Film Study: Dellavedova and Shumpert lock and trail Splash Bros. in Game 2

VIDEO: Matthew Dellavedova explains how he played defense in Game 2

OAKLAND — It may be time to declare that the Cleveland Cavaliers’ defense is, indeed, very good.

The Cavs became the lowest-ranked defense (20th in the regular season) to make The Finals since the league started counting turnovers in 1977. Yes, they were improved after making a pair of trades in early January. But they still didn’t reach the level (top 10) achieved by 34 of the 37 last NBA champs.

There was marked improvement in the Eastern Conference playoffs, but still some doubts, considering the level of competition.

And those lingering doubts were erased in the Cavs’ 95-93, overtime victory over the Golden State Warriors in Game 2, the first Finals win in franchise history. The Warriors, who ranked second in offensive efficiency in the regular season, scored 93 points on 106 possessions, a rate of less than 90 per 100.

Stephen Curry had what was basically the worst shooting performance of his career. Klay Thompson had a strong start, but shot 5-for-15 after halftime. And nobody else could pick up the slack for the Western Conference champs.

The Warriors shot 8-for-35 (22.9 percent) from 3-point range, their fourth worst mark in 99 games this season. But just as important as the shots they missed from the outside were the shots they didn’t get on the inside.

Only 20 of the Warriors’ 83 shots on Sunday came from the restricted area, down from 31 (of 88) in Game 1.

Warriors Game 2 shot chart

Warriors Game 2 shot chart

The Warriors may be the league’s best 3-point shooting team and a three may be worth an additional point, but their shots at the basket still yield more points per attempt than their shots from beyond the arc. Limit their layups and you’re in decent shape defensively.

Timofey Mozgov has been a great rim protector for the Cavs, but for Mozgov to be able to protect the rim, the Cleveland guards have to put in work on the perimeter. If he’s helping them too much, he can’t be the rim protector that he’s supposed to be.

Against any offense, one of the guards’ biggest responsibilities is fighting through screens. Against the Warriors, it obviously becomes more important.

The Cavs’ guards do not want to go under screens set for Curry and Thompson, because that will give the Splash Brothers space to shoot. But if they get caught up in screens, Cleveland’s bigs must commit to the ball and the defense will be compromised.

So Matthew Dellavedova (the primary defender on Curry) and Iman Shumpert (Thompson) have been charged with locking onto their guy, trailing him around the screen, and getting back in front of him as quickly as possible, so that the helping big can recover back to the paint.

The slow trail

Here’s a case of Shumpert (who picked up Curry in transition) being a little late getting through a Draymond Green screen, forcing Tristan Thompson to commit to Curry …


When Curry makes the pocket pass to Green, the Warriors have a 4-on-3 situation …


… and the Cavs are fortunate that Green makes the wrong decision and throws the ball away.

Off-ball, on-ball

Late in the first quarter, Dellavedova trails Curry through a pin-down screen from Festus Ezeli


… and is in Curry’s shirt when he catches the pass …


Ezeli comes back to set an on-ball screen for Curry …


Dellavedova gets caught up in that screen a little bit, but Mozgov is there to prevent Curry from getting off a shot, and Dellavedova recovers to get back in front of his man …


That allows Mozgov to retreat and prevent Ezeli from rolling all the way to the rim. The result is an Ezeli mid-range jumper, which, for the Warriors’ sake, we shouldn’t see again this season.

Lock and trail

Midway through the second quarter, we see a better lock and trail from Shumpert (it helps that Andrew Bogut didn’t set much of a screen). He’s still attached to Thompson as he catches Curry’s pass …


… and is there to keep Thompson from getting off a clean look on the curl. At the same time, Mozgov is able to cut off Bogut’s roll to the basket, because he didn’t have to help Shumpert …


And Shumpert forces Thompson into a tough leaner that comes up short.

Team D starts with the guards

From top to bottom, the Cavs did a great job of keeping the Warriors’ offense in check in Game 2. They communicated on screens and switched assignments when they needed to without losing track of anybody. Plus, the bigs were there to help and recover when a guard got caught in a screen.

But the help needed only to be brief most of the time, because the guards fought through screens and got back in front of their man. They took away Curry’s and Thompson’s space, suppressed the Warriors’ ball movement and contested shots. And because they didn’t need much help, the Cleveland bigs were able to recover back and protect the rim.

Over 16 playoff games, the Cavs have allowed 98.7 points per 100 possessions, a big improvement over their regular season mark of 104.1. And in 246 playoff minutes with Dellavedova and Shumpert on the floor together, they’ve allowed just 88.9. That’s the best mark of 103 two-man combinations that have played at least 200 minutes in the postseason.

“Our guys are really, really, really locked in and defending and making an effort and making multiple efforts on every single play,” Cavs coach David Blatt said after the win. “And that is the only way to play against the Warriors, because they’re so potent offensively and they can put up points so quickly and in a multitude of ways that you have no choice but to be aware or get beat.

“And I thought we were aware, and I thought we were locked in on almost every play. That’s what it took.”


  1. arnecruz says:

    Delly did a job yesterday, but to say he stopped Steph is not true. Yes he bothered him but Steph has a very horrible shooting night. Too many open looks he missed, TV only highlighted the tough shots. All of you seen hoe Curry makes tough shot look so easy, I do not thinl Delly forced him to take tough shots he did not take before and easily made. Curry missed them not just because they were tough but because he had abad shooting night. Now I’ m not saying Delly did not do his job, he did and he did it excellently, he should force Steph to bad shots. But to say that is the only reason Steph missed his shots is totally wrong. To prove myself watch all his previous playoff games this year.

  2. Superman says:

    I am just pumped about Game 3! Warriors are a great team but I love seeing the Cavs being able to beat the overall better team. Game 3 is gonna be great

  3. Bu says:

    Remember Barkely said in earlier rounds when Warriors lost one game both splash brothers shooting badly, “live & die with jumper” and don’t fancy them last? Look what happened after that. So I’d expect Curry & Thompson to adjust, while the other guys are no slouch. They should go on their inside guys more and get some separation with 2nd line up. This is where they can just kill the Cavs.

  4. Indiana'sownLarryBird says:

    Delly playing that rugby style D on Curry…..

  5. LAKER says:

    Lebron is killing it what you mean he’s being selfish? He had triple double..

  6. Nick says:

    Dellavedova and Shumpert saved the game for the Cavs. Lebron came close to giving it away. I wish he would stop trying to be a one-man team. Hopefully he will look at the tape and see how he allowed GS back in the game down the wire by forcing up shots. His ego was 140, but his basketball IQ was 50! He made some great plays, but man did he screw it up! He needs to get his emotions in check and make high IQ plays, take what the defense gives him and make it a team effort which he can do so well.

    • Darwin says:

      You hit it right on the nail dude. Lebron tries to take it on his shoulders in the crunch but he totally brain farts and forgets he’s the biggest, fastest, strongest guy on the court and he doesn’t need an 18 ft. fade away to seal the deal, drive dammit, drive!!! As far as the young guns are concerned to beat Lebron just keep on running wild and doing what they did all season in hopes of wearing the Cavs out.

  7. BIG-GAME-JAMES-23 says:

    Curry got shut down by Delly. There no nice way to put it…