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The Finals Stat: Game 6


VIDEO: Andre Iguodala post-game interview

Game 6 basics
GSW CLE
Pace 101.0 101.0
OffRtg 105.3 94.9
EFG% 51.2% 42.7%
OREB% 14.9% 33.3%
TO Ratio 9.0 18.6
FTA rate 0.341 0.476

CLEVELAND — The Golden State Warriors are NBA champions for the first time in 40 years. After going down 2-1 in The Finals, they came back to win three straight games (two of them on the road) to take the Larry O’Brien trophy back to Oakland.

One stat stood out from the rest in the Warriors’ 105-97 victory on Tuesday and their 4-2 series win.

The stat

62 – Points by which the Warriors outscored the Cavs with Andre Iguodala on the floor in the series.

The context

That was the best plus-minus in the series. Next best was Stephen Curry at plus-52. The Warriors were outscored by 19 points in Iguodala’s 76 minutes on the bench.

Iguodala started Games 1, 2 and 3 on that bench, which allowed LeBron James to go at Harrison Barnes early and often. But, though the Warriors several long and athletic defenders, it became clear that Iguodala was the most qualified to slow down the best player in the world.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr put Iguodala in the starting lineup in Game 3, a move that not only gave his team better spacing offensively, but maximized the time his best defender was in front of James. From then on, Iguodala was basically on the floor whenever James was, and the Cavs’ offense never got on track. James shot just 38 percent with Iguodala on the floor.

Iguodala contributed on the other end of the floor, too, averaging 16.3 points and 4.0 assists, while shooting 40 percent from 3-point range (9-for-14 in fourth quarters). His two highest scoring games of the season (98 total games) came in Game 4 (22 points) and Game 6 (25). He scored 15 or more points only 12 times all year, and four of those games were in The Finals.

And for his work on both ends of the floor, Iguodala was named Finals MVP.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
EFG% = (FGM + (0.5 * 3PM)) / FGA
OREB% = Percentage of available offensive rebounds obtained
TO Ratio = Turnovers per 100 possessions
FTA Rate = FTA / FGA

Film Study: Warriors keep bringing the D


VIDEO: The Warriors talk about their Game 5 win

OAKLAND — Through the first five games of The Finals, the difference between wins and losses has been the Golden State Warriors’ offense. They have scored 114 points per 100 possessions in Games 1, 4 and 5, but just 95.3 in Games 2 and 3.

The constant has been their defense, having allowed the Cleveland Cavaliers to score just 99 points per 100 possessions in both their wins and their losses. Cleveland had the postseason’s No. 1 offense through the conference finals, but it has been shut down by the regular season’s No. 1 defense in this series.

Kyrie Irving‘s absence over the last four games has something to do with that. Through the first three rounds, the Cavs’ offense wasn’t much worse with Irving off the floor (108.2 points scored per 100 possessions) than it was with him on the floor (108.9). But the extra load that LeBron James has had to carry obviously has taken its toll. Over the five games, the Cavs’ offense has been at its best in the first quarter and at its worst in the fourth.

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Still, the Warriors deserve plenty of credit for making James work for his 36.6 points per game and for keeping what’s left of his supporting cast in check. It’s not like we can ignore what they’ve done defensively over the last eight months and put all of the blame for the Cavs’ offensive struggles on their injuries.

After another strong defensive performance in Game 5 on Sunday (particularly in the second half), the Warriors are one win from their first NBA championship in 40 years. Here’s a few ways they got it done defensively in Game 5 … (more…)

The Finals Stat: Game 5


VIDEO: Stephen Curry talks post-game about the Warriors’ win.

Game 5 basics
CLE GSW
Pace 95.1 95.1
OffRtg 96.6 108.4
EFG% 46.9% 56.0%
OREB% 23.8% 28.9%
TO Ratio 14.9 17.7
FTA rate 0.259 0.453

OAKLAND — The Golden State Warriors are one win from their first championship in 40 years after outlasting the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5 of The Finals on Sunday. Stephen Curry caught fire, leading the way with 37 points. Andre Iguodala had another terrific, both-ends-of-the-floor performance and LeBron James put up more ridiculous numbers (40 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists) in a losing effort.

