Posts Tagged ‘Iman Shumpert’

Overtime: 24-second thoughts

VIDEO: All-Access: 2015 NBA Finals

What?  No Game 7?

Well, some of us still have some final thoughts on The Finals:

24 — Even in fantasyland, you’ve got to start things off with the National Anthem. How about ultimate fantasy from Bay Area — the Grateful Dead, circa April 1993.

23 — The Catch. The Drive. The Fumble. The Shot. The Decision. The Kneecap. Every major league city has its own share of heartbreak. Cleveland’s just seems larger than Lake Erie.  This one doesn’t belong on that list of hurt.  The Cavs battled proudly.

22 — The Warriors danced harmoniously and gorgeously from October to June with a roster that stayed virtually intact, and in some corners they are asked to apologize for this? As Woody Allen once said, “Eighty percent of life is showing up.”

And durability is a talent.

21 — Irony is that the only significant injury suffered by the Warriors all season, David Lee’s strained left hamstring in the final game of preseason, opened the door for Draymond Green and the championship lineup.

20 — Before Golden State gets pigeonholed into history as banner carriers for jump shots, don’t forget the Warriors had the No. 1 defense in the NBA all season. And were No. 1 in assists.

19 — The best reason ever why coach Steve Kerr didn’t rub the nose of 3-point-shooting critic Charles Barkley in the Warriors’ championship: “I mean, guy picked up every bar tab I ever was part of when I was at TNT. So he can say whatever he wants.”

18 — Is there just the smallest part of Kerr that would be tempted to drop the mic and walk off after one flawless season? How’s that for Zen, Phil Jackson?

17 — Will say it again: For a team that has players with size and strength in low post — LeBron James, Timofey Mozgov, Tristan Thompson — the Cavaliers don’t finish strong at the hoop nearly enough. That especially goes for LeBron. Stop going off the glass and make them foul you and pay the physical price.

16 — Hula Hoops, Pet Rocks, Sea Monkeys, Mood Rings, Cabbage Patch Kids, Matthew Dellavedova.

15 — Somebody will have to explain that Beats headphone TV ad that makes the relationship between Draymond Green and the media look so contentious. For one, nobody has ever asked Green why he acts so arrogant, because he doesn’t. For another, he’s the long-after-the-podium guy who loves to stand in front of his locker way past the final horn and chat. With anybody. It’s like Michele Roberts wrote the script.

14 — The nit-pickers say Stephen Curry still has something to prove since each round of the playoffs featured an opponent with an injured point guard — Jrue Holiday, Mike Conley, Patrick Beverley, Kyrie Irving. They don’t mention that he was also on the first team in history to beat every other member of the All-NBA First Team — LeBron, Anthony Davis, James Harden, Marc Gasol — on the way to the title.

13Is LeBron (2-4) on his way to becoming the 21st century version of Jerry West, who lost eight times in The Finals? One could do far worse than being on the same page of history as The Logo.

12 — “We ran out of talent.” James catches flak for this from some corners? A third quarter lineup by the Cavs in Game 6: J.R. Smith, Dellavedova, Iman Shumpert, Thompson, James Jones. If the NBA playoffs were the NCAA Tournament, they’d be a No. 16 seed playing Kentucky.

11 — If you thought the team that LeBron single-handedly dragged to The Finals and then was swept by the Spurs in 2007 was in deeper water over its head than these Cavs once Irving went down, face it, you’ll never be satisfied with anything he does.

10 — To think it all could have unraveled for the Warriors right at the beginning if Andre Iguodala, who started the first 758 games of his 10-year NBA career, didn’t buy into the program and Kerr’s plan to come off the bench. Unhappy? Yes. Unwilling? No. That’s the definition of a pro’s pro. And don’t forget no grousing from Andrew Bogut when he was benched in The Finals.

9 — So what happens if David Blatt gets that timeout in Chicago?

8 Iggy as Finals MVP? Yes, because it was his move into the starting lineup for Game 4 that began to turn the series around and made what Curry did possible.  And he was the one who made James work so hard and wore him out.

7 — LeBron as MVP? From this corner, to become the historic second player from a losing team to get the honor, James had to pull his bunch into a Game 7.

6 — If you want to follow one more member of the Twitterverse next season, for raw emotion and lots of fun, make it Draymond’s mama:

5 — “I’m the best player the world.” OK, it wasn’t modest. But truth is a defense. And LeBron was clearly just trying to instill confidence in a worn-down, flat-out spent band of merry men that he could somehow get them through Game 6.

