Posts Tagged ‘Andre Iguodala’

The Finals Stat: Game 4

CLEVELAND — The Golden State Warriors are going home with a chance to win their second straight championship. The visitors scored 108 points in a very slow-paced game, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ first home loss in these playoffs, to take a 3-1 lead in The Finals and can earn another Larry O’Brien trophy with a win in Game 5 on Monday.

One stat stood out from the rest in the Warriors’ 108-97 victory in Game 4 on Friday and through the first four games of the series.

The stat

51 – Points by which the Warriors have outscored the Cavs in The Finals when playing without a center.

The context

20160610_basicsSmall ball continues to take over.

The Warriors are a minus-19 in 84 minutes with Andrew Bogut, Anderson Varejao, Festus Ezeli or Marreese Speights on the floor (not including garbage time in Games 1-3). But they’re a plus-51 in 93 minutes without a true center (and with Draymond Green at the five).

It was in Game 4 of last year’s Finals that Warriors coach Steve Kerr changed his starting lineup, replacing Bogut with Andre Iguodala. Even with the numbers showing that playing small was the way to go through three games again, Kerr stuck with Bogut this time. But Bogut’s 10 minutes were the fewest he’s played in the series and, even though both Varejao and Speights saw some time, the Warriors went small for more than 32 minutes on Friday.

It was on offense where playing small made the biggest difference through the first three games. And it was on offense where the Warriors broke out in Game 4. They shot just 36 percent on 2-point shots, but were 17-for-36 from beyond the arc.

Stephen Curry led the way on Friday with 38 points on 11-for-25 shooting, but Iguodala might be in line for another Finals MVP. Iguodala, arguably the most critical component of the Warriors’ small-ball lineups, was a game-high plus-15 in Game 4 and has the best plus-minus in The Finals (plus-54) for the second straight year.

The Cavs again started small, but couldn’t get off to a strong start like they did in Game 3. There’s no small-ball like the Warriors’ small ball, and it’s one win away from another championship.

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

Hard to be a contender if hiding weak defenders

CLEVELAND – Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love have, between them, a half dozen appearances in the NBA All-Star Game. But none on the league’s annual All-Defensive squads.

J.R. Smith is one of the streakiest and most dangerous 3-point shooters in the game, but by his own admission, he only made a commitment to the other side of the ball, as it’s called, within the last few months. He’s been in the NBA for 12 years.

Even LeBron James, who twice finished second for the Defensive Player of the Year award and strung together six top-10 finishes from 2009-2014, has slipped back in the balloting since his return to Cleveland. In the first two games of the 2016 Finals, James has been caught napping, neglecting his man or needlessly switching to create a liability in the Cavaliers’ attempts to stop (or slow down) Golden State.

Which leads to this question: Shouldn’t All-Star caliber offensive players be able to play good, if not stellar defense?

Physically, you’d think that any player who has the necessary quickness, instincts and elevation to score proficiently ought to be able to mirror some or most of that at the other end. But it isn’t always so, and in Cleveland’s case, the starting lineup is carrying two or three guys who seem overmatched defensively.

“Some of the skill sets, kids pick up when they’re younger,” Golden State assistant coach Ron Adams said over the weekend. “Some kids are two-way players – they enjoy it, they see the value of it. Some guys come up as one-way players. Having said that, everyone has different gifts. There are some guys who never commit to defense who maybe could be better.”

Adams, it should be noted, was speaking generically about NBA players. He wasn’t talking about any Cleveland players specifically, so this is a non-starter as bulletin board material heading into Game 3 Wednesday at Quicken Loans Arena.

But as a longtime defensive guru wherever he has worked, Adams has seen players who come up as AAU darlings, expected only to flash their dazzling ball skills, as often or more than he’s seen real knee-bending, shorts-tugging defensive diggers who also happen to shoot lights out.

But that doesn’t mean they can’t change.

“Look at Kyle Korver, who transformed in our [Chicago Bulls] program to be a good defensive player,” Adams said. “Before that, he was not considered an asset. Watching him in Atlanta the last couple of years, they’ll put him on guys that we never would have put him on. And he’s guarding them pretty well.

“I think it’s your mentality. Sometimes it’s how you’re raised as a basketball player. A coach you have who’s maybe more offensive- than defensive-oriented. Or maybe if he’s defensive-oriented, you’re stunted offensively and you make up for it at some point.”

Steph Curry, Golden State’s two-time Most Valuable Player winner, has taken home two of those trophies while lugging around a reputation as a willing but mediocre defender. Other Warriors – Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala – are considered to be excellent on defense.