One stat stood out from the rest in the Warriors’ 104-91 victory.

The stat

12:31 – Total playing time for centers in Game 5.

The context

It was the small-ball game. Not only did the Warriors stick with their no-center starting lineup (Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green in the frontcourt), but the Cavs went small for most of the night as well.

Mozgov was replaced by J.R. Smith less than five minutes into the game and didn’t return until the final minute of the third quarter. The Cavs even went to a super-small lineup – with James playing point-center, surrounded by guards and small forwards – for a few minutes in the first quarter. That lineup was a plus-5.

Mozgov played just 9:19 total. Warriors back-up center Festus Ezeli played 3:12 in the second half (to match up with Mozgov). Andrew Bogut, who has started 83 games this season, did not play.

With extra floor spacing, it was the best offensive game of the series, with the teams combining to score 111 points per 100 possessions. Sixty-one 3-pointers were launched, with James, Curry and Klay Thompson hitting threes of 34, 26 and 29 feet in a 58-second sequence early in the fourth quarter.

“It’s more screen-and-roll heavy,” Curry said of the small-ball action. “That’s how we’ve been effective all year, because we have the versatility and the talent, all 1 through 5 on the floor, to be able to make those plays.”

The Cavs looked like they had that versatility at times, too. They hung around with the Warriors, taking a one-point lead that James’ 34-footer. But the Warriors are obviously the best small-ball team in the league, and they outlasted the Cavs, thanks to Curry’s 17-point fourth quarter. Golden State’s new starters were a plus-14 together in a little less than 21 minutes.

“I felt that the best chance for us to stay in the game and to have a chance to win,” Cavs coach David Blatt said, “was to play it the way we played it.”

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
EFG% = (FGM + (0.5 * 3PM)) / FGA
OREB% = Percentage of available offensive rebounds obtained
TO Ratio = Turnovers per 100 possessions
FTA Rate = FTA / FGA

Narratives, depth and shots that go in


VIDEO: The Warriors’ offense comes alive in Game 4

CLEVELAND — The 2015 Finals just may be a series of attrition.

The Golden State Warriors are the deeper team here, especially with the Cleveland Cavaliers losing three opening-night starters to season-ending injuries. And Game 4 may have been the point where that depth really showed up.

There were a few other narratives coming out of the Warriors’ 103-82 victory. But they don’t hold much water.

Narrative No. 1: Steve Kerr’s lineup change got the Warriors back on track

The reality?: There may have been some intangible benefits to the change, but the new starting lineup was outscored by the Cavs, 36-35, in its 14-plus minutes in Game 4. Golden State played its best with at least one reserve on the floor.

Narrative No. 2: The Warriors moved the ball more (thanks to the lineup change)

The reality?: While the Warriors have been markedly better in the series when they pass the ball three or more times on a possession (see below), they averaged fewer passes per possession in Game 4 (2.86) than they did in their loss in Game 3 (2.92). They passed the ball three times or more on only 51 percent of their possessions, down from 57 percent on Tuesday.

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Furthermore, their two biggest baskets were unassisted Stephen Curry step-back threes — one over Matthew Dellavedova to put them on the board after an 0-7 start and another over Tristan Thompson that put them up six at the end of the third quarter after the Cavs had pulled to within one possession with a 20-10 run. He hit a third over James Jones as the Warriors put ’em away in the fourth.

Also, in 102 regular-season minutes, the new starting lineup assisted on only 50 percent of its buckets, a rate well-below the Warriors’ overall rate of 66 percent (which ranked second in the league). And in the playoffs, the Warriors’ assist rate has been highest (66.5 percent) when Andrew Bogut (among rotation regulars) has been on the floor. Replaced in the starting lineup by Andre Iguodala on Thursday, Bogut played less than three minutes.

So, while a smaller lineup can provide more floor spacing, it doesn’t necessarily result in more ball movement.

Narrative No. 3: The Warriors picked up the pace

The reality?: Not really. They had the ball just 90 times, the same number of times they had it in Game 3 and one fewer than they had it in Game 2 (through regulation). And the fastest-paced quarter on Thursday (the third) was the quarter that the Cavs won.

