Posts Tagged ‘Cleveland Cavaliers’

Thompson thrives as Finals starter, Cavaliers’ ‘heart and soul’

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio – In this year’s balloting for the Kia Sixth Man of the Year Award, Tristan Thompson finished 10th. Which suggests that on a team comprised entirely of Sixth Men, Thompson might have trouble getting off the bench at all.

And yet here he is in his second consecutive Finals, and not just as a reserve or even a super-sub but starting. Eight of the players who finished ahead of Thompson in the Sixth Man voting are done, prepping for next season already, while Andre Iguodala (the runner-up for the award) and Thompson still are battling for the jewelry that will commemorate this one.

Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue was a little surprised when Thompson received such little consideration for the Sixth Man, but Lue likely dissuaded some voters when — days before the regular season ended — he announced to the world that Thompson would start the rest of the way and through the playoffs for the Cavaliers.

The way they were playing by then — quicker, with pace and a focus on the 3-point line — stripped value from Timofey Mozgov, the Cavs’ traditional big man. So Lue instead went with Thompson, whose work when pressed into a starting job last postseason earned him a five-year, $82 million contract and the backing of LeBron James.

This time, Thompson’s work might help earn him and his teammates rings, along with a special status in NBA history: the first team to win The Finals after falling behind 3-1.

“He’s been a beast for us all year,” James said after Cleveland’s shootaround Thursday before tonight’s Game 6 (9 ET, ABC). “He gives us extra opportunities. He gives us a paint presence and we need it from him.”

While Golden State has been adjusting to personnel changes in the middle — pocket big Draymond Green was suspended from Game 5 and now starting center Andrew Bogut will miss Games 6 and (if necessary) Game 7 with a knee injury — Thompson has been a constant for the Cavs. He has posted double-doubles in the past four games and grabbed at least 10 boards in nine of his 11 career Finals games.

His increased role has led to bigger stats — 9.8 points and 11.8 rebounds in 36.2 minutes in two Finals series so far — without any change in job description. Lue called Thompson “the heart and soul” of the Cavaliers after Game 3, lauding his aggressiveness and energy in chasing down offensive rebounds.

“It’s a big-time compliment. I definitely appreciate that, Coach Lue,” Thompson said. “But for me, [it’s] just do my job in a new starting role. Having a high motor, being active, just bringing that energy and this spark every night.”

Thompson drew some chuckles from reporters when he shared his typical pregame routine. While James has been talking about his game-day viewings of ‘The Godfather” movies, Thomspon is an HGTV junkie.

“It’s relaxing for the brain,” Thompson said of the network, known for real estate-and-renovation shows. He added, though, that he would give an “all-out shout-out” until HGTV does a segment on his house.

As far as not shrinking in a big moment, considering how few big moments Thompson and the Cavs had before James came back to Cleveland in July 2014, the 6-foot-9 native of Toronto said: ” Go out there and play and — who gives a crap? — just go out there and play.”

Morning shootaround — June 16

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Green’s simple to-do list for Game 6 | Gasol still weighing Olympics decision | Report: Cavs’ Smith to test free agencyOkafor learns from trying rookie season

No. 1: Green’s to-do list for Game 6 is simple — Yesterday, Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green made his first comments since being suspended for Game 5 of The Finals. He minced no words about how sorry he was for drawing a suspension and hurting his team in the process, going as far as to say “I have a strong belief that if I play in Game 5, we win.” That didn’t happen and as Game 6 nears (9 p.m. ET, ABC), Green has to keep his emotions in check — and do some other things — if Golden State is to celebrate the anniversary of last season’s title with another one, writes Marcus Thompson II of the Bay Area News Group:

Wednesday, Green’s focus was far away from the flagrant foul points, any discussion about the validity of the suspension, or the back-and-forth with LeBron James and himself. His heart and mind seemed to be set on Game 6, the Warriors’ second chance to clinch an NBA title. That’s how he makes this all truly go away.