“Ever since I was a kid, I just hated to be scored on,” Thompson said. “Playing 1-on-1 with my brothers growing up, I think I developed that instinct not to have my big brother or little brother score on me, and I just carried it over to the pros.

“The best players to ever play this game were two-way players, and that’s what makes our team so good – we’ve got so many two-way players. Guys who play both sides of the ball, both in our starters and off our bench. Why not take pride in defense? It’s 50 percent of the game.”

So your typical All-Star has the tools, at least, to play defense well?

“All of those guys have the ability,” Thompson said. “But a lot of guys have big workloads for their teams. So you’ve got to cut ’em some slack.”

Given that it’s rare for even the best teams to have five defensive craftsmen in the lineup, Adams was asked how many slackers a good team can hide or survive?

“It can’t be too many,” he said. “If you have three really good core defenders, hopefully at least one of them’s a perimeter player, then that’s not a bad formula.

“You try to weave in the weaker defenders. Hide them in certain cases. Help them, so they have confidence they’re not going to be exposed.”

Adams gave credit to Mark Jackson, Golden State’s coach before Steve Kerr took over in 2014-15, with laying a strong defensive foundation.

“We had good defensive receptivity when we came in,” Adams said. “But you have to have guys who have defensive chips in ’em. That’s really the key thing, I think. It’s very hard to play good team defense without some defenders who have that innate ability or that mindset toward playing defense – and are good at it.

“You take Oklahoma City, they have a lot of good defenders on their team and they have a defensive mindset. Then Kevin [Durant] really committed to defense in that last series and when he does that, they’re fantastic.”

Film Study: Cavs caught leaning

CLEVELAND — Facing an opponent that’s both a better offensive and defensive team, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ margin for error in The Finals is thin.

And through two games, there have been a lot of errors.

In Game 2, with Stephen Curry limited to less than 20 minutes through the first three quarters, the Cavs seemingly had an opportunity to capitalize. In the regular season, the Warriors were outscored with Curry off the floor, scoring 13.8 fewer points per 100 possessions than they did when he was in the game.

But the key moments on Sunday were in those minutes when Curry was on the bench, they didn’t go in Cleveland’s favor, and it was often about that thin margin for error.

Game 2 really turned early in the second quarter with Curry taking his standard rest. The Cavs’ second unit of Matthew Dellavedova, Iman Shumpert, Richard Jefferson, LeBron James and Channing Frye (which had been so deadly through the first three rounds) had seemingly taken control of the game with a 7-0 run.

But against the Warriors, one mistake can kill you. And a big defensive mistake put a quick end to that 7-0 run.

Golden State ran a play for Klay Thompson to run through two screens on the right side of the floor…


James pulled his man (Harrison Barnes) toward the baseline, trying to give Shumpert space to chase Thompson through the screens, but Shumpert ran right into James and Barnes…


The result: A wide-open three for a great shooter…


That three was the start of a 9-0 run for Golden State that gave them the lead for good. Even with the guy who hit 400 3s this season on the bench, the defending champs still had a lethal 3-point threat on the floor. And other possessions with Curry on the bench were more about the threat than the 3 itself.

After a transition bucket, a Cleveland timeout, and a Dellavedova miss, it was the threat of a Thompson 3 that produced a dunk for Barnes. With Barnes looking to set a screen for Thompson…


Frye got caught leaning and Barnes slipped behind him…


Midway through the third quarter, with Curry back on the bench with four fouls, Leandro Barbosa and Thompson run a baseline exchange in transition…


A miscommunication between Jefferson and J.R. Smith, along with the threat of a Thompson catch-and-shoot 3, results in another layup for the other guy involved in the play…


On the following possession, James turns his head to check on Thompson coming off a screen from Draymond Green


And this time it’s Green who slips back-door for another layup…


The opposite-side view shows that James’ body is even with Green’s as Andre Iguodala begins to make the pass, but he’s leaning just enough for Green to beat him to the basket and for Iguodala to thread the needle…


When your opponent was the first team in NBA history to make 1,000 3s, you have to respect that threat. But what makes the Warriors great is their ability to leverage that threat to get even better shots and pick you apart if your defense isn’t perfect. The Cavs don’t have to make a huge mistake to get beat. They only need to lean in the wrong direction.

Iguodala is particularly good at reading the defense and making the right decision with the ball, but Golden State has multiple guys who can make those passes and great synergy, whether the MVP is on the floor or not. The passer knows where the cutter is going before he makes his move. One possible solution for Cleveland is more pressure on the ball to make those passes more difficult to see and execute.

It’s easy to call the Warriors a “jump-shooting team.” But they ranked sixth in field goal percentage in the restricted area and 14th in the percentage of their shots that come from there.