The Warriors averaged 11 shots in the first six seconds of the shot clock through the first three games. In Game 4, they took 12 shots in the first six seconds of the shot clock.

Narrative No. 4: The Warriors forced the ball out of LeBron James’ hands

The reality?: James did take just 22 shots, after averaging 36 through the first three games. But the Warriors weren’t demonstrably more aggressive in defending him.

Kerr: “I think we were just more active. It wasn’t a strategic change.”

Cavs coach David Blatt: “They didn’t play him significantly different. I think we were a little bit slower into our sets, and I think we didn’t always get him the ball in great spots. And that made it a little bit more arduous for him to get into position to score the ball.” (more…)

The Finals Stat: Game 4

VIDEO: Warriors run past Cavs to take Game 4

Game 4 basics
GSW CLE
Pace 91.6 91.6
OffRtg 87.9 114.6
EFG% 54.5% 35.2%
OREB% 15.4% 29.6%
TO Ratio 7.8 9.6
FTA rate 0.318 0.351

CLEVELAND — The Golden State Warriors found their mojo. They went down 7-0 early with a new starting lineup, but quickly recovered to outscore the Cleveland Cavaliers 31-17 over the final 9:36 of the first quarter and take control of the game. They never lost it and evened The Finals at 2-2, with the series heading back to Oakland for Game 5 on Sunday.

One stat stood out from the rest in the Warriors’ 103-82 victory.

The stat

57-0 – Warriors’ record (47-0 in the regular season, 10-0 in the playoffs) when leading by 15 points or more at any juncture in a game.

The context

The Western Conference champs play well when they’re ahead. And they’ve been ahead often over the course of 101 games. But they held the lead for less than 29 of the 154 minutes played in the first three games.

In Game 4, they led for the final 40 minutes. Warriors coach Steve Kerr made a lineup change to spread the floor and get more pace. And it worked, even though the new starting lineup — Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green — was outscored 36-35 in its 14-plus minutes on Thursday.

Playing small, the Warriors spread the floor and moved the ball. They got better shots and only turned the ball over seven times. The result was their best offensive game of the series, as they scored 103 points on just 90 possessions.

The pace of the game wasn’t any faster than the first three games, in part because the Cavs extended possessions with 16 offensive rebounds. The Warriors did get beat up on the glass with that small lineup. But they played with more purpose offensively, get into their offense early, and didn’t let the ball stick.

They turned the series back around and regained home-court advantage. Next stop: Oakland.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
EFG% = (FGM + (0.5 * 3PM)) / FGA
OREB% = Percentage of available offensive rebounds obtained
TO Ratio = Turnovers per 100 possessions
FTA Rate = FTA / FGA

Back and forth with Bones: Time to double LeBron


VIDEO: Mike Malone breaks down how Cleveland has dictated the pace

CLEVELAND — The Golden State Warriors’ season could be on the line Thursday in Game 4 of The Finals (9 p.m. ET, ABC). The Warriors were the best team in the league by a wide margin in the regular season, but have not looked like themselves for much of the first three games.

The series has been played at the Cleveland Cavaliers’ pace. LeBron James has dominated the series, accounting for about 2/3 of the Cavs’ points via his own points and assists. He hasn’t been all that efficient, but it’s been enough with the Cavs slowing the Warriors down and stifling their ball movement.

At first glance, it seems clear that the Warriors need to get things going offensively to tie the series before it heads back to Oakland for Game 5 on Sunday. But NBA TV analyst Brent Barry (aka “Bones”) believes that their adjustments should start on the other end of the floor.

Schuhmann: The Warriors have scored less than a point per possession through the first three games, so most people’s first thought is that they need to play better or change things up offensively. But you want to see a change on defense.

Barry: In order for their offense to find its rhythm again, they can create more opportunities by what they do defensively, which will help with their pace. How many times in Game 3 did the Cavs shoot the ball late in the shot clock?

Schuhmann: Thirty-one of their 76 shots (about 41 percent) came in the last seven seconds of the clock. For the series, they’ve taken 39 percent of their shots in the last seven seconds, which is more than twice the league average (18 percent) from the regular season.

Links: Game 3 shots with 0-4 on the clock | with 4-7 on the clock

Barry: That’s an insane number.