How does Green make amends? The path is multifaceted. It begins with utmost composure.

The most important thing Green can do Thursday is avoid a flagrant foul. No matter what happens, he will need to be on the floor if Game 7 is necessary in these NBA Finals. That means if the Warriors are having a rough time and things are getting away from them, as has been the case on the road in these playoffs, Green can’t do anything out of frustration.

No flailing. No retaliations. No hard fouls. Any behavior that might possibly be construed as flagrant should be staunchly avoided. He will have to swallow his pride. If James steps over him, if Matthew Dellavedova dives at his knees, if someone from the Cavaliers hits him in the crotch — which would certainly make fans in Oklahoma City and Cleveland tip a cap to karma — Green cannot respond.

Especially with Andrew Bogut out for six to eight weeks with a left knee injury, Green absolutely must make sure he is available for Game 7 if the Warriors need it.

“It was brutal, man,” Green said. “It was one of the weirdest days ever for me. … My emotions were all over the place. At times, I was excited. At times, I was frustrated. At times, I was down. It was just all over the place, an emotional roller coaster that day.”

If missing Game 5 was torturous, imagine Green missing a do-or-die finale to the Finals. He watched the last Warriors game from an A’s suite with friend Marshawn Lynch and general manager Bob Myers by his side. If he misses another game, they will need Lynch there as muscle for the intervention.

But if Green plays his best, there is a good chance the Warriors won’t need a Game 7. In addition to composure, part of his amends would be anchoring the Warriors defense.

Coach Steve Kerr will have little choice but to play Green extended minutes at center. Unless Festus Ezeli is having one of his good nights, which hasn’t happened often in these playoffs, the Warriors don’t have another option.

Kerr has gone to Anderson Varejao and James Michael McAdoo, desperately searching for some big man help. Marreese Speights has hurt the defense when he has been in, limiting his stints on the floor.

After the offensive explosion from LeBron James and Kyrie Irving in Game 5, the Warriors have to be on point defensively. And that means Green being on point.

We’ve seen how he can dominate a game on that end of the court, especially when he’s bouncing back.

Bogut out for remainder of Finals

CLEVELAND — The Golden State Warriors announced Wednesday that starting center Andrew Bogut is out for the remainder of The Finals, having suffered multiple bone bruises to his left knee in a collision with the Cleveland Cavaliers’ J.R. Smith early in the third quarter of Game 5 on Monday. Bogut’s expected recovery time is 6-8 weeks.

“It’s bad news for our team,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Wednesday. “Boges has made an impact in this series. First couple of games, I thought he was really impactful. Last two, we played him fewer minutes, but still he’s a defensive presence at the rim, a rebounder, and a great passer. So we’ll miss the minutes he’s been giving us.”

Bogut averaged just 12 minutes per game in The Finals and saw his playing time decrease in each game. He scored 10 points in Game 1 and blocked five shots in Game 2, but has been largely ineffective otherwise. The Warriors have been at their best playing small, which they were unable to do much with Draymond Green suspended for Game 5.

20160615_gsw_lineups

They could start a lineup of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes and Green, which started the last three games of last year’s Finals and is a plus-14 in 29 minutes in this series.

“That will be a decision Coach has to make, how we’re going to start,” Curry said. “I do know when we go small and have the ability to kind of kick the pace up a little bit, it usually works to our advantage. But I think it works because of the other lineups that we can throw out there and have that versatility throughout the course of 48 minutes.

“So we’ll see how the rotations go and how we start. But at the end of the day, whoever’s out there has to execute better than we did in Game 5 in order to win another championship.”

Whether they start small or not, the Warriors will still need to get something from one of their other centers (Festus Ezeli, Marreese Speights and Anderson Varejao), who haven’t played well on either end of the floor. Their inability to contain the dribble in Game 5 was a factor in Kyrie Irving and LeBron James making Finals history with 41 points apiece.

