Posts Tagged ‘Harrison Barnes’

Cavs’ James confident in durability, skeptical of Finals scheduling


VIDEO: James speaks with media after shootaround

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio – Had David Blatt known the first two games of the 2015 Finals would go into overtime, the Cleveland Cavaliers coach said Tuesday, he might have found more opportunities to give LeBron James a little rest.

But no Finals before this one ever required overtime for both Game 1 and Game 2. That’s how James is up to 96 minutes played out of the 106 in the series so far.

“That wasn’t necessarily in the plan,” Blatt said after his team’s shootaround session at their practice facility. “But he is strong. He has prepared himself the whole season for this time of the year. There are very few guys who can do what he did throughout the course of the year with the understanding of where he needs to be at the key moment of the season. And he’s ready to go.”


VIDEO: Blatt addresses the media on Tuesday

James talked a little about the physical preparation that he heeds in advance of games and the hurry-up of that routine now that the days between games, for each of the next two, have dwindled to just one.

“There’s not much recovery time,” James said. “I’m getting my body as close as it can to 100 percent. I still have a lot of time through today to stay on the treatment regimen I’ve been on. Try to get some rest as well. … You’ve got to cram everything in there. Hopefully the body reacts accordingly to it.”

Among the other Cavaliers, Tristan Thompson has logged 87 minutes, J.R. Smith 73 and Iman Shumpert 71. Golden State, though generally considered the deeper team, has four players at or above 80: Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, 85 each; Draymond Green 82 and Harrison Barnes 80.

When someone wondered if James might feel the energy of a crowd at Quicken Loans Arena hosting only its third Finals game ever (two in 2007), the Cavs star said: “I mean, I’m fine. I can use the energy from the home crowd, I can use the energy from the away crowd. But for me, my focus is so laser-sharp that it doesn’t matter. I don’t need something to get me to where I need to go.”

James and his teammates apparently do feel a little slighted by the schedule, which has tightened up during this period in Cleveland after an almost leisurely pace to Games 1 and 2. There was a whole week after the conference championship round before The Finals began and then two more days before Game 2.

The Thursday-Sunday-Tuesday rotation is largely set according to network TV needs, regardless of the markets involved, but James made it sound more discretionary. And not favoring Cleveland.

“I don’t need any extra motivation or no extra lift,” James said. “I looked at the schedule. They have more time in their home than we have. They gave us every other day back home. They gave those guys two-and-a-half days of rest when they go back home. But that’s the schedule, and it is what it is.”

Right & Wrong: Cavs even series in Game 2


VIDEO: Catch the top 5 plays from Game 2 of The Finals

HANG TIME BIG CITY – Just when you thought they were out, they pull you back in.

The Cleveland Cavaliers almost won Game 1 of the NBA Finals, losing in overtime, and then entered Game 2 without two-thirds of their Big Three, going up against the NBA’s best team on their home floor, where Golden State was nearly unbeatable this season.

Enter LeBron James. The King went for 39 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists in over 50 minutes of playing time, as the Cleveland Cavaliers won this one in overtime, 95-93, to even the NBA Finals at one win apiece as the series moves to Cleveland.

Here’s a look at what went right and wrong in Game 2.

Right: At this point, there’s not much left to say about LeBron James, but one of the most remarkable things you can say is this: LeBron consistently elevates the level of play of his teammates, no matter who those teammates are. In Game 1, James posted a 44/8/6 line that felt impeccable. But tonight in Game 2, with LeBron basically playing point guard all night on offense and free safety on defense, and consistently making pinpoint passes out of double-teams to find open teammates, his triple-double was probably more impressive. Game 2 felt more like a coronation than anything else.