A lot of times, LeBron is getting the ball on the wing and they’re giving him space to the point where the defender — Harrison Barnes or Andre Iguodala — finally tries to slow him down or stand him up at this point, what Pop (Gregg Popovich) would refer to as the “Karl Malone spot,” which is on the line from the elbow to the corner. It’s one dribble away, for guys that are quick enough, to get to the basket or draw a foul.

20150611_bones_1

The Warriors’ defensive principle is Andrew Bogut or Festus Ezeli are hanging below, and when LeBron gets to this point, his defender is supposed to get to the top side, turn him baseline and we have “baseline go.”

20150611_bones_2 (more…)

Film Study: The Roll of David Lee, Part 2


VIDEO: Sekou Smith, Lang Whitaker and John Schuhmann recap Game 3

CLEVELAND — In early January of 2014, the Golden State Warriors beat the defending champion Miami Heat, scoring 123 points on 101 possessions. The Warriors weren’t an elite offense last season, but they chewed up the Heat’s aggressive pick-and-roll scheme in their only visit to Miami.

David Lee was a big key to the Warriors’ success that night. When the Heat took the ball out of Stephen Curry‘s hands with hard hedges, Lee was the guy who made plays and took advantage of the resulting four-on-three situations.

The San Antonio Spurs did similar damage against the Heat defense in The Finals each of the last two seasons, with Boris Diaw in the role of playmaking roll man. Diaw would get the ball from a trapped Tony Parker and keep the ball moving so that it eventually found an open layup or 3-pointer.

Lee was supposed to be the Warriors’ starting power forward again this season, but he suffered a strained hamstring in the final preseason game. Draymond Green took the job and never gave it back, finishing second in both Kia Defensive Player of the Year and Kia Most Improved Player voting. Lee came back to the fringe of the rotation (behind both Green and Marreese Speights) and played in only nine of the Warriors first 17 playoff games, receiving DNPs in Games 1 and 2 of The Finals.

The Cavs are defending the Warriors much like the Heat did, bringing their bigs out high to take the ball out of Curry’s hands on pick-and-rolls. They’ve also done a good job of locking and trailing on off-ball screens to keep both Curry and Klay Thompson from getting clean looks off the catch. That has put pressure on the other three Warriors on the floor to make plays and make shots.

Green coming up empty

Green can be a solid playmaker and has more range than Lee on his jumper, but has been ineffective offensively through the first three games, dealing with back pain since the middle of Game 2. He has shot 8-for-30, he has almost as many turnovers (6) as assists (8), and he’s lost confidence in his jumper, shooting 1-for-8 from 3-point range and passing up other open looks.

The Cavs don’t seem to mind leaving him open beyond the arc…

20150610_green_space_1

20150610_green_space_2

According to SportVU, Green has shot 2-for-16 on passes from Curry in the series, not exactly Dirk Nowitzki on the pick-and-pop. And his 15 drives to the basket have produced just 12 points for the Warriors, and more turnovers (2) than assists (1) from Green himself.

So Warriors coach Steve Kerr had no choice but to dust off Lee in Game 3 on Tuesday. Lee played 2:47 in the second quarter and 10:30 in the fourth, and he made a big impact.

Lee’s first pick-and-roll with Curry resulted in a dunk (for Lee himself), even though his pass off the roll was deflected Timofey Mozgov. But he didn’t really get going until the fourth quarter.

Pivot and pass

On the first Curry/Lee pick-and-roll of the fourth quarter, Mozgov was out at the 3-point line to contain Curry …

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Curry gets rid of the ball quickly and (with Iman Shumpert out high to defend Thompson), and the Warriors have a three-on-two situation …

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James Jones slides into the paint to stop Lee, who pivots and finds Andre Iguodala wide open in the corner …

20150610_curry_lee_1-3 (more…)

The Finals Stat: Game 3


VIDEO: LeBron James talks about the Cavs’ Game 3 win

Game 3 basics
GSW CLE
Pace 93.9 93.9
OffRtg 99.7 99.4
EFG% 46.7% 52.0%
OREB% 32.7% 17.6%
TO Ratio 15.3 16.6
FTA rate 0.133 0.316

CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Cavaliers got another huge game (40 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists, four steals and two blocks) from LeBron James, withstood a fourth-quarter push from the Golden State Warriors in Game 3 of The Finals on Tuesday and took a 2-1 series lead. One stat stood out from the rest in the Cavs’ 96-91 victory.

