NBA Finals: Who Needs To Step Up
For a series that figured to be more competitive, the Golden State Warriors might be on the cusp of putting their foot on the throats of the Cleveland Cavaliers if they manage to score a win on the Cavs’ home floor. In racing out to a 2-0 lead, Kevin Durant has been nearly unguardable, Steph Curry is hitting circus shots from nearly half-court and the rest of the Warriors have played their roles to perfection in their quick start.
On the other side, LeBron James has played up to his superstar status in getting a triple-double on Sunday and nearly pulling off another in the series opener. For as big as James has played in the Finals so far, the Warriors dominance has been that much more impressive in winning these past two games handily despite the stellar play of James.
For the Cavs, these next games in Cleveland will be a test to see if they can show the mettle they displayed in last year’s Finals, hoping anyone not named LeBron can provide anything to help their best player. On the Warriors’ side, while they have played close to perfect basketball, do they have someone on their squad who can elevate their game to a new level to get the Warriors two more victories? We’ll take a look at players for both teams who could stand to step up their games.
Tristan Thompson and JR Smith, Cleveland
The duo of center Thompson and guard Smith might as well be on a milk carton, with both Cavs seemingly forcing Cleveland to play three on five basketball when they have been on the floor. For as well as the trio of James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving have been, neither Thompson or Smith has cracked double figures in the first two games of the series, with Thompson not getting a single point in the Game 1 loss. Smith, a notoriously streaky scorer, has three total points for the series. Even more telling, Thompson has just as many fouls as rebounds with eight and Smith is outdoing that by having two more fouls (5) than points (3).
Any kind of production is paramount from either of the two as it could lighten some of the scoring responsibility that James, Love and Irving have had to endure. With no one outside of those three averaging double figures and Thompson also not making an impact in rebounding the basketball, too much is being asked of Cleveland’s trio of superstars.
Klay Thompson, Golden State
Although Thompson played much better in Game 2, these playoffs have seen the guard struggle shooting the basketball. Shooting 46% from the floor and 41% from three-point land in the regular season, Thompson’s numbers have dipped during the postseason to only 38% and 35% respectively. Even though the Warriors haven’t needed Thompson to have big games, one can only imagine how much more one-sided the series would be if the guard were dialed in.
Thompson is an underrated defender who hasn’t let his offensive struggles affect that part of his game. The Cavs looked like a different team once they hit their home arena last year, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility to see Kevin Durant or Steph Curry have an off game in these next couple of contests. If Thompson can find his stroke again, it really becomes a pick-your-poison in who Cleveland wants to devote their defensive priorities to.
It’s only Game 3, but it already feels like these next few games will be a pivotal in where the series goes from here. If Tristan Thompson and Smith can find anything to contribute to their team, it might be just enough to push Cleveland to a win and give them some momentum in a matchup that might be getting away from them. If Klay Thompson for Golden State can get back into his offensive groove, then it may be the death blow for a Cavs team that is struggling to keep pace with Curry and Durant. With the lights on bright, we’ll see who will step up on Wednesday.