Wrong: Stephen Curry was voted the NBA’s Kia Most Valuable Player during the regular season, flicking in a seemingly endless array of jumpers from all around the perimeter. But tonight that well ran bone dry. Curry did make a big 3-pointer with 2:45 remaining in regulation to cut Cleveland’s lead to six, but Curry finished 5-for-23 from the field, including 2-for-15 from beyond the arc. With the Warriors needing a bucket at the end of overtime, Curry went one-on-one against Matthew Dellavedova and shot an air ball, then turned the ball over instead of getting a final shot. It was Curry’s worst shooting performance of the year. “I’ve seen it with everybody,” said Golden State coach Steve Kerr. “I’ve seen it with Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan. It doesn’t matter who you are. Nobody is immune from a tough night. So Steph has been phenomenal throughout the playoffs. Doesn’t mean he’s going to light it up every single night. So you chalk it up to a bad night and see what you can do to try to free him up and maybe get him some open looks.”


VIDEO: Why was Stephen Curry so limited offensively in Game 2?

Right: Speaking of Dellavedova, he had big shoes to fill, but he stepped into Kyrie Irving‘s and more than held his own against the Splash Brothers. Yes, he was just 3-for-10 from the field, but the Cavs were +15 in 42 minutes with Dellavedova on the court. And his contributions weren’t always about points and passes — with 11 seconds left in overtime and the Cavs down one, Dellavedova grabbed the rebound after a James Jones missed 3 and went to the free-throw line like Ollie in “Hoosiers”, and knocked down two free throws to give Cleveland the lead for good. Seconds later, he defended Curry one-on-one and got the stop. An Australian native, Dellavedova deserves to be big not just Down Under. “You know, he did what he has been doing every time that we’ve put him in that position,” said Cleveland coach David Blatt. “He’s a courageous kid that plays right. There was a lot of nonsense swirling around about his style of play. I think anyone that really looks at him objectively and fairly recognizes someone that just plays hard, heartfelt, and tough. Always there for his teammate. Teammates always there for his team. And he played big tonight, and we needed him to.”


VIDEO: Matthew Dellavedova talks after his big play in Game 2

Wrong: J.R. Smith can be the gift and curse, often at the same time. You live with his mistakes, because when he’s going well, he can make shots nobody else can make. But in Game 2, Smith made a series of plays that allowed the Warriors to gain ground. With the Cavs up seven and 2:35 to play, Smith fouled Curry after a missed free throw, sending him to the line. A minute later, he fouled Harrison Barnes as he dunked, giving the Warriors a three-point play and cutting Cleveland’s lead to two. With 29 seconds left in overtime, Smith’s sixth foul sent Curry to the line and gave the Warriors a temporary lead. With the Cavaliers ravaged by injuries and only playing an eight-man rotation, the Cavs are looking for a lift from Smith.

Right: If Curry is the chef, perhaps Klay Thompson is the maître d? All season long the Splash Brothers have been an elite partnership for the Warriors, a dual-headed threat that stretches the floor and creates all kinds of headaches for the defense. Although Curry never got it going in Game 2, Thompson started red-hot, going 4-for-6 with nine points in the game’s first five minutes before having to sit with foul trouble. Thompson finished the night as Golden State’s leading scorer, with 34 points on 14-for-28 shooting.

Wrong: With 3:14 left in regulation, the Cleveland Cavaliers led the Golden State Warriors by 11 points, 83-72. They then proceeded to fall apart. Part of that was Golden State repeatedly fouling Tristan Thompson and sending him to the line, part of that was mental errors (see Smith above), and part of that was James either not making shots or not getting to the line. The Warriors, of course, came back, tied it and took it to overtime, where the Cavs were able to regain their footing. Still, you don’t get many chances like this against the Warriors, and with this series up for grabs and Cleveland taking home court advantage, the Cavs have to close out games if they want to close out this series.

Game 2: 24-second thoughts

24 — If you were already a longshot to win the series and now have lost one of your two main offensive weapons, isn’t it a good time, at least, for an underdog to be led by a guy named David (Blatt)? Better be a big slingshot.