There are a lot of teams that depend on jump shots more than the defending champs. But there are none that leverage them as well.

Morning shootaround — June 6

Green delivers in Game 2 | Cavaliers heart, toughness questioned | LeBron: ‘I have to be better’ | Warriors breezing into history | Report: Rubio open to trade

No. 1: Green is money for Warriors in Game 2 winDraymond Green‘s role for the Golden State Warriors is clearly defined. The All-Star forward serves as the emotional and vocal leader for the world champions, a defensive-minded hybrid point forward/center capable of playing the role of rim protector and facilitator in the same sequence. But Green showed off his splashy side in the Warriors’ Game 2 blowout win over the Cleveland Cavaliers Sunday at Oracle Arena. Our very own Scott Howard-Cooper describes the Day Day takeover:

This didn’t earn him a flagrant foul, maybe even an ejection, and a suspension for the next game? Seriously?

Draymond Green openly pummeled Cleveland, the team and the city, on Sunday. He stepped on their throat, belted away their response plans with a tight fist, kicked them where it hurts and yet not one disciplinary whistle from referees to slow the rampage. It was like no one could stop him.

There were about 20,000 people watching in person and millions more on TV — they are all witnesses — though maybe not the Cavaliers, since they undoubtedly turned away in disgust and shame. And the way everyone around Green cheered the intentional infliction of pain. He hit back-to-back three-pointers in the second quarter, following a make from behind the arc about four minutes earlier, and Oracle Arena erupted.

The Warriors, too. With Green leading the charge, they went from trailing 28-27 to leading 52-37 to turn Game 2 of the Finals into an early blowout and eventually a 110-77 win. When the smoke cleared, the man facing the most unique of scrutiny had 28 points, including five three-pointers, seven rebounds and five assists against one turnover.

Green is one flagrant-foul point from a suspension and/or two technicals away from being forced to sit out a game ever since his emotions became the focus of attention in the Western Conference finals against Oklahoma City. Or, rather, the focus of negative attention. His energy and role as a locker-room leader, even in last season’s championship despite while in just a third-year pro, has long been credited as a driving force for Golden State.

These playoffs, though, are when the emotions became a problem and maybe even a pressing problem. Kicking the Thunder’s Steven Adams in the groin — inadvertently, Green insisted repeatedly — could have cost the Warriors their starting power forward and small-ball center for a game at the very moment Golden State was fighting for survival. And then, after the league decided against a suspension, Green got a technical in the third quarter of Game 5 of the West finals.

But he has been the personification of composure since. Zero flagrants, zero techs in his last four-plus playoff games. In that time, the Warriors became only the 10th team to ever rally from a 3-1 deficit in the playoffs and now own a 2-0 lead against the Cavaliers in The Finals. Twenty-two assists against nine turnovers over the same time.

“Draymond does everything for us,” coach Steve Kerr said. “He defends. When we play our small lineup, he’s our rim protector. It’s a tough job in this series because he has to guard Kevin Love, who is usually spaced out at the three-point line. So he’s got to pick his spots, how to help and try not to stray too far away from Love and still be able to help out on LeBron. So it’s a difficult job. But I thought Draymond was great. Obviously he knocked down his three-point shots tonight, which is just a bonus. But he’s always one of our most important players and had a heck of a game.”



Morning shootaround — June 5

Hornacek gets the point | Wall still climbing | Work ahead for Presti | Too much LeBron? | The Ali Effect

No. 1: Hornacek emphasizes getting the point — During the most productive part of his playing career, Jeff Hornacek ran with John Stockton in Utah. During his only other stint as a head coach, he was able to choose from Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas on any given night. Now that he’s taken over on the bench with the Knicks, it’s sounding like Hornacek has a point guard at the top of his wish list in New York, says Marc Berman of the New York Post:

“We have a young player that’s obviously inexperienced after his first year,’’ Hornacek said at Friday’s press conference. “He’ll get better and better. Jose is kind of later in his career. If we can find a middle guy to bridge those two guys, it would be good. There’s a lot of guys out there. I’m sure Phil [Jackson, team president] and Steve [Mills, general manager] are looking at everything.’’

“If there’s something out there in free agency to bring in that guy, in between, that can help guide the younger guard and assist the older point guard, that would make the team better,’’ Hornacek added.

It’s not a strong crop of free-agent point guards, with Memphis’ Mike Conley leading the top tier. Resurgent Rajon Rondo, Carmelo Anthony’s choice, is next, but some in the organization believe he hangs onto the ball too much. Brandon Jennings, D.J. Augustin, Ty Lawson, Jeremy Lin, Miami’s unsung Tyler Johnson, Aaron Brooks and Mario Chalmers are also free agents. Sources have indicated the Knicks consider Lawson’s off-court issues too big a risk and Lin’s defense too gaping.