“You always need bigs, even if the game is small,” Kerr said. “We’re not going to play small for 48 minutes. So Festus will play a role. So will Andy. Mo could still get back out there.

“Everybody’s got to be ready and everybody plays a role.”

Film Study: Warriors’ centers can’t contain Cavs

CLEVELAND — Some nights, Kyrie Irving has it going like he did on Monday. Some nights, he doesn’t.

Every night though, the Cleveland Cavaliers try to get him going early with the same action, a screen set by Tristan Thompson along the sideline. We saw it on the Cavs’ first two possessions of Game 1 of The Finals, as well as on the first two possessions of Game 2. It’s a play that, especially in transition, can get Irving going downhill and put the defense on its heels.

In Game 5, we first saw the Irving/Thompson sideline screen with the Cavs in a 9-3 hole…

20160615_irving-tt_1-1

Thompson’s defender, Andrew Bogut, met Irving above the foul line…

20160615_irving-tt_1-2

… and got beat to the basket.

On the very next possession, the Cavs ran the same action on the other side of the floor. Bogut didn’t come out so high…

20160615_irving-tt_2-1

… and didn’t get beat to the basket. (Irving, instead, passed to LeBron James, who hit his first of eight buckets from outside the paint.)

Bogut made a quick adjustment and got a better result … if we’re talking about the shot and not the points scored on the play (three instead of two). The Warriors are generally happy with James shooting from the outside. In previous games, they’ve been content to have Bogut sag down to the low block and have Irving pull up for a mid-range jumper off that sideline screen.

Of course, James made twice as many shots from outside the paint in Game 5 as he did in any other playoff game this year and Irving’s shot-making was twice as ridiculous. Those guys would have had big games no matter who was on the floor for the other team, because there were too many moments where great offense beat great defense. (more…)

Morning shootaround — June 15

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Warriors await word on Bogut | Irving could be LeBron’s best teammate ever | Carroll not optimistic on Robinson’s NFL chances | Embiid impresses in workout

Update, 12:04 p.m. — The Warriors have confirmed reports that Andrew Bogut will miss 6-8 weeks who suffered a significant impaction injury to his left knee …

Per our David Aldridge, Bogut’s injury could sideline him for the rest of The Finals …

And ESPN.com’s Marc Stein says Bogut will miss the next 6-8 weeks …

No. 1: Warriors may not have Bogut for Game 6 — Tuesday was a travel day for the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers as they made their way back to Ohio for Thursday’s Game 6 in The NBA Finals. Before the Warriors left town, center Andrew Bogut had an MRI to check on the status of his left knee that he injured while attempting to block a shot in Game 5. While the results of the MRI are unknown at this time, Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle reports Golden State is preparing itself for the likelihood that Bogut will be out (but forward Draymond Green will be back):

The Warriors will get power forward Draymond Green back from suspension for Thursday’s Game 6, but they don’t expect to have starting center Andrew Bogut.

“Draymond does a little bit of everything: his playmaking, his rebounding, his communicating and his heart and soul. Obviously, we missed him big time,” Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson said. “… If Bogut is out Thursday, our bigs are just going to have to step up. They’ve been doing it all year.”

Bogut played only 7½ minutes in Monday’s Game 5 loss that trimmed the Warriors’ lead in the NBA Finals to 3-2. After jumping to block a layup attempt by Cleveland’s J.R. Smith in the third quarter, Bogut planted his left leg moments before Smith rolled into it and appeared to hyperextend the knee.

The Warriors’ 7-footer writhed in pain under the basket for two possession until there was finally a stop in play. His leg was immobilized as he was helped to the locker room, but teammates said he was putting weight on the leg later.

The initial diagnosis was a sprained knee, but results from Tuesday’s MRI exam had not been evaluated by all of the Warriors’ doctors by the time the team landed in Cleveland.

Worries about losing the team’s best rim-protector come on the heels of the Warriors’ worst defensive effort during the postseason. They allowed a playoff-high 53 percent shooting from the floor and yielded a combined 82 points to Kyrie Irving and LeBron James.