23 — National anthem singer Carlos Santana was a guest of the Warriors. But long ago in 1969, his featured number at Woodstock was Soul Sacrifice, exactly what the LeBron James and Cavs need here.

22 — That’s one way to slow down Klay Thompson’s 4-for-6 shooting, nine-point start. Get a bad call on Iman Shumpert drive that sends Thompson to the bench with his second foul.

21 — So much for the Cavs rolling over without Kyrie Irving. Took the early punch from Warriors and fight their way back end of first quarter. Doesn’t hurt when Stephen Curry shoots 1-for-6. Credit the pest Matthew Dellavedova.

20 — Despite two early fouls on Klay Thompson and Festus Ezeli, indication is you’ll have to withstand a bruising tonight. They’re letting them mix it up and play.

19 — How much longer can Blatt keep Delly on Klay here in second quarter? The mouse is having the whole house land on his head. Cavs have to get out of that matchup.

18 — About that getting everybody else involved plan by LeBron? His teammates are 5-for-20.

17 — Off night in the Stanley Cup Finals, but the Cavs might as well be wearing skates and carrying sticks for the way they’re mucking this game up in the corners. These are not comfortable Warriors.

16

15 — LeBron 20-6-6 at the half. Just as important, Cavs run two quarters off the clock and give themselves a chance. Now if somebody would just put a body on Klay.

14 — Cavs shoot 6-for-8 off passes from LeBron in second quarter. They did not take a shot off a LeBron pass in the first quarter.

13 — Maybe if Draymond Green would take off those headphones, somebody could tell him that he might want to turn the volume up on his game that so far has been forgettable in The Finals.

12 — OK, so the MVP finally got rid of the pest Delly. All it took was your average double-crossover, behind-the-back dribble only-by-Curry drive for a layup.

11 — You have to ask whether the Warriors are just missing all these open 3s — 4-for-22 middle thirrd quarter — or they’ve been rattled by the Cavs?

10 —Sums up the Golden State night. Marreese Speights blows the breakaway dunk to end third quarter. The Cavs have everybody but Klay Thompson looking over their shoulder and the 12-minute game they wanted. First time all season Warriors didn’t hit 65 after three quarters.

9 — If Cavs win this game, little point guard from Cleveland is going to get the Bucky Dent treatment forever in Bay Area: Matthew %$#!!*&# Dellavedova!

8 — Can Warriors stand up to the night long pounding by Cavs? Down five with 8½ minutes left, Steve Kerr goes back to the small lineup to pull it out. But Golden State looks beat up.

7J.R. stands for Just Remember, I’m J.R. Smith and dumb plays like that foul on Curry are what make me me. And then I do it again by fouling Harrison Barnes. And just for good measure, one more time on Curry in OT.

6 — Cleveland sports history: The Pass. The Fumble. The Shot. Next up: The Collapse? Cavs lead by 11 with 3:12 left and now LeBron’s miss sends it to OT.

5 — Tony Brothers, your guide dog could have made that call on Andre Iguodala’s hack of LeBron while helping you across the street.

4 — Green reaches and holds down LeBron by the shoulder on jump ball. Has there ever been an NBA superstar who didn’t get two consecutive huge calls in such a situation?

3 — LeBron 39 points, 16 rebounds, 11 assists in 50 minutes and he’s so emotional seems on the verge of tears while talking to Doris Burke. Can we stop now with the nitpicking and cheap shots at James? He was all-in for the biggest win in Cavs history.

2 — Steph Curry (5-for-23), you’re on the clock.

1 — It’s Delly’s World and we’re all just living in it.

Film Study: One-on-one with LeBron


VIDEO: Stu Jackson breaks down how the Warriors guarded LeBron James

OAKLAND — The Golden State Warriors went with the “Don’t let the other guys beat us” strategy in Game 1 of The Finals. And though it almost backfired, it ultimately helped them pick up a 108-100 overtime victory against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday.