Film Study: Warriors double and recover

OAKLAND — The Cleveland Cavaliers arrived at The Finals as the most efficient offensive team in the playoffs by a wide margin, having scored more than 116 points per 100 possessions through the first three rounds. And they did it against three above-average defensive teams, including the team — Atlanta — that had the league’s best defense after Christmas.

In Game 1 on Thursday though, the Cavs were held under a point per possession for just the second time in the postseason. They shot 38 percent and had as many turnovers (17) as assists. And it was a good time to remember that the Golden State Warriors can be the best defensive team in the league when they’re locked in.

The key to the Warriors’ defensive success is their versatility, having multiple guys who can defend multiple guys. And on Thursday, the defending champs switched screens liberally in order to keep the Cavs in front of them.

That stifled Cleveland’s ball movement and had the Cavs trying to exploit one-on-one matchups. But the Warriors also double-teamed liberally and were quick to help whenever the Cavs got near the basket, where they shot just 17-for-35.

Those 35 attempts in the restricted area were a postseason high for the Cavs. And interestingly, one of the three times they topped that number in the regular season was their Christmas game at Golden State, when they shot 16-for-40 in the restricted area.

“I thought we did a good job of challenging a lot of shots,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Friday. “I thought they missed a couple that they would normally make, but all in all it was a good defensive effort.”

The Cavs can beat you both at the basket and from beyond the arc. In Game 1 of the conference finals, the Toronto Raptors focused on slowing down Cleveland’s 3-point shooting and gave up too many layups. On Thursday, the Warriors clearly made protecting the paint their No. 1 priority.

Here’s LeBron James backing down Stephen Curry after a switch, with both Festus Ezeli and Draymond Green (who’s leaving Kevin Love alone in the opposite corner) ready to help at the basket.


Love missed an open corner three.

“When Steph switches on to him,” Kerr said, “he’s just got to do his best to stay in front, and we’ve got to help as much as we can, without giving up open threes. It’s much easier said than done, so we’re just doing our best.”

Three possessions later, James was backing down Klay Thompson after another switch, with Ezeli and Green again moving into position to help…


James has always been one of the league’s best finishers. But according to SportVU, his field goal percentage at the rim drops from 68 percent when there’s one defender there to 58 percent when there’s two or more. And his first instinct when he sees a second defender is to pass the ball.

“They’re switching 1 through 5,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said, “and when LeBron gets the ball in the post, they’re coming to double team. Also, when he gets the mismatch and he drives the basketball, they’re all collapsing. And we’ve got to make open 3s.”

But when the Warriors prioritize protecting the rim, it doesn’t mean that they’re willing to give up open 3s. All the attention that James was drawing after switches should have resulted in more open looks for his teammates, but the Warriors were on a string defensively and Green, in particular, did a great job of recovering out to his man after helping in the paint.

Here he is closing out on Love just two seconds after helping on James under the basket …


Result: A Kyrie Irving isolation and a missed step-back jumper.

On the following possession, Green left Love to help on a Tristan Thompson roll to the basket …


He blocked Thompson at the rim, leading to a 24-second violation.

Throughout the game, the Warriors were quick to send double-teams on post-ups …




And also load up the strong side with an extra defender …


The Cavs, more often than not, were unable to take advantage. The Warriors rotations were generally great. But also, according to SportVU, 19 of Cleveland’s 21 3-point attempts were uncontested. The Cavs shot 37 percent (7-for-19) on those shots, down from a mark of 46 percent through the first three rounds.

Channing Frye was 24-for-40 (60 percent) on uncontested 3s before Thursday, but got just one look at one in Game 1. Cleveland didn’t use its floor-spacing lineups as much as it had in previous series. Thompson’s 31 minutes were the most he’s played since Game 1 of the conference semifinals and Frye’s seven minutes (including 2:24 of garbage time) were the fewest he’s played since that same game.

That was a clear sacrifice of offense for better defense. Thompson isn’t exactly Bill Russell out there, but Frye would have an even harder time keeping up with the Warriors’ ball and player movement. When Golden State used Green at the five against the Cavs’ second unit, Lue sat Frye down.

The question for Lue is whether Frye can make up for his defensive issues by making the Warriors pay for loading up on James. On Friday, Lue hinted that we will see more minutes for Frye in Game 2 on Sunday.

