Coming up K-Lutch: Why the Cavs Need More Kyrie
The Golden State Warriors now have a commanding 2-0 lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, largely due to the dynamic duo of Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry. The Warriors have been hitting on all cylinders so far and even though the Cavs put up a much better effort in Game 2, it wasn’t enough.
One of the reasons (among many) why the Cavs are losing is because both Curry and Durant are getting the better of the duo of Kyrie Irving and LeBron James, especially Curry. In a previous article, I noted that this was the key matchup of the series. Durant is playing better than LeBron so far, but LeBron is playing well enough to call that matchup a wash. Curry on the other hand, is playing much better than Irving , averaging 30 points, 10.5 assists, and 8 rebounds while shooting 46% from the field, all according to Basketball Reference.
Irving is only averaging 21.5 points, 4.5 assists, and 2.5 rebounds while shooting only 40% from the field. The Cavs are going to need him to step up if they want to win Games 3 and 4 and get back in the series. To be fair, the Cavs need EVERYONE to step up if they want a chance at winning, and that even includes LeBron, who has been doing everything already for the team. Irving is not the only person struggling for the wine and gold. There are a couple players who have been all but non-existent so far in these Finals, but I’m putting the challenge on Irving. Specifically because he’s their second best player, and as I stated before, he HAS to win the matchup with Curry for the Cavs to have a chance.
So first, let’s talk about why Irving is struggling. I believe part of the reason is that he and LeBron are shouldering all of the responsibilities for this team, and it's impacting them both in a negative way. For LeBron, he’s exerting a ton of energy on the offensive and defensive ends, and his energy has been completely zapped by the start of the fourth quarter. For Irving, it looks like he’s pressing, trying to make a big play every time he gets the ball. To be fair, the Cavs usually ask that of him, Coach Tyronn Lue has made that clear multiple times. The problem is, the Warriors are expecting it, and have game planned for it by trapping and helping on all of Irving’s drives to the basket. This has lead to a lot of missed shots and turnovers by the Cavs point guard, both of which have lead to easy points in transition for the Warriors.
If Irving is going to be a factor on the offense, he’s going to have to score more efficiently, and help shoulder more of the offensive load so that LeBron doesn’t feel like he has to score every time down on offense.
How can Irving do that when the Warriors have made it their game plan to take him out of the game?
It’s going to take a team effort to free Kyrie up and get him back in his offensive groove. Like I stated before, EVERYONE on the Cavs need to do more in order to win. I believe the Cavs should use Irving as a passer early on in the game, and take advantage of the traps and double teams the Warriors are going to throw at him. The Cavs usually like to get Kevin Love going early, so do that, but with Irving as the one handling and distributing the ball. This will get Love going, and will make the Warriors adjust their defense. Again, this only works if the rest of the Cavs players make the shots that Irving sets them up for. If they do, the help defense on Irving will soften, given Irving open lanes to dance and glide to the basket in, making him a much more efficient scorer. Irving is a natural born scorer, and can get his in almost any game, what separates him from other scorers in the league is his ability to score efficiently. Also, Irving and the Cavs are a totally different monster when Irving is scoring and AND assisting. When both Irving and LeBron are scoring and dishing, the defense becomes scattered and can’t focus in on one player or two player. Speaking of that, time to get back to an earlier point.
It says a lot that the Warriors have focused so much of their defensive game plan on eliminating Irving from the equation. Even some of the shots that have gone down for Irving have been tough, contested ones. The Warriors are making it a point of emphasis to not let him get in a grove.
If Irving can get 10+ assists in Game 3, it will free him and LeBron up for easier shots in the rest of the series. If Irving can score efficiently, then the Cavs will be so much harder to defend. That means James and Irving aren’t pressing, causing less turnovers, and more great shots. I still believe that if the Cavs can keep the games close, especially in Games 3 and 4 in Cleveland, they can tie up the series. If that happens, all the pressure is back on Golden State to close it out. It starts in Game 3, and a big dose of Kyrie is just what the doctor ordered to revive the series for the Cleveland Cavaliers.