LeBron James scored 44 points, but J.R. Smith shot 3-for-13, Iman Shumpert shot 2-for-6, Tristan Thompson scored two points, James Jones could only get one shot off in 17 minutes, and Matthew Dellavedova didn’t take a single shot. All five of those guys went scoreless (in almost 78 combined minutes of playing time) after halftime.

It sounds weird, but James’ 44 points were good for Golden State, not just because it kept his supporting cast relatively quiet, but because those 44 points came on mostly tough shots. James’ true shooting percentage* in Game 1 was worse than that of the Warriors’ two leading scorers and his two primary defenders.

*True shooting percentage measures scoring efficiency. TS% = PTS / (2 * (FGA + (0.44 * FTA)))

Golden State’s defensive success — they held what was the postseason’s best offense to about a point per possession — was a combination of strategy and skill. (more…)

Right & Wrong: Warriors come out and play in Game 1


VIDEO: Relive the Warriors’ Game 1 victory

HANG TIME BIG CITY — It was a game that had more rights than wrongs, at least until overtime. But after Cleveland and Golden State ended regulation tied at 98, in the bonus time, everything went wrong for Cleveland, who were outscored 10-2 as Golden State cruised to a Game 1 victory. LeBron James showed why he’s still the king, but the best player eventually fell at the hands of the best team, 108-100.

Here’s a look at what went right and wrong in Game 1.

Right: Playing in Oakland before one of the loudest crowds in the league, Cleveland got off to perhaps the best possible start, jumping ahead to a 29-15 lead. Meanwhile, the Warriors couldn’t get a bucket, beginning 3-for-15 from the floor, as the Cavs harassed them defensively. That kind of performance from the Cavs over 48 minutes (or 53) is likely untenable, but they’ll need more stretches like that in order to compete with Golden State’s breathtaking offensive runs.

Wrong: We don’t know the extent of the injury, obviously, but if Cleveland is without Kyrie Irving for any extended period of time going forward, it could be a death knell for the Cavaliers’ chances in these Finals. Irving, who missed extensive time in the Eastern Conference finals dealing with left knee tendinitis, logged 43 minutes in Game 1 of The Finals, and posted 23 points, six assists and seven rebounds. His biggest play may have been on the defensive end, when Irving made a chase-down block against Stephen Curry with 26 seconds remaining in regulation, preserving the tie. With 2 minutes remaining in overtime, Irving re-injured his left leg and left the court in obvious pain.

Right: Golden State’s depth was huge during their 67-win regular season. And after a slow start in Game 1 of The Finals, the Warriors got a jump-start from their bench. Marreese Speights returned from injury to score six quick points, and Andre Iguodala picked up the task of defending LeBron James. Of course, James was terrific, finishing with 44 points, eight boards and six assists, but he made just 1 of his last 6 shots, with Iguodala hounding him on every possession.

Wrong: Cleveland used a short bench, only playing J.R. Smith, James Jones and Matthew Dellavedova. That can work in the postseason, when teams have a few days off between games. But tonight those three combined for nine points, all from Smith, who shot 3-for-13. Jones, a great 3-point shooter, played 17 minutes and only attempted one shot. If the Cavs are going to make a run at the Warriors, their only production can’t come from just James and Irving.

Right: Golden State coach Steve Kerr may be in his first campaign as a head coach, but he made multiple moves that worked out in his favor. And perhaps no decision was bigger (figuratively) than going small in overtime. After Cleveland turned to a “big” lineup with Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov playing together, Kerr countered by going small, using Draymond Green at center with Harrison Barnes and Iguodala as forwards. It gave the Warriors a jump-start, and helped their offense click into place in the overtime session.

Wrong: Cleveland has had an advantage on the boards throughout the postseason, with Thompson, Mozgov and James controlling the paint. And while those three continued their work — particularly Thompson, who finished with 15 rebounds — the Warriors put in work on the boards and finished with 56 rebounds, the same as Cleveland. Golden State used a team approach, as ten members of the Warriors each had at least three rebounds.