“We have to get more shooting out on the floor to try to keep those guys at home on the defensive end,” Lue said. “They do a good job of having a guy guard a ball and four guys are in the paint. So Channing will give us some spacing out on the floor. And just defensively, we’ve got to be able to make sure we have him on the right matchup.”

James believes the Cavs can’t waste time as their exploring those post-switch mismatches. Quicker decisions can produce more open shots.

“When you’re out there and they’re switching and you have a one-on-one matchup,” James said, “I think quick moves and not holding it as long is good. I think when you keep the ball on one side for too long and you’re pounding and pounding and pounding, then that can — too much of that won’t result in good basketball. It won’t result in good rhythm for everyone out on the floor.

“So there is a fine line. I’m okay with us having some isolation basketball if we’re going quick. But we’re holding the ball and we’re just staring down the defense and we’re staring down the ball, then it can become a problem for us.”

It wasn’t as big of a problem against their Eastern Conference opponents, who had to pick their poison, either dying by paint points or by 3s. The Warriors weren’t as highly ranked defensively as the Hawks were in the regular season, but they had the league’s No. 1 defense a year ago, they shut down the Cavs’ offense in last year’s Finals, and no team is more qualified to defend both the basket and the 3-point line.

“You have to be on a string,” Andre Iguodala said. “You have to know your rotations. You have to know where you want the ball to go, and you kind of influence the ball to go there. Meaning if you got a great shooter in the corner, you might want to influence the ball to go to the wing and, either we’re stunting or we’re X-ing out. It’s the shell defensive principles, but you got to have five guys on the same page. You got to be communicating in order for it to work.”

Most of Game 1 was a clinic in just that.

Lue doesn’t see the need for change

VIDEO: Tyronn Lue, Kyrie Irving and LeBron James discuss Game 1 of The Finals and what needs to change in Game 2

OAKLAND — Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue is doing his best to block out the white noise after his team’s 15-point loss to the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of The Finals.

Everybody, and I mean everybody has a suggestion, a tweak Lue can try, an adjustment he can make to ensure that his team doesn’t get overwhelmed down the stretch in Game 2.

But for everything the world thinks he needs to change, Lue is confident in the game plan used in Game 1. It was the execution that was the problem. After watching the film from Game 1, Lue said his team got the things they wanted — mismatches on the offensive end, wide-open looks, countless opportunities in and around the rim and a pace, for the most part, that suited his crew.

LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love all showed up and had an impact. Sure, the bench was outscored 45-10, something no one could prepare for, but otherwise Lue liked what he saw in terms of the opportunities that presented themselves.

So forgive the first-year coach, the one who has been on this stage before as a player, for resisting the need to scrap the plan for something new after just one game.

“I don’t see a reason for change,” Lue said Friday. “I think the way they play defense, they switch 1 through 5, and it makes you play one-on-one basketball. So your movement with floppy stuff coming off of pin-downs, they just switch out and try to deny those passes. And then you’ve got to post Kevin, you’ve got to post LeBron against those mismatches. So I don’t see any reason for change. We’ve just got to convert.”

Lue’s belief in what the Cavaliers are doing, the same things that led to them blowing through the Eastern Conference playoffs to return here for a second straight season, won’t be enough for the masses.

The isolation sets he knew would come with the Warriors’ switching on defense, came to fruition. The stagnant offensive stretches that comes from indecisiveness with the ball were expected as well. Lue said his team obviously has to handle those situations better. They have to push the pace, be more decisive and finish with authority, whether they are playing isolation basketball or playing with pace.

James agrees.

“Coach has given us a game plan, and we need to execute it,” James said. “If Coach feels like we need to play faster, then we do. We’ve got to push the tempo a little bit more offensively, see if we can get down, get some easy baskets and get to the flow of our game. It’s been a good thing for us throughout the whole season once Coach Lue took over, so we need to do that.”

He did, however, acknowledge the narrow space that has to be navigated playing that way.

“It’s a fine line. When you’re out there and they’re switching and you have a one-on-one matchup, I think quick moves and not holding it as long is good,” James said. “I think when you keep the ball on one side for too long and you’re pounding and pounding and pounding, then that can — too much of that won’t result in good basketball. It won’t result in good rhythm for everyone out on the floor.

“So there is a fine line. I’m okay with us having some isolation basketball if we’re going quick. But we’re holding the ball and we’re just staring down the defense and we’re staring down the ball, then it can become a problem for us.”

Squandering those opportunities in a game where Warriors’ leading stars and leading scorers Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combine for just 20 points, as they did in Game 1, is simply not a recipe for success.

That’s why Lue continues to harp on playing at a faster pace and to get up and down the floor, where the Cavaliers can take advantage of their strengths in that realm.