Irving and James either scored or assisted on 97 of the Cavaliers’ points, including the team’s final 25 baskets. The last field goal that wasn’t directly produced by Irving or James was an Iman Shumpert layup with 5½ minutes left in the first half.

“To repeat a performance like this would definitely be tough, but whatever it takes to win, we’re willing to do,” Irving said.

The return of Green will help in squelching a sequel as the Warriors desperately missed his defensive communication and his ability to read proper switching and help defense situations. Irving and James shot 61.1 percent from the floor while Green was exiled from Oracle Arena on Monday. In Games 1-4, they shot 9-for-26 when he was the primary defender on either.

If Bogut is out or hobbled, the Warriors will need to get something out of Festus Ezeli, Anderson Varejao and/or Marreese Speights.

The Warriors also will be comfortable going small with Green returning. Their small-ball lineup has outscored Cleveland by 51 points with Green at center and has been outscored by 16 points without Green.

After a moment of dejection following the Warriors’ loss Monday, ESPN reported that Green, sitting in a luxury suite at the Coliseum, yelled: “Let’s go. I get a chance to play in another game.” It’s as if he were channeling the very message Warriors head coach Steve Kerr was giving in the locker room about 30 yards away.

“It’s the NBA Finals. You’ve got two great teams, and I kind of like our position,” Kerr said. “… We go back to Cleveland and tee it up again, but I like our position a lot better than theirs. …

“We’re in the same place we were last year: up 3-2 and heading back to Cleveland. If you told me this before the series, I would have taken it. We’re in a good spot.”

According to Marc Stein of ESPN.com, the Warriors are hoping for a clearer picture about Bogut’s availability later today:

The status of injured Golden State Warriors center Andrew Bogut for Thursday’s Game 6 of the NBA Finals remains uncertain, but Bogut did travel Tuesday with the team to Cleveland, according to league sources.

Sources told ESPN.com that an official update on Bogut’s health, which had been expected Tuesday night, will most likely come Wednesday now.

Sources say that the Warriors, following a long travel day, continued into the night with their review of the data from an MRI exam on Bogut’s sprained left knee before the team’s departure to Ohio.

There was cautious optimism in the Warriors’ camp late Monday that Bogut did not suffer any structural damage following the hard hit he absorbed in a mid-air collision defending Cleveland guard J.R. Smith’s drive to the basket. But Bogut was seen walking very gingerly as he left the arena Monday night.

Game 5 Numbers to Know

OAKLAND — Some statistical notes from the Elias Sports Bureau and other sources regarding the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 112-97 victory in Game 5 of The Finals.

Kyrie Irving and LeBron James became just the fourth pair of teammates to combine for 80-plus points in a Finals game. Their 82 combined points are the third most by a pair of teammates in a Finals game. This was only the second time that has occurred on the road (the 87 by Baylor/West in 1962) and the first time it has occurred in an elimination game.

* 80-plus points by a pair of teammates in a Finals game:

87 – 1962, Game 5 – Elgin Baylor (61) & Jerry West (26) – L.A. Lakers 126, Boston 121
83 – 1967, Game 3 – Rick Barry (55) & Jim King (28) – San Francisco 130, Philadelphia 124
82 – 2016, Game 5 – Kyrie Irving (41) & LeBron James (41) – Cleveland 112, Golden State 97
80 – 1963, Game 3 – Jerry West (42) & Elgin Baylor (38) – L.A. Lakers 119, Boston 99

* Irving and James scored 73.2 percent of the Cavs’ total points (82 of 112). That is the third-highest percentage ever in a Finals game.