Game 1: 24-second thoughts

24 — Just one more reminder of how long the droughts are for both teams: When the Warriors won their last championship (1975), the No. 1 song on the Billboard chart at this time of year was Before the Next Teardrop Falls by Freddy Fender. The last time any Cleveland team won a title (1964), The Beatles led the way with Love Me Do.

23 — Tough act to follow. After a full week of preparation and rest, can the Cavs and Warriors match the stirring performance of 10-year-old Nayah Damasen on the Game 1 national anthem?

22 — Uh-oh. How much is Steve Kerr worrying when the jump shot by LeBron James that’s been shaky all through the playoffs goes down smooth on the first two attempts?

21 — Two words: Tristan Thompson. Two more: Big problem.

20 — Kyrie Irving isn’t 100 percent? Don’t tell that to Draymond Green after that steal, crossover, shield-the-ball and strong finish at the other end. And that was after his block on Steph Curry earlier.

19 — Are they planning the parade route yet in Cleveland? Perfect first quarter and a 29-19 Cavs lead. Warriors not only shooting badly (6-for-21), but have taken a lot of bad shots. Looking like a team with not a minute of Finals experience.

18 — How far back do you have to go to find a midseason pickup who fits better than Timofey Mozgov on a Finals team? I’m thinking Rasheed Wallace to the 2004 Pistons.

17 — Welcome back, Marreese Speights. While he was out for the last eight games with a calf injury, coach Steve Kerr said the one thing that didn’t concern him was his shooting touch. So Mo Buckets comes off the bench and buries his first two shots.

16 — That Golden State bench that’s been so vital and potent all season long is keeping Warriors in the game with an 18-6 advantage midway through the second quarter. Buys them time to get Curry heated up.

15 — Just address Steph Curry’s Christmas cards this year to “Left Corner.” It might as well be his home. Now he’s up to 13-for-14 there in the playoffs. Honest. Shooting the basketball really isn’t as easy as Curry makes it look.

14 — Usage rate for LeBron in first half was high and you wonder if it will take a toll over a long series. Hmmmm, have the maintenance folks at Oracle Arena thought about unplugging the air conditioner?

13 — Yes, the Warriors are making LeBron work for everything he gets. And he’s working them over.

12 — Plan A: LeBron bully-ball. Plan B: Tristan Thompson offensive rebound. Plan C: See Plan A

11 — Sometimes you just don’t play by the book. That foul taken by Draymond Green at the end of the first half just because the Warriors had one to give looks pretty costly — not to mention foolish — now that he’s on the bench with four.

10 — Mike Breen: “Dellavedova trying to get the Cavs into the offense.” Passes to LeBron. “There’s the offense.”

9 — The little things that can win championships? Those two hustling out-of-bounds saves by Harrison Barnes that led to a Leandro Barbosa 3 out of the corner.

8 — Somebody needs to tell the five Cavs on the court for start of the fourth quarter that LeBron is over there sitting on the bench. It’s time to be moving the ball around, not looking for isolation plays.

7 — LeBron’s 37 ties his Finals high with more than six minutes left. As James himself said when somebody asked if he thought he was an underdog in this series: “Me? An underdog? Never.”

6 — 758 consecutive starts to begin career, now off the bench all season and Andre Iguodala’s sacrifice continues as he gives up his body to try to defend James. At both ends, perhaps Iggy’s best game as a Warrior.

5 — Can we give Kyrie Irving his own MVP — Most Valuable Possum? All this talk about being less than full strength and then he makes that tremendous block on Curry drive.

4 — Iguodala’s done everything but sink his teeth into one of LeBron’s shoulders. Great contest on LeBron jumper for the win.

3 — Small ball Warriors with Green playing center in OT have not given Cavs anything at the rim and take control.

