Finals, Game 1 recap and what changes for game 2. (Featuring waaay too many pictures)

A lot has been made already, but with game 2 coming down the pipe tonight, lets look back on game 1 and see where it may lead us in game 2. This is mostly going to focus on the Cavs because the Warriors don't have a lot they need to fix.

 

The Biggest Cavs problem:

They turned the ball over way too much, and a lot of them were not even ones that were just nice plays by the Warriors, some of them were just dumb passes and dumb losing of the ball. Like this from Kyrie.

 

Kyrie just straight up loses the ball on a spin move. A Kyrie isolation against Green is generally a matchup that the Cavs like, and Kyrie just blew it. There are plenty of other plays like this where guys just lost the ball, or passed the ball right to Warriors defenders. The Warriors will create plenty of turnovers on their own with their incredible length and athleticism, you don't need to help them at all. 

The Cavs also had a bad tendency to take early shots when there wasn't really a need to. 

On both of those shots, they essentially walked up the court, saw they were pretty open so they just shot a pull up two. Obviously those are not terrible shots, but if you are going to take shots that early in the clock, you would just assume they be better. FWIW, the whole concept of the Cavs playing offense too fast and turning it over was covered very well in this article.

 

What about the defense then?

Yeah, it was not pretty for the Cavs. Even if you make the argument that the Cavs biggest defensive issue is that their offense kept gifting transition opportunities to the Warriors, the Cavs still need to do better than this.

In this transition play, the Cavs are in fine defensive position when the ball is first coming up the court, guys are more or less where they should be and guarding who they should be. The LeBron just sort of decides to stand there and not guard anyone and the Warriors get a 2 on 1 with Dray and Zaza down low. Zaza missed this layup, but this is a really basic mistake that the Cavs have to avoid. Once again, the Warriors do enough damage in open court when you do everything right, they will force you into bad matchups and whip the ball around a scrambled defense, but you can't make it this easy for them.

And this brings us to the larger problem with the Cavs defense in game 1: General laziness, and a lot of it was LeBron.

Everything is going fine at the start of the possession, and then LeBron jus straight up forgets about Durant who gets an easy alley oop dunk. 

On this play, JaVale gets an offense rebound (which is another big problem, the Cavs can't allow so many second chances) and ends up tapping it outside to Curry, and all the Cavs defenders just stand. Obviously even if they had made an instant reaction and sprinted to the line Curry probably still gets the shot off, but once again, Steph does enough damage when there is defense, you can't make it this easy.

Here the Warriors run a really simple off ball screen for Curry, and Kyrie dies on the screen and even though it is kind of hard to tell in the picture, he has given up on the play when Steph is pulling up. While Love is holding back, for some reason. Obviously it isn't realistic to expect Kyrie to suddenly be dodging screens all over the place, he just isn't that good a defender even when he is trying, but he has to make better effort than this. 

Here is basically the same thing except for Klay Thompson. Just a basic off ball screen that Thompson can either try and cut to the hoop or pop back to the line with. Korver gets hung up on the screen, Love stays back for some reason, and in the last shot you can see both of them standing up straight, having given up on the play. Thompson is slumping, and would miss this shot (I think), but you can't do this. Korver either has to suck it up and jump out, or Love has to. 

 

What stuff did the Warriors mess up?

Honestly, close to nothing. IF the Cavs play better then they will likely expose a few more holes, but they made it so easy on the Warriors that there isn't much to complain about other than some missed layups, which the Cavs were also afflicted with.

Well I'm a Warriors fan, so I should feel great about my team?

Honestly yeah. The only thing that is really worrying for the Warriors is Klay's slump. I don't know for sure, but I would guess he hasn't had many slumps this long and hard. Obviously he could bust out at any moment, but the Finals are small sample size theatre, it is entirely possible he just shoots poorly the whole series. The plus side is that unless he starts to look totally broken (like passing up wide open 3s broken) there is no way the Cavs are going to start to really help off of him in any way. Essentially, even if he shoots poorly the whole series, the Cavs will continue to treat him as a good shooter.

 

Is there anything specifically that Warriors fans should be pleased with? And Cavs fans afraid of?

Yeah. This.

 

You can make arguments for why or why not, and I generally think Steph's "struggles" in the Finals the last couple years are kind of overstated. But there is no denying that he just had not really been himself in the Finals against the Cavs. For whatever reason, they knew how to get him a bit uncomfortable. That appears to be very far from the case after game 1, and dare I say that I think this was the best game Curry has played in the Finals. He hit a couple of these way out pull up 3s in game one, and if he is on and doing his thing, then the Cavs are in serious trouble. Getting Curry off his game is one of the less talked about and most important part of the Cavs having success agains the Warriors. Because shots like this break your defense, there is no other way to put it.

