The Finals Game 2
Game 1 of the NBA Finals was the tale of two benches. Cleveland’s second unit proved helpless and hapless against the reserves of Golden State. If the Cavs are to win this series they will have to take four of the next six with a potential Game 7 in Oracle. We all know the story by now, but will the Cavs be able to make this a series?
It’s easy to overreact to one game, especially the first of a series. Teams are feeling each other out and players are getting rid of their nerves. The Cavs made seven 3-pointers and shot just 38.1% from the field. Surely some of that could be attributed to nervous energy. Irving and Love had played in one NBA Finals game combined prior to this series and holdovers from last year may still get a bit jittery before tip-off. So, suffice to say, I’m expecting a different effort from the Cavaliers in Game 2.
The Cavs’ ball movement appeared a half-step slow in Game 1. A lot of that had to do with Golden State’s top tier defense but the Cavs should be able to play at a higher speed. The Cavs took too long to set up Kevin Love post-ups, limiting their options out of that set. Love, who played well in Game 1, can be more assertive in the post. He faded away with Klay Thompson guarding him so a double didn’t have to show as hard, if at all. The Warriors were daring him to score from that spot. Cleveland also must create more chances where their MVP is matched up with Curry. That matchup provides the most playmaking opportunities and should be the main focus going into Game 2 for Cleveland. The Cavs have to make Golden State pay for its switch-everything defense.
The Cavs also missed an inordinate number of shots in the paint. It’s hard to tell how flukey that really is. The Cavs missed some bunnies (I’m looking at you Tristan Thompson), but the Warriors did a terrific job contesting at the rim. Cleveland has to believe the law of averages will tilt in their favor.
That also goes for their 3 point shooting. Channing Frye cannot be played off the court for Cleveland to win this series. The flexibility he provides for Cleveland’s offense is vital to their success. The same goes for Iman Shumpert, who immediately becomes playable if his shot falls with the Cavs’ desperate need for defense. J.R. Smith, court-burn and all, will need to find his shot.
Even if all of these things happen, there’s no guarantee the Cavs win Game 2. The basic game plan is to “play better.” There’s not much they could have taken from Game 1 to build on, other than the defense vs. The Splash Bros. Cleveland had some nice plays out of the pick-and-roll but nothing to really draw from. They’ll need to play up-tempo while also improving their transition defense, which was leaky in the Warriors’ huge run that started at the end of the 3rd quarter.
We have yet to see anything Cleveland can do that Golden State can’t adjust to in-game. The Warriors have the intelligence and flexibility throughout their roster to counter whatever the Cavs throw at them. Steph and Klay will do their thing and their bench is on its highest high. Iguodala is competing for his second consecutive Finals MVP and the defense is as sound as ever. They got any shot they wanted in Game 1 with The Splash Bros missing a bunch. We’ll see what Coach Lue has up his sleeve. If it fails, the legacy talk of a certain King will amplify.
Let’s go to Game 2.