78.7% (59 of 75) – 2004, Game 1 – Shaquille O’Neal (34) & Kobe Bryant (25) – L.A. Lakers 75, Detroit 87
75.0% (51 of 68) – 1950, Game 1 – George Mikan (37) & Jim Pollard (14) – Minnesota 68, Syracuse 68
73.2% (82 of 112) – 2016, Game 5 – Kyrie Irving (41) & LeBron James (41) – Cleveland 112, Golden State 97
72.4% (71 of 98) – 2012, Game 4 – Russell Westbrook (43) & Kevin Durant (28) – Oklahoma City 98, Miami 104
72.1% (62 of 86) – 1998, Game 4 – Michael Jordan (34) & Scottie Pippen (28) – Chicago 86, Utah 82

* Game 5 was only the fifth time teammates have scored 40-plus points in the same playoff game (and the first time in The Finals).

The previous occurrences:

Round | Players | Game | Date
Division finals | Elgin Baylor (45 points) & Jerry West (41)
| Lakers 117, Pistons 118 | 3/29/62
First round | “Sleepy” Floyd (42) & Hakeem Olajuwon (41) | Rockets 119, Mavericks 108 | 4/30/88
First round | Clyde Drexler (41) & Hakeem Olajuwon (40) |  Rockets 123, Jazz 106 | 5/5/95
Conference semifinals | Reggie Miller (40) & Jalen Rose (40) | Pacers 108, 76ers 91 | 5/6/00

* James became just the fourth player to have 40-plus points, 15-plus rebounds and 5-plus assists in a Finals game.

The previous occurrences:

Cliff Hagan (STL) – April 5, 1961 @ Boston – 40 points, 17 rebounds, six assists
Magic Johnson (LAL) – May 16, 1980 @ Philadelphia – 42 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists
Shaquille O’Neal (LAL) – June 6, 2001 vs. Philadelphia – 44 points, 20 rebounds, five assists

* Irving joined Wilt Chamberlain as the only players in Finals history to score 40-plus points on at least 70 percent shooting.

Chamberlain score 45 points on 20-for-27 (74.1 percent) in the Lakers’ 135-113 win in Game 6 of the 1970 Finals (5/6/70).

* Only 34.1 percent (15 of 44) of the Cavs’ field goals were assisted. This is the first time in 50 years that a team assisted on such a low percentage while scoring 110-plus points in a Finals game.

The last time was April 17, 1966, when the Lakers assisted on 12 (25.5 percent) of their 47 baskets in Boston. The Lakers scored 133 points in that game.

* The Cavs’ 29 unassisted field goals were the most in a Finals game since the San Francisco Warriors had 30 at Philadelphia on April 14, 1967.

* This is just the fourth time a pair of teammates have had 140-plus points each through the first five games of The Finals.

The previous occurrences:

1961 – Cliff Hagan (147) & Bob Pettit (142) – St. Louis vs. Boston
1962 – Elgin Baylor (209) & Jerry West (149) – L.A. Lakers vs. Boston
1963 – Elgin Baylor (175) & Jerry West (145) – L.A. Lakers vs. Boston

* This is the third time that the first five games of The Finals have been decided by at least 10 points.

It previously occurred in 1960 (Boston vs. St. Louis) and 1988 (Lakers vs. Detroit).

* Largest total margin of victory (for the winning team in each game) through the first five games of The Finals:

105 – 1965 – Boston vs. L.A. Lakers
104 – 2016 – Golden State vs. Cleveland
87 – 1982 – L.A. Lakers vs. Philadelphia

The Finals Stat: Game 5

OAKLAND — The Cleveland Cavaliers are still alive. Facing elimination for the first time this year, the Cavs took advantage of Draymond Green‘s absence and sent The Finals back to Cleveland behind huge games from LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.

One stat stood out from the rest in the Cavs’ 112-97 victory over the Golden State Warriors in Game 5 on Monday.

The stat

8 – Shots James made from outside the paint (on 19 attempts).

The context

20160613_basicsThat’s twice as many as he’s made in any other playoff game this year (he hit four six times), the most he’s made in a playoff game since Game 2 of the 2014 Finals (42 playoff games ago), and the second most he’s made in a game all season.