4 — Plenty of people and reasons to feel good about in the glow of the Warriors’ championship. Few more than Shaun Livingston, eight years removed from the horrible knee injury that had at least one person at the hospital tell him that he might need his leg amputated.

3 — Two biggest roadblocks to a Warriors repeat: chip-on-his-shoulder Kevin Durant and scarily-fast improving Anthony Davis.

2 — Does Kevin Love stay in Cleveland? Only if winning matters to him.

1 — Same two, same time, next year. Everybody healthy.

The Finals Live Blog Game 5

@wardell30 with the speedy dribbling! 🏀💨💨#NBAFinals

A video posted by NBA (@nba) on

OAKLAND — The biggest game of the season.

That’s what Game 5 is to both the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers, and not just because it’s the next game in these NBA Finals.

It’s the biggest because when it’s over the winner will be a mere four quarters from being able to finish this thing and claim that Larry O’Brien Trophy, feed a championship-starved fan base and etch their names in NBA lore among the other championship teams that preceded them.

Games like these come with the pressure that shows the true character of the men involved. We’ll find out if Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, the Splash Brothers, are truly ready for prime time? If LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers just needed a little rest to continue engineering one of the all-time great upsets in NBA and sports history (they are a robust 15-0 this season on exactly two days of rest)?

Fifteen just happens to be the magic number tonight.

The Warriors are undefeated this season (a staggering 57-0) when they get a 15-point lead in a game.


And they’ve got karma in the house thanks to the Barrys (Rick and Brent “Bones” Barry, one of just three father-son combinations to have won NBA championships joining the Walton and Goukas clans as the only duos to accomplish that feat).

Warriors champ Rick Barry with the crew! #NBAFinals

A photo posted by @nbatv on

Lineup changes and defensive tweaks are fine. And they worked well for the Warriors in Game 4. Now it’s the Cavaliers’ turn to throw a wrinkle or two into the mix.

LeBron said there will be no lineup change. An extension of the rotation from seven players to say eight or nine, however, seems to be a must. Mike Miller and Shawn Marion need to be on high-alert tonight. But really, guys like J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert are the ones who need to step up for the Cavs.

Shump in the corner, getting ready for Game 5.

A photo posted by John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) on

Someone is due for a breakout effort tonight, either the Splash Brothers or Smith and Shumpert (they get a nickname if and after they have that breakout game).

Game 5 is the time someone needs to get it done. Because it’s all on the line tonight, right here at Oracle Arena. Winner takes the commanding 3-2 advantage and the chance to finish this series off Tuesday in Cleveland ….










He whose name should not be spoken … at least until he starts playing better!


Same starting five as Game 4. No need to fix it if in ain’t broken.


If you go strictly by the numbers …




Brutal start for both teams. Turnovers, bricks, turnovers, etc.


Warriors pick it up. Cavaliers keep turning it over.


Why wait?


Good Draymond vs Good JR


Well, until JR flattened Draymond and picked up a Flagrant 1



LeBron playing all five positions. Biggest Cavs player on the floor and running the point. Cavs 17, GSW 16 #unreal


Still waiting on that Splash Brothers reunion …


MVP stuff



I believe the proper term is #BeastMode


Warriors better pick up the pace because JR is hot!






Don’t know how easy they are, but he is getting whatever he wants, whenever he wants and wherever he wants it.


Delly with a dive, draws Draymond’s second foul


Meanwhile, LeBron is in #BeastMode


Best way for LeBron to keep JR engaged?


Dirtyvedova … hmmmm!


Bogut with the assist.


Two full days of rest = #BeastMode


Eyes in the back of his head.


Common foul indeed.


Harrison Barnes goes up big late and LeBron goes on the poster. Warriors rally for the 51-50 lead at the break.




It doesn’t matter what language you use, it’s called Ballin’


Lots of basketball to be played Sir. But it is something worth pondering.


Small Ball is the name of the game right now.


I want mine. Strawberry Banana #JambaJuice


Steph cannot get loose. Simply nowhere for him to go with the Cavs cutting off all angles.


Stripes messing with us tonight. Don’t let the whistles get in the way.


Looming large!


What do you do with a two-day wait for Game 5? Apparently a few people went to the movies.


Pretty good company …


Welcome to the new NBA … No Bigs Allowed!


Down to the wire …


No LeBron, No business!


And then there’s that …


Anything Kerr can AI can do better.


Mozgov’d again?


@kingjames with his 2nd triple double of the 2015 #NBAFinals. Watch on ABC!

A photo posted by NBA (@nba) on


Just another #NBAFinals triple-double for @kingjames… 29-12-10 early in the 4th qtr

A photo posted by NBA on TNT (@nbaontnt) on


You never say that word!


