NBA Finals Game 3 Preview
Golden State leads series 2-0 After two blowout losses for Cleveland they hope to reinvent themselves, again, on their home court for games 3 and 4. All signs, so far, point to Cleveland being forced to face a very unsettling truth. They just simply may not be good enough to compete against this Warriors team. The unbalanced power distribution, between the Western and Eastern Conference, has served Cleveland in the form of a blindsided blow bordering on the realm of cruel deception. They were riding so high. They swept the first two rounds of the playoffs. They annihilated opponents in every way possible in every sense of the word. LeBron James had played the fewest playoff minutes in his career in route to the NBA Finals. They extended last year’s finals to six games without Irving and Love, and have them in healthy this year. Not only do they have their big 3 in tact, but the team was meshing, in harmony, enjoying their time together like a family. LeBron has the coach he wanted with Blatt, now, out of the picture. They cruised through the Eastern Conference using a method, they felt, would topple Golden State as they hit threes at a record setting pace. This was it, the stars had aligned, Cleveland had finally set itself up to win a championship. Cleveland was in for a rude, and painful awakening. Yes, they did have Irving and Love to start for this year’s finals, but the Warriors had improved plenty in their own right; albeit without adding any big names to last year’s finals roster. It’s entirely possible they just did not really know how much this Warriors team had improved, and matured, on themselves from a year ago. The Cavs game planned for a team that does not exist. They generated a game plan for a team that is not playing on the same court as them, while the team that is on the court with them is picking them apart as if they had no plan at all. Those who Cleveland felt would be the difference makers are being rendered borderline useless. You could speculate that the sole purpose of the addition of Channing Frye was to combat the Warriors three point shooting and small ball tactics for this inevitable finals matchups. He has only played eight minutes in two games because he is unable to get a shot off, and is a liability at the defensive end. Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving were regarded as the difference makers that would have won the championship for Cleveland last year, and would return to get it this year. Neither has had the impact they had hoped for. Kevin Love’s liabilities in rebounding, and on the defensive end, are extremely apparent. Draymond Green is getting any shot he wants, and Cleveland is losing the rebound battle, in a manner that is anything but subtle, while the athleticism and lock down Warriors defense is not allowing any easy, or open, shots for anyone. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are both doing amazing jobs forcing Irving into low percentage shots while Kyrie also continues to be a defensive liability on the floor. The Warriors ability to play a group of guys that are highly effective on both ends of the court is becoming an advantage that seems to be too difficult for the Cavs to overcome. Andre Iguodala is cementing himself as one of the elite defenders in the NBA, and is limiting Lebron to a 35% fg percentage when he is guarding him. Even when Cleveland tries to set a screen, to force a switch, the Warriors have a number of defenders who can at least inhibit Lebron long enough for help to arrive while having fast, athletic defenders elsewhere who can quickly close out on shooters of any subsequent kick out passes. Curry, Klay, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, and Andrew Bogut are all skilled defenders with skills that make them serious threats on the offensive side. The Cavs, however, seem to have to choose between a defensive, or offensive lineup, with neither really being able to keep up on the offensive side, or slow GS down on defense. Golden State continues to pick Cleveland apart by using stellar ball movement to create open shots, that they hit with regularity, and constant back cuts on screens that create mismatches. With the Cavs down, two games to none, Lue’s test as a head coach has arrived in a big way. Can he find an answer to the Warriors offense that will also be able to put points up at the offensive end? Will going bigger, and putting in Mosgov more, help on the rebounding side, where Cleveland lost by 12 in Game 2, 46-34? Is there even a legitimate answer, that this Cavs team can put together, to Golden State’s lock down defense and dazzling offense? Or have they reached the last straw? The last straw being that LeBron stops bailing on easy shots, trying to get his shooters involved, and simply tries to take over in fear of losing another NBA finals. Yes, Iguodala does a very good job defending LeBron, but that is not to say he can completely keep him out from under the basket. LeBron may just have to, preemptively, dismiss the haters who will accuse him of being a ball hog, and accept the fact that what gives him a best chance to neat this team is to do it himself. This may be why the Cavs did so much better last year without Irving and Love being on the floor, getting locked down on the offensive side, and being liabilities on defense, it was evident from the get go that Lebron had to do it alone. It may be time for him to seriously consider getting it done that way, and hoping some guys can hit some timely shots here and there. That might be the only option.