James’ jump shot has been an issue since the start of last year’s playoffs. He shot 27 percent from outside the paint in last year’s Finals and was 9-for-28 from outside the paint through Game 4 of this year’s series.

His poor shooting has allowed the Warriors to play him soft on the perimeter and kept him from really breaking out offensively. James can destroy you inside, but if his shot isn’t falling, he has a ceiling offensively, especially against a defender like Andre Iguodala.

On Monday, James broke out and Irving’s shot-making was even more impressive. The pair scored 41 points apiece, the first time in Finals history and just the fifth time in playoff history that teammates have each put up 40-plus in the same game.

The Warriors clearly missed Green, especially on defense. But James’ jumper finally falling for him was independent of Green’s status in Game 5. His 19 attempts from outside the paint were also a season high, and if his jumper continues to fall on Thursday, the Cavs have the ability to force a Game 7.

LeBron James' Game 5 shot chart

LeBron James’ Game 5 shot chart

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

Morning shootaround — June 13

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Draymond, in absence, stirs Warriors’ emotions | LeBron went home ‘for the kids’ | Report: DeRozan to test free agencyCan Thompson back up bold talk? | NBA stars battle bulge too

No. 1: Draymond, in absence, stirs Warriors’ emotionsDraymond Green, the Golden State’s versatile and valuable, almost positionless forward, is considered to be the defending champions’ emotional leader. Losing him to suspension from Game 5 of the 2016 Finals (9 ET, ABC) would seem, at first glance, to be like stealing the batteries from a very expensive toy. But based on the Warriors’ reactions to Green’s suspension, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ hand in it (subtle or not) and the obstacle thrown suddenly in their path to back-to-back championships, the home team at Oracle Arena might be playing Monday with all the emotion they need. And first and foremost, that will be anger, writes J.A. Adande of ESPN.com:

They feel disrespected once more. Put upon. Agitated.

In the Warriors’ worldview, LeBron James baited Draymond Green by stepping over him in Game 4. That prompted the retaliatory strike from Green which struck James in the groin area and drew a flagrant foul 1 penalty from the NBA in a review that was announced Sunday. James all but dared the NBA to do it after Game 4, and now Golden State feels the league capitulated to one of its biggest stars. The flagrant foul ruling put Green above the playoff limit of three flagrant foul points and brought an automatic suspension for Game 5 on Monday. It also brought up some fiery talk from the Warriors, who got an early start on making up for the absence of their emotional leader.

“We’re going to go out there and do it as a team and win for him,” Klay Thompson said.

Alrighty, then.

Other Warriors players and coaches said they noticed a ramped-up intensity after coach Steve Kerr informed the team of Green’s suspension during Sunday’s practice and they feel it will give them the necessary edge in what could have otherwise been seen as a mere coronation process after taking a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals following their victory in Game 4.

They do best when doubted, as they were when they fell behind 3-1 to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference finals. They also respond well to perceived slights. Example A would be their 24-0 start after having their championship credentials called into question for everything from lack of injuries to playoff strength of schedule.

Now that they have fresh motivation, the question is whether they have the means to prove their point without the versatile Green, the defensive anchor of their small-ball “Death Lineup” and an offensive facilitator prone to the occasional scoring outburst (such as his 28 points in Game 2).

Much depends on how the Cavaliers choose to prey on his absence: by going big with the likes of Kevin Love or even Timofey Mozgov, or by trying to lure the Warriors into a diminished smaller lineup by extending the minutes of Richard Jefferson and Channing Frye. It also could be an opportunity for LeBron to break through now that he doesn’t have to worry about one of the Warriors’ most effective defenders.

How do Warriors line up without Green?

OAKLAND — Draymond Green has been suspended for Game 5 of The Finals, having accumulated four flagrant foul points over course of the postseason. This is a major blow to the Golden State Warriors’ hopes of closing out the series on Monday.

