After Game 1 of the NBA finals, in the post-game press conference, Lebron’s frustration was apparent after losing to the Golden State Warriors 104-89. Lebron said that we lost to “a team”, Translation: If Cleveland relies only on James to carry them to victory and do not get worthwhile contributions from their bench, Cavs do not stand a chance to win the NBA Finals. Cavs were able to contain the Warriors big 3 of Curry, Thompson and Green to only 36 points but their bench scored 45 points. Cleveland squandered a golden chance to steal a game in Golden State and seize home-court. Game 2 is tonight and it will be interesting to see the adjustments that Cleveland makes. It will be very difficult to contain the Warriors Big 3 to 36 points, but they can definitely limit the effectiveness of the Warriors bench.
OKC Thunder had figured out a winning formula against the Warriors for the first 4 games of their series. Cavs can mimic that winning formula. On defense, they frustrated the Warriors Big 3 into uncharacteristic turnovers, limited their fast-break points, boxed out the Warriors to secure defensive rebounds, and restricted the Warrior’s second chance opportunities. On offense, they attacked the rim and got to the free throw line, they penetrated and scored in the paint or found an open shooter on the perimeter. Ball movement is key against the Warriors. Cavs need to make the Warriors work hard on both: offense and defense. Cleveland has a similar team to OKC Thunder with big bodies, athletic wing players and they play physical in the paint just like the Thunder do. Cleveland needs to follow the OKC Thunder keys to win: crash the boards for rebounds, score in the paint, cover the Warriors big 3 like bees on honey, do not give them open daylight, make your 3 pointers to neutralize the Warriors 3s. Bottomline: Force the Warriors bench to beat you. Warriors bench won it in Game 1, can they follow that up again in Game 2?
Cleveland needs to improve their execution on offense. Lebron does a great job of getting his teammates involved, but they have to be ready to make the shot when Lebron finds them. Kevin Love needs to play his style of basketball similar to the way he played in Minnesota. He averaged a high double-double of 20 ppg and 13 rpg with the Timberwolves. He needs to start dominating this series by getting into the paint and not be relegated to just being a 3-point shooter. He is a gifted rebounder, he needs to crash the boards with Tristan Thompson. Cavs need to get JR Smith in a shooting rhythm early. He is a very streaky shooter and if he hits a hot streak, just ride him to score for you. Channing Frye should also be given more minutes as he is a very capable 3-point shooter. They need his sharpshooting when the ball finds him on the perimeter. Lebron and Kyrie will impact the game with their fair share of points, rebounds and assists. The question as alluded to by Lebron is: Can the rest of the Cavs get it together and play as a team? The answer to that question will answer who wins the Larry O’Brien NBA trophy.