2 — Just when we’re all gearing for a humdinger Finals with hope of it going the seven-game distance with a lot more of these classics, there goes Kyrie Irving limping to the locker room. In four rounds of playoffs, the Warriors have faced four teams with point guard injuries — Jrue Holiday, Mike Conley, Pat Beverley and Irving.

1 — If 44 points, eight rebounds, six assists by LeBron wasn’t enough, can the Cavs hope to have a chance if Kyrie can’t go in Game 2? The winner of Game 1 is 48-20 all-time to win series in NBA Finals history.

The Finals Live Blog — Game 1

Steph Curry with the shot! #NBAFinals

A photo posted by NBA (@nba) on

OAKLAND — The wait is over, Stephen Curry.

We’re finally here.

Game 1 of The Finals. Warriors-Cavaliers, four-time MVP LeBron James and the reigning KIA MVP (above), Steve Kerr and David Blatt and two championship-starved franchises, cities and fan bases.

The wait was excruciating, roughly a week that seemed like a month.

But it’s here now. We’re minutes away from Oracle Arena going crazy and the first of at least four games, and potentially seven, that will decide who wears the crown as NBA champions for the 2014-15 season.

We’ll be here live all night with updates, notes, observations, plenty of Tweets and everything else you need to get you through to the final buzzer.

The official prediction has been Warriors in 6, but you never know what’s going to happen when LeBron is involved …

Game 1 is almost ready for tip. They bring the noise around here. #TheFinals #ROARacle

A photo posted by Sekou Smith (@sekou3000) on

***

And you better believe Steph is locked in already …

***

An interesting Game 1 tidbit …

***

***

Maybe Kyrie was playing a little possum with us all about his injuries?

***

***

Tell me again about experience not being a huge factor in The Finals … Cavs have the Warriors playing crazy ball right now!

***

Cavaliers showed all the poise in the first quarter. Kept Oracle from turning into ROARacle in the first quarter, too.

***

***

Shots fired!

***

Warriors have no answer for Mozgov, right now …

***

Warriors go with the pace and Speights attack to climb back into this game …

***

A motley crew in the house, for sure!

***

And just like that, we’re all tied up at 36-36

***

***

Trading blows now. Back and forth and back and forth …

***

***

JR Swish with the big bucket to send us to halftime with the Cavs up 51-48 … E-40 halftime show!

https://twitter.com/coachdavemiller/status/606644850339909632

E-40 on the mic at the half! #NBAFinals

A photo posted by NBA (@nba) on

***

Right back to the action in the third. And the week off did Kyrie some serious good.

***

Cleveland frontcourt is just on another level right now!

***

Cavs have controlled the action for much of this game. Not sure they have a huge surge in them to stretch this lead, but someone does …

***

Draymond’s foul situation will be an issue in the fourth. Speights to the rescue?

***

Tristan Thompson = $$$ with his every move in this postseason

***

Great series even with the iso-LeBron offense in full effect for the Cavaliers. Tied at 73-73 after three …

***

At leas the AC works!

***

Game is being played at Cleveland’s desired pace, where iso plays for LeBron and Kyrie can be exploited. Still not sure I like that strategy from Blatt. But if it’s work for you, how do you go away from it?

***

Whine Country!

***

If the iso game works, why not?

***

Even if you are anti-Iso, it’s hard to argue with the results. LeBron is controlling the action and keeping the Warriors from playing at their preferred pace. What do you do if you are Kerr?

***

I say more Iggy!

@andre turns defense into the transition SLAM on ABC! #NBAFinals

A video posted by NBA (@nba) on

***

Exactly!

***

The only way to slow LeBron down …

***

Draymond in foul trouble and a non-factor on the boards (3 rebounds) spells trouble in this game and in this series if this is more than just a one-night issue.

***

LeBron with the dagger to tie it up at 96-96 … this game, his game!

