2016 NBA Finals Insights from CJ McCollum

Most Improved Player of the Year breaks down Game 1

It’s always so hard to judge a series based on the result of one game. Everyone is so quick to overreact. Adjustments are made in between each game with advanced film study, analytics and constant communication between team leaders and staff. As hard as it is to get caught up in the result of one game, it’s important that players and fans realize it’s first to four. I would like to remind everyone how Game 1 of the San Antonio Spurs — Oklahoma City Thunder series played out. Just keeping perspective here.

The Warriors’ theme of the season has been “Strength in Numbers” and their depth was on full display in Game 1. Led by a postseason career-high 20 points from Shaun Livingston, their bench scored 45 points and managed to use the home crowd to their advantage. Defensively, the Warriors did a great job switching ball screens and controlling the paint. At one point late in the fourth quarter, the Cavs were shooting 17–36 in the restricted area. Draymond Green served as the designated helper throughout most of the game, leaving his man to help on drives to the basket. Coach Steve Kerr once again engineered cross matchups, oftentimes placing center Andrew Bogut on Iman Shumpert allowing like-sized matchups in the typical ball screens used with the power forwards and centers for the Cavs. He doctored up a similar plan against us early on in the series opting to place Bogut on Moe Harkless and “Chief” (Al-Farouq Aminu) sporadically. I suspect the Cavs will take notice and get Bogut in as many on ball screens as possible.

The Cavs were so locked into shutting down the Warriors starting backcourt, that at times guys got easy looks in transition and wide open treys due to good ball movement. Transition will play a huge factor in this series for both teams. Finding a man and locating the ball is sometimes easier said than done. The Warriors are a unique team in a sense that they don’t call a lot of plays. They run a free-flowing offense based off trust, split post action and the occasional “San Antonio Weak” — Curry and Thompson will set screens while roaming as Draymond and company try to pick the defense apart. The Cavs defended well in spurts, but the small breakdowns make all the difference.

I expect to see JR Smith more involved at the offensive end. I can’t remember watching a game where 20 minutes went by without him getting a good look from three. Outside of the Cavs Big Three, his production is directly correlated to the Cavs success. I also think Channing Frye will be utilized more than seven minutes in Game 2. The more shooters Lue puts around LeBron, the easier it is for him to attack gaps with less help. Iggy and Barnes will look to pressure Bron and force him into contested jumpers late in the shot clock. I would like to see Bron play some bully ball in game two, attacking the rim relentlessly like he did in the opening quarter. LeBron has the best vision in the game with the ability to deliver passes on time and on target, so it’s crucial the Cavs lineups provide the necessary spacing by inserting shooters. The Cavs had some success running their horns action — with both Kyrie and Bron being the primary ball handler earlier in the playoffs. It could be something they go back to in Game 2, along with the small-on-big ball screens. Either way, it can create favorable matchups when they’re forced into isolation situations.

Ultimately, both teams will play better and I expect the Warriors backcourt of Steph and Klay to come out firing on all cylinders. It will be interesting to see how Bron approaches this game — his teams have won each of the last 9 Game 2s of series after losing Game 1.

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