The MVP back and forth is breathtaking to watch. Klay and JR can get it on the fun, too.



Your turn JR …


LeBron is so preposterously good at this game of basketball. Does it all.


Coaching shots fired?


Finals MVP if the Warriors win?


Extremely inaccurate!


#StephBack MVP … Delly had no chance.


Love from Down Under even


LeBron with another 3 from the Oakland Hills. Wow!








Back & forth we go on ABC in Game 5 of the 2015 #NBAFinals!

A video posted by NBA (@nba) on


Told you, #15isthemagicnumber

Warriors biggest lead … 15!



LeBron was unreal. Unreal. But the MVP gets the win.

Cavaliers’ Dellavedova, Shumpert get green light for Game 4

VIDEO: Dellavedova says he feels like he’s ‘pushed the limit a few times’

CLEVELAND – Matthew Dellavedova made his first public appearance Wednesday with a paper cup in each hand, filled either with the beverage touted on the cups’ exteriors – Gatorade – or some other liquid to help keep him hydrated, a particular problem Tuesday night.

The balancing act kept him from diving to the floor or crashing through anybody as he stepped up to greet the media, just another podium game for the unlikely candidate from Down Under.

Dellavedova, the Cleveland backup point guard thrust into a starter’s role after Kyrie Irving’s knee fracture in Game 1, was taken by ambulance to the Cleveland Clinic for treatment of severe cramping after Game 3 on Tuesday. The 24-year-old Australian had scored 20 points and logged 38 minutes – almost double his 20.6 mpg during the regular season – while hurling himself about the court (and its perimeter) in his feisty, even way.

It helped earn the Cavaliers a 2-1 edge in the series, but it earned Dellavedova an intravenous feed to replenish his fluids. The good news for Cleveland is that Dellavedova joined his teammates at Quicken Loans Arena and said he was fine to play in Game 4 Thursday.

Ditto for Cavs guard Iman Shumpert, who hurt his left shoulder running into a Draymond Green screen in the first quarter Tuesday and left the court in the first quarter. Shumpert turned to play another 24 minutes over the final three quarters and said he would be available in Game 4.

“Good news on Shump’s shoulder,” Cleveland coach David Blatt said. “He had an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging exam), he was examined and evaluated by our medical staff. He has a bruised shoulder and it’s painful, but fortunately no serious damage, and that’s really, really good news.

“Delly, obviously, suffered from some fatigue. I don’t know whether to call it dehydration or something else, but the tank was low, and we’re doing everything we can to fill it back up. That’s the best way I could describe it for you.”

Shumpert admitted that, had he taken the same hit in a regular season game, he might not have come back as a precaution (he dislocated that same shoulder early in the season). But the defensive-minded guard said, “This is The Finals.”

Dellavedova didn’t suffer his cramping until the end of the game. The hospital stay was a precaution, too, but nothing that will get in the way of his next spirited performance.

“I was there for a little bit, but mainly just to rest up and recover,” he said. “We all take it pretty easy today just to get our treatment, and we’ve watched tape and things like that. So, yeah, I’ll be ready to go tomorrow.”

Said Blatt of the player who has the same gearbox as a Tasmanian devil: “I told him I was going to limit his minutes, and he said, ‘No, you’re not.’ Look, we’ve got to be realistic and keep our eyes on him and see how he recovers. He emptied the tank last night. Hopefully in the ensuing 48 hours he’s going to be able to catch up and to get back up to par, so to speak, in terms of his body. But he’ll be out there, and we’ll just monitor how he’s doing.”

Game 3: 24-second thoughts

VIDEO: Matthew Dellavedova was all over the floor in Game 3

— Four quarters just isn’t enough in these Finals. Two games and two times we’ve gone to the fifth. If it happens again tonight, we just might need another fifth to survive.

23 — Nice job, but just asking: How many of the Warriors and Cavs have Rascal Flatts pumping through their headphones?

22Jeff Van Gundy on Stephen Curry: “It’s not like he’s in a slump.” Well, it’s not one bad night. In his last four playoff games, Curry has shot 29-for-82.

21Iman Shumpert to the locker room with shoulder injury. This “next man up” stuff for the Cavaliers only works as long as you have a next man.

20 — Two words: Tristan Thompson. And six points and seven rebounds. On a night when Cavs need to be big, nobody has played bigger in the first quarter.

19 — Happy Festus-vus! Off the Warriors’ bench comes Festus Ezeli for the Feats of Strength when Golden State needs it. He’s got a lot of problems with you people.

18 — Toss a coin. Tonight we get the “good” J.R. Smith. 3-for-3 start.