“I just think it has to be more of a fast-paced controlled tempo, if that makes any sense,” Irving said. “With us, I think that’s our missed opportunities and we were just really, really rushing. We were getting to where we like to go, but we like to play inside out, but if the outside shot is falling for us, we’re going to stick with it.

“But the ball was going into the post a lot and we watched film and we’re seeing some weak side action that we can be better at. It’s just quick, decisive decisions. We make plays, other guys get shots and we get back on defense. I think last night a few times in the post, guys were getting doubled, and we’ve got to be ready to make plays on the weak side for our teammates.”

Morning shootaround — June 3


LeBron: ‘Better ingredients’ needed in Game 2 | George plans to give Team USA tryouts ‘a shot’ | Warriors sound off on Dellavedova’s foul | Report: Sixers, Hawks discussing trade

No. 1: LeBron: Cavs need ‘better ingredients’ in Game 2 The Cleveland Cavaliers had a solid chance to win Game 1 of The Finals, what with Golden State’s star guard tandem of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combining for 20 points on 8-for-27 shooting. But Cleveland missed its chance (in large part because of Golden State’s stellar bench play) and is in a 1-0 series hole. Joe Vardon of has more on the loss and what Cavs star LeBron James expects from his team come Game 2:

“We will have a better game plan going into Game 2 for sure offensively,” James said, commenting on Cleveland’s 17 assists on 32 baskets and describing the so-so as a lack of continuous ball movement. “Sometimes your offense dictates your defense, and the fact that we had 17 turnovers and that led to 25 points is not a good ingredient for our offense for sure.”

But just a short while earlier, at that same podium in the bowels of the defending champs’ arena, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue took a decidedly different tone.

“We didn’t finish around the basket, so we’ve just got to keep playing the same way we were playing,” Lue said. “I thought we were fine. I feel good about how we played.”

The star player is ripping the ingredients and the coach is OK with how the meal was cooked, even if it came out a little raw. If this were last season, we’d be talking about the obvious disconnect between James and David Blatt, about the Cavs’ floor general taking yet another swipe at his beleaguered coach.

This season, in these Finals, with James trusting the cool-under-pressure Lue, we’ll instead chalk this up to just two men choosing different ways to say everything will be better in Game 2. And they would know: Neither James nor Lue has ever won a Finals in which their teams won the first game.

Lue’s 2001 Los Angeles Lakers lost Game 1 to the 76ers before winning the next four (when the Lakers won the 2000 Finals, including Game 1, Lue was not active for any playoff games). Both of James’ titles with the Heat came after losng Game 1.

James, of course, is 2-4 all-time in the Finals, and he’s only won Game 1 once. In all that time, his teams have only gone down 2-0 in the Finals once, and that was when the Spurs swept the Cavs in 2007.

All of that is to say there is reason to suspect Cleveland will indeed have it together come Sunday, perhaps evening the series at one like it did last season.

Obviously, something has to be different when this series resumes in two days, or it’s going to be rather short. The bench scoring and defense, the turnovers, the short shots, the ball movement, sure. But what else?

James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love were all productive if not efficient. James nearly had a triple double with 23 points, 12 rebounds, and nine assists; Irving scored 26 and Love contributed 17 points and 13 rebounds. But none of them shot above 50 percent from the floor and they committed 11 turnovers between them.

Whichever changes James seeks, there was no panic either from him or Lue afterwards. Of course there wasn’t. As previously mentioned, they’ve been here before, plenty of times, and it was unrealistic to suspect that the Cavs could win this in a short series.

When it comes to track records, though, the Cavs have one with the Warriors that is troublesome. They’ve now dropped six in a row to Golden State, dating back to last year’s Finals.

“This is the same team who we had down 1-0 last year and they hit us twice,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said. “Obviously last year in The Finals I think we won three in a row and kind of figured that out. And then this year, I mean, well, both games they didn’t even have the same coach that they have now. Not that I’m blaming anything on David Blatt, I don’t know their situation. But there’s been a lot of changes to this team. They’re not even really playing the same style of basketball they were before.

“They’re used to winning,” Green said. “They’re going to battle, they’re going to compete, and they’re super talented. So you can’t come out saying, oh, we beat them six in a row, we’re good. Absolutely not.”

The Finals Live Blog — Game 1

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Draymond from the corner.

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OAKLAND  — The Cleveland Cavaliers don’t want you to call it a rematch of the 2015 Finals. They insist this year’s team is so drastically different at this stage of the season that it’s unfair to call this series against the Golden State Warriors a “rematch.”