***

Yup!

***

Selfish Steph goes for 40-plus, no?

***

Mozgov and Bogut taking us back on #TBT

***

Kyrie with the defensive play of the night?

***

You had to know we would get at least five more minutes of the best Game 1 we’ve seen  since …

***

Break between Games 1 and 2 will be cherished after this …

***

Got worked a bit by LeBron, but still had the energy to come up big when needed …

***

If Kyrie is done this series takes on a totally different look for the Cavaliers!

***

And it’s a wrap for Game 1!

Who’s guarding the MVP?


VIDEO: Finals Media Availability: Stephen Curry

OAKLAND — When Game 1 of The Finals tips off on Thursday (9 p.m. ET, ABC), we’re going to quickly get an answer to a key question: Who’s guarding Stephen Curry?

Keeping the MVP contained and contested will be priority No. 1 for the Cavs, because when Curry gets going, the Warriors are tough to stop.

Kyrie Irving, of course, is the opposing point guard. According to SportVU, Irving defended Curry for 13 minutes over the teams’ two regular season meetings, more than every other Cav combined (9 minutes and 24 seconds). But Irving might not be Curry’s primary defender in The Finals.

For one, Irving didn’t defend Curry very well in the regular season. The MVP scored 1.33 points per possession against Irving, compared to 0.81 against other Cleveland defenders.

Secondly, Irving is hobbled by a knee injury right now. He’s not a very good defender in the first place, so having him defend Curry in this condition might be like putting a hobbled zebra in front of a lion.

Most importantly, Iman Shumpert is now in the Cavs’ starting lineup. Shumpert was injured when these teams met in Oakland on Jan. 9. And he was coming off the bench when they played in Cleveland on Feb. 26. He guarded Curry for 2:24 in the game, holding him to just two shots (that both missed), two free throws and two points in that 2:24.

As a starter, Shumpert will share more floor time with both Curry and Irving, giving Cavs coach David Blatt an obvious alternative to a straight point guard vs. point guard matchup. J.R. Smith, the starting shooting guard in the February meeting, didn’t provide that.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Wednesday that he expects to see more cross-matching than there was in the regular season meetings.

“It usually happens in the playoffs when you have more time to prepare and you mix and match,” Kerr said. “You try different things and maybe try to throw the other team off balance a little bit. So we’re preparing for some of that.”

Shumpert wouldn’t say if he’d be Curry’s primary defender, but knows he’ll have the assignment at times.

“It depends on how the game’s going,” he said. “But I definitely expect to be on him.”

Of course, if Shumpert is defending Curry, Irving has to defend someone else, maybe Klay Thompson or Harrison Barnes. That could be a mismatch if one of those guys wants to take Irving into the post. But the Warriors say that won’t divert from their offense to play matchup basketball.

“I still try to hunt the shots I’ve been getting all year,” Thompson said. “That’s what got us here. So for me, I don’t pay attention to who’s on me, because if I play within the offense, move without the ball, play a great flow and cut hard and stuff like that, I’m going to get open shots and make plays for others. So is Steph.

“You can’t make it an individual battle. You got to just do it as a team and we’ll make great shots.”

“We’ve seen [cross-matching] through every series,” Andre Iguodala said. “We’ll do what we do. We’ve done such a good job of evolving into this team that can find a mismatch within our sets. It’ll just get found ‘in the wash,’ as we like to say.

“So if we see Harrison has a mismatch, we’ll still run our set and Harrison knows when to cut to the block. We’ll run a few misdirections to get into something, so we don’t get stagnant.”

Versatility is key. The Warriors are no one-trick pony. And while slowing Curry down will give the Cavs a better chance at winning the series, it will also give the Warriors opportunities elsewhere.

Cavs and Warriors: How they were built


VIDEO: Road to the Finals: Growing pains in Cleveland

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors reached The Finals in very different ways.