17 — How much Warriors’ frustration is showing? Curry has to restrain Draymond Green from going after a referee.

16 — More Tristan Thompson.

15 — How much more of the burden can LeBron James carry? Now he’s got to overcome his own teammate (Thompson) knocking the ball out of the basket.

14 — The series has been a reminder of just how much Andre Iguodala gave up of himself to come off the bench for the Dubs. Iggy has been sensational at both ends of the floor.

13 — Cavs’ defense is a dirty, gritty, grinding, relentless, suffocating thing of beauty. Warriors 15-for-44 (.341) and 3-for-18 (.188) at the half.

12 — If LeBron were 30 of 88 shooting in the last 4 1/2 playoff games as Curry is, just how much grief would he be taking?

11 — Warriors’ 37 points in first half is as much as Klay Thompson scored by himself in third quarter Jan. 24 vs. Kings.

10 — A spot-up 3 and then a gorgeous runner. Dellavedova-Curry is moving into Buster Douglas-Mike Tyson territory.

9 — MVP sighting midway through third quarter. Stephen Curry gets his first bucket since the opening Warriors score of the night.

8 — Controlling the pace, making the plays, hitting the fadeaway, blocking shots — LeBron has the game, the Warriors, The Finals in the palm of his hand.

7 — Curry caught with ball in his hands on layup as horn sounds to end third quarter. That sums up his night so far.

6 — Iguodala 3 from corner cuts the 17-point lead down to nine just 2:02 into fourth quarter. Laissez les bon temps rouler. Remember, Warriors came from 20 points in fourth (Game 3) at New Orleans way back in the first round of the playoffs.

5 — Doesn’t that guy on his way to 17-point fourth quarter look a lot like Stephen Curry? We should just hit fast forward and go to overtime.

4 — LeBron limps off court to the bench. One more injury and the Cavs should be able to clinch the championship by Thursday.

3 — The little Aussie isn’t the only one selling out with his hustle. After missed baseline jumper, the superstar LeBron (40-12-8) — sprints back to make the key deflection on Curry. He’s got 123 points in 142 minutes, most ever in first three games of Finals.

2Danny Crawford blew his whistle and then decided it was a good time to show the world his Rick Perry impersonation. “Ooops!”

1 — So what do you think the devil is going to do with that soul Delly sold him?

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.”

Morning shootaround — June 9

VIDEO: What should we expect in Game 3 of The Finals?


Report: Celtics’ interest in Love fading | Cleveland fans ready for these Finals games | How Cavs kept Splash Bros. under wraps

No. 1: Report: Celtics’ interest in Love fading — Since last summer, there have been talks that the Boston Celtics were interested in acquiring Kevin Love in some form or fashion. Although they ultimately lost out on acquiring Love via a trade last summer, the embers of that chatter were stoked anew after the Celtics’ first-round playoff series with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Love, of course, can opt out of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent and Boston is flush with cash to spend. But according to Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald, the Celtics may not be as into Love as they used to be:

Last offseason we told you a Kevin Love-to-the-Celtics trade was a non-starter because the Timberwolves simply didn’t want what the C’s were offering. And Flip Saunders proved wise in waiting, extracting top overall pick Andrew Wiggins from Cleveland for his patience.

This year, even though Love’s path to Boston could seemingly be more clear — all he has to do is opt out of the final year of his contract, not wait out a trade — things have gotten significantly more problematic from a Celtics point of view.

According to all sources, Danny Ainge still has affection for Love, but it’s not nearly the borderline obsession that it was last summer.

The major difference is that last year Ainge was doing everything he could to avoid the deeper rebuild that came when he didn’t get Love and was fated to trade away Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green. (And as it turned out, the Celtics president of basketball operations was in many ways fortunate to be able to find palatable deals for those two.)

The idea last year was to try to pair Love with Rondo, giving the Celtics two All-Stars, a solid base around which to build, and presenting Rondo with a reason to stay when he reached free agency this summer. So, as we noted even before the Timberwolves got their deal, no Love meant no Rondo.

Had Ainge been able to whet the Minnesota president’s appetite and acquired Love, the Celts would have worked harder to fill in gaps with capable veterans, which would have meant a higher Eastern Conference seed and a longer stay at the postseason party than just four games.

That the C’s got to the playoffs anyway is to their everlasting credit — and Ainge’s chagrin. But their late-season roster reshuffle may actually have them further from contention.

Isaiah Thomas is an extremely nice addition, as is Jae Crowder. And Marcus Smart is young, improving and very much a gamer. But there is not an assists machine (Rondo) and explosive if maddeningly inconsistent wing scorer (Green) to put with Love.

