out getting exposed.

I would look to swap out JR Smith for Iman Shumpert in the starting lineup for defensive purposes since Shumpert has looked better than JR in these two games. JR can come off the bench and be ready to score, something he is best at anyways. Given that he has the ability to at least stay in-front of Durant, can Derrick Williams possibly get some minutes? The Curry-Durant pick-and-roll has been a Cavaliers nightmare, exposing Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson every time they switch.

Steph - KD pick and roll has been money for the Warriors

Coach Tyrone Lue has to figure out a right balance of sacrificing defense for offense, without completely forgetting how to defend. Cleveland is also doing a terrible job at cleaning up the glass. That must also mean Tristan Thompson has to figure out a way to stay on the floor to help in other areas of the game. Thompson averaged 10 rebounds per game last year in the Finals, compared to an embarrassing 4 rebounds per game in this series, and that’s not acceptable given his reputation for a tremendous rebounder.

Regroup

The Warriors are scoring at will while the Cavs are cold. Every time Cleveland gets within striking distance, one silly mistake like a turnover and the Warriors are off to the races again.

"That’s what they do,” James said. “That’s what Golden State does. If you make a mistake — like I said, we had a turnover, it came from me, and then we had a miscue and the floods opened again.”

LeBron James still had 2 phenomenal performances, averaging a triple double in the series with 28.5 PPG 13 RPG 11 APG 1.5 STLs 1.5 BLKs. But he has to take care of the ball, already having 12 turnovers in the series. Additionally, when he was so brilliant at attacking the basket in the 1st half of Game 2. He went 8-for-12 from the field, with all of his attempts coming in the lane. LBJ took his foot off the gas in the 2nd half, settling for perimeter shots and taking only 6 shots for the remaining of the game.

LeBron has to be relentless all game

It’s the NBA Finals, LeBron James must stay on attack mode all 48 minutes. If he has to play 48 minutes a game, he should. He has all summer to rest. That’s really the only way the Cavaliers even have a chance at this series anyway.

The Cavaliers lost Game 2 of the NBA Finals by 19 points, just three days after losing Game 1 by 22 points. It certainly wasn’t pretty, far from what was a highly competitive seven-game series a year ago. Ironically, it now seems like Cavaliers are playing the Monstars from Space Jam. It might take LeBron to have a 45 points, 15 rebounds, 15 assists performance for Cleveland to win a game. Maybe then he would go to the podium after the game.

I don’t think the series is over yet, evident to the same situation last year when the Warriors take a 2-0 lead heading into Cleveland. I do think this is a completely different team with Durant, but I still believe we are still due for an otherworldly LeBron James performance. Game 3 should be epic.

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