The stat

46 – Minutes played by James in Game 3, which didn’t go to overtime.

The context

With Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love out, James has had to carry a huge load. And he’s done it pretty well, averaging 41.0 points, 12.0 rebounds and 8.3 assists through the first three games. He hasn’t shot particularly well, but it’s been enough, because neither have the Warriors.

James’ usage rate (the percentage of Cavs’ possessions he uses when he’s on the floor via shots, assists, turnovers and trips to the line) in The Finals is 42.4 percent and has risen in each series of the 2015 postseason

  • First round: 31.8 percent
  • Conf. semis: 38.1 percent
  • Conf. finals: 39.1 percent
  • The Finals: 42.4 percent

He’s not a one-man show, but he’s darn close to it. Via his points and assists, James has accounted for 187 (64 percent) of the Cavs’ 291 points.

Between Games 1 and 2, after it was learned that Irving was done for the series, James was asked how many minutes he could play in a Finals game.

“40, 41, 42,” he said. “In regular season pace, I can give you all 48. I play extremely hard throughout the postseason, and I’d be cheating my team if I said I could go out and play 48 minutes. I think that’s impossible.”

Cavs coach David Blatt apparently wasn’t listening. James hasn’t played every minute of any game, but he has played 142:06 of a possible 154 minutes through the first three games. No other player has logged more than 131 minutes in the series.

On Tuesday, James played the entire third quarter, and just sat the first 1:03 of the fourth before re-entering the game, even though the Cavs had a 15-point lead at the time.

He’ll have just one day off before a huge Game 4 on Thursday.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
EFG% = (FGM + (0.5 * 3PM)) / FGA
OREB% = Percentage of available offensive rebounds obtained
TO Ratio = Turnovers per 100 possessions
FTA Rate = FTA / FGA

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. (more…)

The Finals Stat: Game 2


VIDEO: The Warriors talk about their Game 2 loss.

Game 5 basics
CLE GSW
Pace 96.7 96.7
OffRtg 85.9 90.3
EFG% 37.2% 44.6%
OREB% 28.6% 19.6%
TO Ratio 15.4 18.4
FTA rate 0.444 0.301

OAKLAND — The Finals are even and the Cleveland Cavaliers have taken home-court advantage away from the Golden State Warriors with a wild win in Game 2 on Sunday. One stat stood out from the rest in the Cavs’ 95-93 overtime victory.

The stat

26.1 – Stephen Curry’s effective field-goal percentage. He shot 5-for-23, including 2-for-15 from 3-point range.

The context

That’s his worst effective field goal percentage …

  • in 36 career playoff games.
  • in 97 total games this season.
  • in the 247 career games in which he’s attempted more than 15 shots.

When the MVP is shooting like that, you have a chance to beat the Warriors at Oracle Arena. The Warriors are 0-4 in the playoffs and 30-41 all-time when Curry has had an effective field-goal percentage of less than 40 percent.

The Cavs became the fourth road team to win in Oakland this season, and they did it without Kyrie Irving or Kevin Love.

Irving’s absence had something to do with it. Matthew Dellavedova got the start in Irving’s place and did a solid job of staying in front of Curry and contesting his shots. Eight of Curry’s 15 3-pointers were contested, according to SportVU. In Game 1, just one of his six 3s was contested.

Klay Thompson scored 34 points, but needed 28 shots to do it. And the other Warriors weren’t able to pick up the slack. As a whole, the team shot 8-for-35 (22.9 percent) from 3-point range, their fourth-worst mark in 99 total games and their worst mark in 51 home games this season.

The Cavs have shown tremendous defensive improvement in the playoffs. They just held what was the postseason’s best offense to one of its worst offensive games of the year, and it started with their defense on the MVP.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
EFG% = (FGM + (0.5 * 3PM)) / FGA
OREB% = Percentage of available offensive rebounds obtained
TO Ratio = Turnovers per 100 possessions
FTA Rate = FTA / FGA