After making major changes last summer, the Cavs struggled out of the gate and made more changes in early January. Dion Waiters was sent to Oklahoma City. Timofey Mozgov was acquired from Denver, while Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith were brought in from New York.

In comparison, the Warriors have been rather stable. Like the Cavs, they made a coaching change a year ago. But while only 39 percent of the Cavs’ regular-season minutes were played by guys who were on the roster last season, that number was 82 percent for Golden State. And the Warriors were the best team in the league from start to finish, making only a minor change to their roster (swapping Nemanja Nedovic for James Michael McAdoo).

Still, if you look at the Warriors’ roster construction, it’s as much a mix of players acquired via the Draft, free agency, and trades as the Cavs’ roster is.

20150531_gsw_roster 20150531_cle_roster

Note: Andre Iguodala and David Lee were acquired via sign-and-trade deals, which are counted here as trades.

But the Warriors’ mix isn’t so even when you consider who’s getting minutes in the postseason. Steve Kerr is leaning heavily on the guys the Warriors drafted over the years.

20150531_gsw_minutes 20150531_cle_minutes

Only two of the six guys the Warriors acquired via free agency – Leandro Barbosa and Shaun Livingston – are in their playoff rotation. And those guys rank seventh and eighth in minutes played. Their top four guys in minutes – Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes – all came via the Draft.

The Cavs’ minutes pie leans more toward trade than free agency because Shumpert, Mozgov and Smith all rank in the top six in minutes, while Shawn Marion, Mike Miller and Kendrick Perkins aren’t in the rotation.

The contrast between the two teams is even bigger when we look at playoff production, as measured by the efficiency statistic.

Efficiency = PTS + REB + AST + STL + BLK – TO – Missed FGA – Missed FTA

20150531_gsw_production 20150531_cle_production

The Warriors are getting 2/3 of their production from guys they drafted, headlined by those four starters noted above. The Cavs, meanwhile are only getting about 1/4 of their production from guys they drafted (and didn’t lose to Miami for four years). Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson account for basically all of that. LeBron James was acquired (the second time) via free agency, and he accounts for about 1/4 of the Cavs’ production himself.

This is a copycat league at times, but there’s no definitive way to build your roster. For the Warriors, it’s been about the Draft. For the Cavs, it’s been about the best player in the world looking to come home, as well as some clever moves made in January.

20150531_gsw_roster_list 20150531_cle_roster_list

Numbers preview: The Finals


VIDEO: The Starters preview The Finals

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — The Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers each made history in reaching The Finals.

Since the NBA starting counting turnovers in 1977, no team had made The Finals after leading the league in pace — like the Warriors did — or after ranking as low as 20th in defensive efficiency — like the Cavs did — in the regular season. That’s 37 years of trends that have been bucked, in two different ways.

These are special teams. Statistically, the Warriors are the best team we’ve seen since the 1996-97 Chicago Bulls, outscoring their opponents by 11.4 points per 100 possessions in the regular season. The Cavs, meanwhile, have fought through a myriad of changes (via trades and injuries) to get here, improving defensively along the way.

And the Cavs have been statistically better, both offensively and defensively, than the Warriors in the playoffs, even when you account for weaker competition. Cleveland has better marks in adjusted efficiency (taking their opponents’ regular season marks) on both ends of the floor.

This is also a matchup of the MVP and the world’s best player, the two guys who lead the league in postseason usage rate. Stephen Curry and LeBron James won’t be guarding each other and have very unique games, but some of their playoff advanced stats are very similar.

20150529_curry_james

Curry has been the more efficient scorer, while James has provided more for his team on defense and on the glass. Curry has the deeper supporting cast, but James has been here before.

When this series is done, he’ll either be 3-3 or 2-4 in The Finals, and either the Cavs will have their first championship or the Warriors will have their first one in 40 years.

Here are some statistical notes to get you ready for the Finals, with links to let you dive in and explore more. (more…)