After the first 2 games in Oakland, the NBA Finals now heads to Cleveland for games 3 and 4. The Warriors took the first 2 games, giving them a 2-0 lead in the series. They defended their home court, and now it’s time for the Cavs to defend theirs.
The Cavaliers were in the same situation last season. They lost the first 2 games of the Finals, but then went back home and took game 3 by blowing out the Warriors. If the Cavaliers want a chance at bringing a title back to Cleveland this year, they have to win their home games.
Coming back from a 3-1 deficit has only happened once in NBA history. The Cavaliers can’t expect to come back from that again. They need to start playing better right now. They can’t afford another loss this time. With that being said, here’s what the Cavaliers have to do in order to get back in this series and Defend The Land.
1. Bench players must step up
In the first two games, the Cavaliers bench players have combined for just 51 points. The bench player with the highest point total in those games was Richard Jefferson, who had 9 in game 1. That’s not going to get it done. We all know LeBron is going to play well in every game, but even his best game needs a supporting cast. Just look at what happened in game 2. LeBron had a triple-double and the Cavs still got blown out.
The players on the Cavs bench don’t have to play at LeBron’s level, but they need to give a LeBron like effort. LeBron does everything he can to help Cleveland win. Nobody else on the Cavs has done everything they can, including the starters. If 9 points or less is everything they can do, the Cavs should strongly reconsider who’s on their bench in the offseason. They have to be be better. Period.
2. LeBron needs to drive, drive, and drive some more
In the first half of game 2, I saw LeBron drive just about every chance he got. He got into the paint, where he either took a shot or passed to an open man. I didn’t see it from him as much in the second half, which is when the Warriors pulled away. The Cavs need LeBron to attack the Warriors as much as possible. Nobody can guard LeBron James when he drives.
I’ve noticed that when LeBron gets tired or when he thinks the Cavs desperately need to catch up, he’ll settle for outside shots. I know he’s been shooting well this postseason, but every time I see LeBron take a 3pt shot I get scared. If it doesn’t go in, it’s a wasted possession. The Cavs have to score on as many possessions as possible if they’re going to beat the Warriors. The best way to do that is for LeBron to drive.
3. Better 3pt shooting
35.5% and 27.6% are what the Cavs have shot from 3pt in the first two games. 35.5% isn’t terrible. They were at least close to the Warriors, who shot 36.4% from 3pt in game 1. 27.6% in game 2 on the other hand, is unacceptable. When the Warriors have Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Stephen Curry, and Draymond Green, they can’t afford to miss 3pt shots.
Going back to my last point, when LeBron drives, Kyrie Irving, J.R. Smith, Kyle Korver, and Kevin Love have to be ready to shoot. LeBron will give them open shots. When he gets them an open look, it’s all on them to put that shot in. Cleveland shot 38.9% on 3pt shots as a team during the regular season, which is .5% higher than the Warriors shot. This is not a bad 3pt shooting team, but for whatever reason they haven’t been shooting well.
Kevin Love and LeBron have been doing all the work here. Love had 21 in game 1, with 7 in game 2. LeBron had 15 in game 1, with 11 in game 2. No other Cavs player has had more than 5 in either game. You’d think the player with 5 boards was Tristan Thompson, but it’s wasn’t. It was Iman Shumpert.
I’m calling out Tristan Thompson right now. He needs to step it up. He’s had a combined 8 rebounds (4 in each game) in this series. We’re talking about a player who averaged 9.2 rebounds in the regular season, and 8.6 in the playoffs. He’s better than 4 rebounds a game, and he needs to start playing like it. The Cavaliers need every possession they can get. The more they have, the less they give the Warriors.
5. Kyrie Irving must be patient
What I’ve seen from Kyrie so far in this series, is too many quick and contested shots. He often plays in one-on-one situations where he either doesn’t pass the ball, or he doesn’t create enough space to get a good shot off. Klay Thompson has been locking him down for the most part. You can tell it’s bothering Kyrie. He’s trying to find ways to score, but what he should be doing is being patient.
The Cavaliers need to move the ball around more. They did a pretty good job during the first half of game 2. Again, it goes back to LeBron driving. Instead of trying to create his own shots, Kyrie needs to pass, move around, come off screens, and then take a shot when he’s actually open. He’s a great shooter, but he needs to learn how to take smarter shots.
The Cavaliers have put up a fight in the first half of both games, but then the Warriors have pulled away. If the Cavs want to win a game and this series, they have to put together complete games. If the Cavs do the 5 things I’ve listed above, I’m confident they’ll come out of Cleveland with this series tied 2-2. If they don’t, they could end up being down 3-1, or even losing the series at home after being swept.