CLEVELAND — The 2015 Finals just may be a series of attrition.
The Golden State Warriors are the deeper team here, especially with the Cleveland Cavaliers losing three opening-night starters to season-ending injuries. And Game 4 may have been the point where that depth really showed up.
There were a few other narratives coming out of the Warriors’ 103-82 victory. But they don’t hold much water.
Narrative No. 1: Steve Kerr’s lineup change got the Warriors back on track
The reality?: There may have been some intangible benefits to the change, but the new starting lineup was outscored by the Cavs, 36-35, in its 14-plus minutes in Game 4. Golden State played its best with at least one reserve on the floor.
Narrative No. 2: The Warriors moved the ball more (thanks to the lineup change)
The reality?: While the Warriors have been markedly better in the series when they pass the ball three or more times on a possession (see below), they averaged fewer passes per possession in Game 4 (2.86) than they did in their loss in Game 3 (2.92). They passed the ball three times or more on only 51 percent of their possessions, down from 57 percent on Tuesday.
Furthermore, their two biggest baskets were unassisted Stephen Curry step-back threes — one over Matthew Dellavedova to put them on the board after an 0-7 start and another over Tristan Thompson that put them up six at the end of the third quarter after the Cavs had pulled to within one possession with a 20-10 run. He hit a third over James Jones as the Warriors put ’em away in the fourth.
Also, in 102 regular-season minutes, the new starting lineup assisted on only 50 percent of its buckets, a rate well-below the Warriors’ overall rate of 66 percent (which ranked second in the league). And in the playoffs, the Warriors’ assist rate has been highest (66.5 percent) when Andrew Bogut (among rotation regulars) has been on the floor. Replaced in the starting lineup by Andre Iguodala on Thursday, Bogut played less than three minutes.
So, while a smaller lineup can provide more floor spacing, it doesn’t necessarily result in more ball movement.
Narrative No. 3: The Warriors picked up the pace
The reality?: Not really. They had the ball just 90 times, the same number of times they had it in Game 3 and one fewer than they had it in Game 2 (through regulation). And the fastest-paced quarter on Thursday (the third) was the quarter that the Cavs won.
The Warriors averaged 11 shots in the first six seconds of the shot clock through the first three games. In Game 4, they took 12 shots in the first six seconds of the shot clock.
Narrative No. 4: The Warriors forced the ball out of LeBron James’ hands
The reality?: James did take just 22 shots, after averaging 36 through the first three games. But the Warriors weren’t demonstrably more aggressive in defending him.
Kerr: “I think we were just more active. It wasn’t a strategic change.”
Cavs coach David Blatt: “They didn’t play him significantly different. I think we were a little bit slower into our sets, and I think we didn’t always get him the ball in great spots. And that made it a little bit more arduous for him to get into position to score the ball.” (more…)