Kevin Love is healthy. Kyrie Irving, who went down late in Game 1 last year with a cracked knee cap and missed the remainder of the series, is back and healthy. LeBron James is certainly healthy and rested after the Cavaliers smashed their way through the Eastern Conference finals.

But what is this if it’s not a rematch?

The same two teams going at for the second straight season for the Larry O’Brien Trophy … sounds like a rematch to me. I bet it sounds like a rematch to the reigning two-time (and this time unanimous) KIA MVP Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson and Draymond Green (that’s him up top in black and white) and the rest of the champion Warriors and the raucous crowd here filling up Oracle Arena as we get closer to tip off of Game 1 of these 2016 Finals.

Just call it what it is.

Round 2.

The Remix.

Part II.

#NBAFinals — Dubs-Cavs II

It’s a rematch. And it’s the one we all wanted. It’s okay to admit it now that they’ve both made it back here.

Don’t tell Harrison Barnes, who is back in the starting lineup for the Warriors, that it’s not a rematch.


There are all sorts of lineup and rotation tweaks that will determine this series, which is exactly what you want in #NBAFinals


Keep an eye on the long ball tonight and throughout this series!


Waiting on John Legend to do his thing with the anthem now …


Still trying to figure out who is playing the villain in this series?


C’mon man, leave Mark Jackson alone!


Full circle for Coach Kerr and Coach Lue …


Great question!


If he can’t the Cavs are in for a rough ride.


I said John Legend on the vocals with the anthem …


Play the percentages, huh? This is the #NBAFinals!


Sooner or later someone is going to learn switching these bigs on to Steph!


Love off the bench? Nah!


Just in case you were wondering …


Whoop, whoop!


Whenever he feels like it, folks!


Y’all aren’t tired from that 7-gamer against the Thunder in the conference finals?


It’s okay to say it loud.


Kind of like last time.






And the Razzie goes to … Day Day Green!


WARRIORS 28, CAVALIERS 24 at the end of the first.

Solid stuff from both sides. Warriors don’t look fatigued from the conference finals and the Cavaliers didn’t show much rust from their layoff.


Important stretch coming up. Seriously.




Hustle Hard!


Don’t we all …


Bench mob doing the job!


It does have a throwback feel to it.


Barbosa = Ballin’


Flop warning for Ken Mauer.


Barbosa, the real MVP?


They shoot the ball so well we often forget this Warriors team plays some wicked defense!


Another angle …




They call it bully ball!


Plenty of game left to play. Plenty.


It usually works better when the Splash Brothers are out there together.


Dubs up 52-43 at the half.





Among other things … #SHADE


More #SHADE …


Somebody say something else about Larry Hughes and see what happens #StLouisStandUp


Sloppy stuff from the Dubs and the Cavs crawling back into this thing down 56-52 with 8:03 to play. Kerr needed a timeout.


Anybody seen the SPLASH BROTHERS?


It’s not all smiles with Steve Kerr!


Cavs battling their way back into this thing the hard way.


Interesting flashback …


Delly with a blow down low on Iguodala … ouch!


WARRIORS 74, CAVALIERS 68 after a brief power outage for the home team late in the third quarter.

Steph is not feeling the fire so far tonight …

And the Cavs are still up 78-68 with 11:10 to play. Helps when the reigning Finals MVP  and the bench crew are rolling.




Livingston is the old man at the park playing in cut-off jean shorts who only has a mid-range game and yet you cannot stop him!


Warriors up 88-72 with 8:34 to play and they have three guys off the bench in double figures while The Splash Brothers struggle with fouls and missed shots. #StrengthInNumbers, eh?





Showtime Warriors in the building. Steph with the no-look to Iguodala for the jam. Sick. 96-76 Dubs with 5:43 to play.


Podium Game for Livingston …


Fair or foul?


Just when thing started to get interesting down the stretch … #SPLASH



Bench Brothers carry the Splash Brothers to the finish line in Game 1.



This year, James’ jumper is less necessary than reliable

OAKLAND — The comings and goings of LeBron James‘ jump shot has been a fascinating study over the course of his career.

There have been times where James has been a competent shooter. And there have been big games that he’s won with his jumper. But more often than not, the greatness of James is about how much he’s done for his team’s offense despite an inconsistent jump shot.

In 2012, James won his first championship and was named Finals MVP, averaging 28.6 points, 10.2 rebounds and 7.4 assists over five games against the Oklahoma City Thunder. In that series, he made just seven (18 percent) of his 38 shots from outside the paint.