Green has been one of the league’s best defenders for a few years now. And he has also developed into one of the best pick-and-roll playmakers at power forward. He’s a huge part of what the Warriors do both offensively and defensively.

“You see every game what he brings,” Stephen Curry said Sunday, “the energy, the defensive presence. He’s a playmaker with the ball in his hands, and he’s a proven All-Star that’s done a lot for our team this year. So we’ll obviously miss his impact and the intangibles that he brings to the game.”

Here are some numbers to consider in anticipation of Game 5, which will certainly include some experimentation on the Warriors’ part.

The key to small ball

For the second straight year, Andre Iguodala has the best plus-minus in The Finals by a wide margin. Nobody is even close to Iguodala’s plus-116 over the two series.

20160611_plus-minus

But Iguodala benefits from most of his minutes coming in small-ball lineups, which have been much more effective for the Warriors. In this series, Iguodala has played only 43 (33 percent) of his 130 minutes with one of the Warriors’ four centers. He’s a plus-0 in those minutes and a plus-54 in his 87 minutes with small-ball lineups.

Green has played 67 (44 percent) of his 152 minutes with a center on the floor. He’s a minus-18 in those minutes and a plus-54 in 85 minutes with small-ball lineups. So, the plus-minus differential between the Warriors’ versatile forwards is simply about small ball vs. traditional lineups.

And while Iguodala is obviously taking on the biggest defensive load and making plays on offense, Green is absolutely essential to the Death Lineup and all its derivatives.

“He allows us to still have protection at the rim playing small,” Shaun Livingston said.

While the Warriors’ are a plus-54 with Green playing center in The Finals, they’ve been outscored by the Cavs in every other scenario.

20160612_gsw_lineups

In Game 5 on Monday, we’ll certainly see more minutes for the Warriors’ centers and more minutes of small-ball with either Harrison Barnes or James Michael McAdoo at center.

More needed from the centers

Andrew Bogut scored 10 points in Game 1 and had four early blocks in Game 2, but has the Warriors’ worst plus-minus in The Finals for the second straight year (minus-19 both times). He played just 10 minutes (his second lowest number in the postseason) in Game 4 on Friday.

Festus Ezeli, Anderson Varejao and Marreese Speights, meanwhile, have all rarely played that much.

If the Warriors are going to play more minutes with a center on the floor, they’re going to have to get something (from one or more of those four guys) that they haven’t been getting very often in this series.

“I need to step up,” Bogut said. “I didn’t play great last game but we got the win.”

Does small ball still apply?

If Steve Kerr is going to put his best five players (of this series) on the floor, it’s probably a lineup of Curry, Klay Thompson, Livingston, Iguodala and Barnes. But that’s an awfully small lineup that would struggle to rebound and those five guys have played less than three minutes together over the last two seasons. They last saw action together (16 seconds) in Game 5 against Portland.

McAdoo offers some of the versatility of Green in a long, athletic body. And maybe Kerr looks like a genius for getting the second-year player some Finals exposure in Game 4. But his lack of experience could be an issue in a larger role.

“We’re going to play a lot of people,” Kerr said on Sunday, “and we’ll give a lot of different looks and we’ll compete like crazy. And I think we’ll give ourselves a great chance to win.”

Morning shootaround — June 12





NEWS OF THE MORNING
Warriors know the feeling | Blatt can’t watch Cavs | Kidd-Gilchrist on the mend

No. 1: Wary Warriors know it can be done — While much of the attention is focused on where Golden State would be ranked among the pantheon of all-time great teams with back-to-back titles or whether fiery forward Draymond Green will even be allowed into the arena for the possible Game 5 clincher, there is one group that knows the Cavaliers aren’t dead even though they are in a 3-1 hole. Fred Kerber of the New York Post says the defending champs have reason to be wary:

“Just because we’re going home doesn’t mean you can relax or take things for granted,” said Stephen Curry, who looked like a two-time MVP with 38 points Friday in the Warriors’ 108-97 Game 4 victory. “You work all regular season to have home-court advantage. … We need to play with a sense of urgency and a sense of aggression.”