And from all indications, Love is not seen as a foundational player upon whom to build. Further, sources say his knee issues are bound to have an impact on his basketball longevity and effectiveness.

“I think he wants to be in a good situation,” said one league exec from outside this area. “But I also think he’s concerned about his health, so he wants to get a good long-term contract. I still think he stays in Cleveland.”

*** (more…)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Warriors Game 2 shot chart

Warriors Game 2 shot chart

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

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

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

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

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

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.


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.

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.

Blogtable: Under pressure in The Finals?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

BLOGTABLE: Under pressure in The Finals? | Could Wade, Heat split up? | Assessing new coaches

VIDEODennis Scott and Rick Kamla reveal their Finals picks

> Fill in the blank: The pressure is on ________ in these NBA Finals.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comStephen Curry. He’s got to close this out, this MVP year of his. Consider it the pressure of the Maurice Podoloff Trophy. Had James Harden and the Rockets prevailed in the West finals, it would have been a little bit of a referendum on Curry’s marvelous season and his ability to carry a team at his weight class. Now, facing LeBron James — another 2015 MVP candidate as well as a four-time winner — it’s even more so. Curry has to be his pesky, shot-making self and not let the big lug from Akron or any of the other Cavs drape themselves over him so effectively it swings the series in Cleveland’s favor.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comLeBron James. Because it’s always on LeBron James. He’s the best player in the game today, one of the greatest of all-time and yet he continues to come under more scrutiny and draw more criticism and than any athlete of the era. So even though the Warriors had a league-best 67 wins, have cruised to a 12-3 record in the playoffs and are the favorites to win the series, it’s somehow on LeBron to prove that he’s a winner. That’s why we’re already hearing so much about his 2-3 record in The Finals.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comDavid Blatt. Because the pressure has been on more when he was winning in the playoffs than when he was losing the first half of the regular season. Blatt has himself to thank for that, for almost calling timeout he didn’t have, and LeBron James to thank, for throwing his coach under the bus by waving off Blatt’s play and then going public afterward. The Cavaliers had a very good finish to the regular season and reaching The Finals is a big positive. But if Blatt has a rough series, it’s going to look very bad.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comUm, David Blatt? We all know the story by now, how he was hired before LeBron officially returned, how the Cavs struggled at the start, and the almost “timeout” and blah, blah, blah. Blatt has the chance to erase all the suspicion and doubt about his coaching ability with four more victories, and a Cavs win would be surely classified an upset. Of course, LeBron would likely get all the credit if that happens. Blatt cannot afford to be out coached by Steve Kerr and create a dark cloud over his head heading into next season.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comMy initial answer would be David Blatt. But really, how the Cavs’ offense performs is more in the hands of LeBron James than his coach. The Warriors are going to do their best to cut off the paint and keep James on the perimeter. It will be up to him to find ways to get to the basket, get his teammates open shots, or start making some jumpers himself. Thursday would be a nice time to break out of his 3-point shooting slump.

Sekou Smith, Draymond Green. The Warriors’ forward holds the key to his team’s championship dreams within him as this series nears. LeBron James always travels with two-ton boulders filled with pressure on his shoulders. He’s used to it by now. But Green will see much of LeBron in this series, perhaps on a one-on-one basis for a majority of that time. If he can have a Kawhi Leonard-like effect on LeBron throughout the course of the next 4-7 games, the Warriors will be celebrating with a parade these Bay Area streets haven’t seen the likes of in some 40 years (for their one and only NBA team). That’s serious pressure for a guy no one was sure would be a starter in this league.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comLeBron James. The Finals revolves around him. His team is the underdog and yet he is expected to win. Kevin Love and Anderson Varejao — his starting front line — are out and Kyrie Irving has been hurt, and yet Cleveland is counting on him to lead his newly-rebuilt Cavaliers (at both ends of the floor, no less) to the city’s first championship since 1964. Don’t think he doesn’t feel that pressure, and don’t think it’s a bad thing either — in the end he’s going to find a way.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blogLet’s work backward here. I don’t really feel like the pressure is on Golden State, who had a terrific season and have reached The Finals for the first time in 40 years. With their young core, this should be Golden State’s first trip of many to The Finals. In Cleveland, for all the talk of the Cavs being cursed and unlucky, the reality is this is the Cavs’ second trip to The Finals in the last eight years. That’s thanks to LeBron, who has now made five consecutive Finals trips and shrugs off pressure. I guess if anything, the pressure is on Cleveland’s role players, who will have to chase the Splash Bros. and hit the open threes LeBron creates for them if Cleveland is going to have any chance.