A year earlier, the Dallas Mavericks successfully employed a zone defense to keep James out of the paint. In ’13 and ’14, the San Antonio Spurs generally played James soft on the perimeter to force him into being a jump-shooter as much as possible. Last year, Andre Iguodala did the same, and James shot 24-for-90 (27 percent) from outside the paint in The Finals.

This year, for James to take 90 shots against the Warriors from outside the paint at the rate he’s been shooting them thus far in the playoffs (one for every 4:05 he’s on the floor), he’d have to average 66 minutes per game over a seven-game series. As cool as it would be to see seven games that went to four or more overtimes, that’s probably not going to happen.

There was a point this season where James was the worst high-volume jump-shooter in the league. He improved from the outside after that, but still finished with his worst field goal percentage from outside the paint in nine years.

But at the same time, James was less reliant on his jump shot than ever before. In the regular season, James took just 42 percent of his shots from outside the paint, the lowest rate in his career.


That trend has continued in the playoffs, where James has taken only 41 percent of his shots from outside the paint. For the first time in his career, in either the regular season or playoffs, he has taken more than half of his shots from the restricted area, where he’s long been one of the league’s best finishers.


Part of that is who James is on the floor with. The Cavs have only one non-shooting big — Tristan Thompson — in their rotation, so James has been playing with either three or four shooters around him.

The breakdown: James has played 65 percent of his minutes with Thompson or Timofey Mozgov (eight total minutes) on the floor and 35 percent with four shooters.

With how he’s being complemented these days, James is often the Cavs’ offensive “center.” According to Synergy Sports play type tracking, James’ post-up possessions are down from last postseason, but his possessions as the roll man on a pick-and-roll are way up.

Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey is probably still having nightmares about the play the Cavs ran several times in a row in the fourth quarter of Game 4 of the conference finals. It featured James as a passer at the elbow and then as the roll man after a hand-off to Matthew Dellavedova.

James’ improved supporting cast makes the task of defending him even tougher. Not only are Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love healthy, but the lineup the Cavs put on the floor to start the second and fourth quarters — Dellavedova, Iman Shumpert, Richard Jefferson, James and Channing Frye — has been near impossible to guard, in part because of how it takes advantage of James’ ability to be some sort of point guard/center hybrid.

Casey was an assistant on that Mavs team that zoned up the Heat in 2011. But during the conference finals, there was no point in going back to the tape to see what worked five years earlier. James is a different player now, and he has a different supporting cast.

“This team has far more 3-point shooters than that 2011 team did,” Casey said.

“When you have shooters like he has, he’s like a quarterback,” Raptors forward DeMarre Carroll added. “I feel if you play soft on him, you just allow him to survey the floor.”

No player throws cross-court passes like James, who has 59 assists (to seven different teammates) on 3-pointers in these playoffs, 12 more than any other player. Give him space, and he won’t use it to shoot, but rather to pick your defense apart with his passing.

But if you play tight, you run the risk of getting beat off the dribble. And if James gets into the paint, he’s either finishing at the basket or drawing help and finding a guy who’s even more open than he was before the drive.

“When he’s attacking the basket,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said, “that opens up everything else for our 3-point shooters, for Tristan getting dunks, Kevin getting put-backs and layups. He’s just taking what the defense gives him.”

So, when The Finals tip off Thursday (9 p.m. ET, ABC), the Warriors will know that the task of defending James is much tougher than it was a year ago, no matter how well he shoots from the outside.

“We have to be ready to cover a lot of the floor and 3-point shooting bigs in Frye and Love, so we can’t lose sight of them,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Wednesday. “But we’ve got to try to protect the rim as well, and that’s a big challenge. Just like teams that play us with our shooting and spacing, it’s hard to cover all that court.

“Last year we generally were playing against two bigs, Mozgov and Thompson, so we were able to help more around the paint and force more jump shots. And it will be much more difficult now with Frye and Love. So our tactics will have to change a little bit.”

“It’s hard to force a guy to one thing,” Iguodala said about defending James. “You try to take him out of his comfort zones more than anything. And then it’s five guys, defensively, being on the same page, knowing where the rotations are going to be. And then communicating is probably the biggest part.”

Defense is always about all five guys. But the Cavs’ ability to put four shooters around James means that Iguodala’s teammates can’t be in the same position to help as they were last year. They need to stay closer to Cleveland’s shooters, or James will have the ball in the shooter’s pocket before they have time to recover.

“I think that’s where he’s most dangerous,” Draymond Green said. “Obviously, he can score the basketball. But he’s most dangerous as a facilitator. So we always have to be aware of that. He’ll find guys anywhere.”

James’ jumper may come and go in the next 2 1/2 weeks. But the comings and goings of James’ jumper have never mattered less.