 

What about the Cavs? Is there anything that Cavs fans should take as a positive?

Well the one thing is that the Cavs played like crap, and are not likely to play that poorly again. So regardless of any changes, it is likely to get better for them. But once again, small sample size theater, if they play like crap one more game the whole may be too deep to climb out of.

 

What about a real positive thing that happened in game 1?

The biggest thing is probably Kevin Love honestly. He looked mostly viable on the defensive end, and caused some problems for the Warriors on the other end, and I think that Lue did a good job of trying to use him in situations where he can succeed. Take this defensive sequence.

 

This is just a really nice defensive play from Love (and the Cavs unit as a whole) Thompson gets a switch onto Irving and posts, Love comes to help, and when Klay passes out Love knows his guy is David West and stays in the paint since West is not likely to jack a 3. When the ball swings around to Green in the post and Thompson cuts to the hoop is the impressive part. Love had to be dead on with his rotation to the hoop, and he was, and ends up blocking Klay at the rim. There were quite a few plays like this from Love, where he made the right plays and stayed in his lane, along with the fact that he actually played hard on most defensive possessions. Obviously he has limitations and makes some mistakes, he is too hesitant to go out to shooters sometimes (seen earlier in this post) and also he can't just switch onto people, when he ended up one on one with Durant it went about as well as you would expect. When you consider that last year people basically decided that Love couldn't hardly be on the floor against the Warriors because he was so bad defensively, it is major progress for him. And he did some good stuff on offense as well, mostly being aggressive in forcing the issue when he found smaller guys on him.

Coming down the floor, Love finds Livingston guarding him (after guarding Livingston on the other end, a nice matchup the Cavs found for a few possessions) and forces the issue straight into the paint and Livingston has to foul him immediately to avoid an easy bucket. Things change fast in the Finals, but after game 1, Kevin Love's defense is far from being the Cavs biggest worry.

The other thing that should give Cavs fans some peace is that, despite all of the lazy possessions, and miscommunications. When the Cavs locked in they defended the Warriors quite well in the half court, so they do have the goods to do it and are not hopeless, the question is whether or not they can do it enough.

 

Biggest Question the Cavs have to answer for game 2?

Well the actual biggest one is whether they want to try hard or not. But beyond that, is they probably have to decide what they want LeBron to do. He clearly got a bit gassed in this game, and for all the memes about how he is only just hitting his prime, he is 32. He can't guard Durant, initiate damn near every offensive possession, and do it at a high pace, for 40+ minutes per game. They need to change something (or multiple things) whether that is slowing down the pace, (which would be a good idea regardless) having him guard someone else, or having others initiate more offensive possessions, or possibly even playing him less minutes. The Cavs need to have him do a bit less most of the game so that he can go all out at the things he is doing, and then when crunch time comes around you can let him be super man for a couple of minutes. Obviously this is easier said than done of course, this Cavs team still has not really proved they can consistently create good offense without LeBron unless Kyrie is hot, and they really have no other good options to guard Durant. 

 

Biggest Question the Warriors have to answer for game 2?

Can they stay ready for a good punch? This Warriors team has hardly been pushed at all then entire playoffs. Like they have barely even played any close games. IF the Cavs make the adjustments they need too and come out ready to play, they can hang with them, and the Warriors will likely find themselves in the first real dog fight of these playoffs. If they do, can they dig deep and get the tough buckets and tough defensive stops? 

 

Other random observations:

- It's so crazy that Kevin Durant is on this team. That guy is so freaking good. As far as I'm concerned, there are like 3 or 4 guys in the NBA who can go toe to toe with LeBron on a good day. But Durant is the only guy who could legitimately outplay LeBron over a 7 game series and it wouldn't be a fluke in the slightest. The fact that LeBron was so clearly the best player was the best thing the Cavs had the past two years, but now the Warriors have the one guy in the world who can truly close that gap.

- Draymond Green is absurdly good defensively. People talk about it all the time, but I'm saying it again. Some plays he made were just crazy good that I didn't see until a second and closer viewing.

- The Warriors are all bastards, in a good way. Even though Bogut is gone, his fingerprints are still all over this team. They grab every jersey, do every tug, give every extra little push on a screen. All of the things that are illegal but everyone knows won't get called. And it is especially funny since people still have this perception of them being a soft team. They are one of the canniest and bastard filled great teams ever.

- Deron Williams played like absolute crap in every way. He has low key been really good for the Cavs since his arrival as it allowed them to have another guy who can actually play both ways. Him playing better would go a long ways for the Cavs.

 

 

What do you think? What adjustments should the teams make for tonight?