If history is a gauge, then the folks of Cleveland will look at the Indians as the next hope to end the city’s championship drought that dates to 1964. Never, in 32 tries, has a team rallied from a 3-1 NBA Finals deficit to win a title.

“We were in this position [down 3-1] last series. We know what it feels like,” Golden State’s Shaun Livingston said.

***

No. 2: Blatt not done with NBA — He’s taken a new job in Istanbul and he can’t quite bring himself to watch on TV as the Cavaliers play in The Finals. But deposed Cleveland coach David Blatt told our own Scott Howard-Cooper that he hasn’t given up the idea of once again coming back home to take a second crack as head coach in the NBA:

“I don’t think that my chances are gone,” Blatt told NBA.com. “I just think right now I’m not thinking about. But, no. I think I did enough good things in the NBA and I know enough people to where if it’s my desire in some way, shape or form to come back that I could. But it’s just not what I’m thinking about right now.”

It is his desire.

“I would one day,” he said. “But I’m trying to focus right now on my next challenge. I never sat and dreamed on a daily basis of being in the NBA and it happened because I worked hard and was part of enough very successful things that it made me a viable candidate. I hope to do the same thing and if I want the same result could come.”

It’s hardly a bad outcome. Blatt is a coaching legend in Europe after growing up in the Boston area and playing at Princeton and then enjoying great success in Israel, Russia and Italy in particular, including a stint here with Italian club Benetton Treviso. Much of the continent feels comfortable, not just La Ghirada.

It’s just that this is no place to put much distance on the 123 games with Cleveland. It is not quite five months since he was fired after 1 ½ seasons, hardly time to heal, and most of all the Eurocamp address came about six hours after the Cavaliers lost Game 4 of the Finals rematch with Golden State. Cavs-Warriors, the NBA run that really wasn’t after years of his name being connected with pro jobs in North America … and Iguodala. There is no escape.

There is avoidance, though: Blatt is not watching the championship series.

“It’s hard for me to watch the team on TV right now,” he said. “I follow the Finals and I certainly watched a lot of the playoff games, but it’s a little hard for me to watch the games on TV right now. But I’m certainly aware of what’s going on.”

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No. 3: Kidd-Gilchrist on road to recovery — After suffering a pair of shoulder injuries that cut short his 2015-16 season, the Hornets Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is back on the practice court in Charlotte and falling in love with the game all over again. Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer caught up with the forward on the mend following one of his workouts:

“I always knew I loved to hoop, but now it’s like I wake up thinking about basketball and go to sleep thinking about basketball.”

Kidd-Gilchrist’s fourth NBA season was sidetracked by two separate torn labrums in his right shoulder. The second of those injuries came in February after Kidd-Gilchrist played in seven games at midseason. He was recently cleared for on-court training and says he’ll be back to normal in time to fully participate in training camp in October.

“I’m shooting, I’m lifting, I’m running. I’ll be ready for next season,” he assures.

This was his first extended absence from basketball and he didn’t take it well. He tried to fill the void with movies and books and friends, but nothing substituted for the routines he developed, having turned pro after winning a national championship with Kentucky in the spring of 2012.

He’s never seen either of the plays that caused his injuries (a collision with then-Orlando Magic forward Tobias Harris and Indiana Pacers center Ian Mahinmi later falling on him). He says why look back on something bad when you can instead look forward to something great?

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Cavs have an unlikely fan in Mark Cuban … Magic Johnson has been removed from the staff list of the Lakers … The definition of utter confidence is Klay Thompson showing up at a Giants game wearing a Dodgers cap … Mike Brown and Ty Corbin are the top candidates to become the new lead assistant to Steve Kerr with the Warriors … Kurt Rambis could return to the Knicks as an assistant coach one more time … Trombone Shorty hit a few high notes when the showed the Pelicans his jumper.