Posts Tagged ‘Stephen Curry’

Film Study: Too much LeBron for Warriors

OAKLAND — The Cleveland Cavaliers have defied logic in a couple of ways in The Finals.

For one, the Cavs have won the three fastest-paced games of the series and have outscored the Golden State Warriors 97-59 in fast break points. The Warriors led the league in fast break points per game in the regular season and were assumed to be the team that wanted to play faster, but it’s been a role reversal from both the regular season and from last year’s Finals, with the Cavs using early offense to their advantage.

The second thing that might make you question your basketball values is that the three games the Cavs have won have been the three games in which they’ve passed the least often (per possession). They’ve averaged 2.89 passes per possession in their three losses and just 2.51 (a rate that would have ranked last in the league by a wide margin in the regular season) in their three wins.

20160618_passes

Now, there’s likely a correlation there. Transition possessions are going to have fewer passes than longer possessions. But even in the half-court, the Cavs are not winning games like the San Antonio Spurs did two years ago. Though the Cavs have 13 more field goals in the series, the Warriors have 27 more assists, 24 more secondary assists, and 86 more potential assists, according to SportVU. Cleveland’s mark of 3.7 secondary assists per game would have ranked 29th in the regular season.

Really, it’s been a two-man show for the Cavs as they’ve come back from a 3-1 deficit to force Game 7. LeBron James (57) and Kyrie Irving (42) have taken 99 (62 percent) of their 160 shots and recorded 27 (69 percent) of their 39 assists over the last two games. Forty of James’ and Irving’s 56 buckets in Games 5 and 6 were unassisted.

Kevin Love has been less than non-factor. J.R. Smith has hit some threes and Tristan Thompson has racked up 10 screen assists in the two games, but the offense has run through Irving and James exclusively.

So here’s a question going into Game 7 on Sunday (8 p.m. ET, ABC): Should the Warriors be more aggressive in trying to get the ball out of James’ and Irving’s hands?

The Irving trap

Irving did see a few double-teams on pick-and-rolls in Game 6 on Thursday. And those generally worked out for the Warriors.

Here’s Anderson Varejao jumping out high after a screen from Thompson on the side of the floor…

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Shaun Livingston didn’t switch, but rather joined Varejao to push Irving further from the basket and get the ball out of his hands…

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The result was an Iman Shumpert, 3-point miss from the right wing.

Another double-team from Varejao early in the fourth quarter forced Irving into calling a timeout. But those doubles were few and far between on Thursday,

One-on-one with the Chosen One

The Warriors double-teamed James even less. According to SportVU, James touched the ball 100 times in Game 6, and the Warriors double-teamed him exactly once.

That happened midway through the second quarter, when James posted up Andre Iguodala. Draymond Green came quickly from the weak side and doubled James on the catch, with Leandro Barbosa and Stephen Curry zoning up on the weak side…

20160618_james_double

… and they reacted quickly enough to keep the Cavs from gaining an advantage. Green recovered from the double-team to guard Thompson on the baseline, and then helped on a Shumpert drive and took a charge. It was one of the Warriors’ best defensive possessions of the night.

But mostly, the Warriors let James play one-on-one.

Here he is posting up Curry after a switch…

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(Give Thompson an assist there for engaging Iguodala in the paint and not allowing him to help.)

More single coverage in the post from Klay Thompson

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… and Harrison Barnes

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Now, James didn’t do a ton of work in the post in Game 6, and transition defense (which starts with taking care of the ball) has to be the Warriors’ first concern on Sunday. But they can also double-team pick-and-rolls (rather than switching), defend him higher (so he can’t see the floor so easily), and make him see more bodies between him and the basket in half-court possessions when he has the ball on the perimeter…

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There were times when the Warriors overloaded on James in Game 6, but with too much of a cushion and bad positioning on the weak side…

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… allowing him to deliver easy passes for easy baskets.

Tristan Thompson also showed some deftness as a pick-and-roll playmaker (see here and here) in Game 6, but he’s still not Green or Boris Diaw in that regard.

The Warriors were fantastic in Game 1 when it came to overloading on James and recovering to the weak side. Since then, they’ve allowed the Cavs’ offense to become more unbalanced to the point where James can score or assist on 27 straight points, like he did in the second half of Game 6.

Doubles working for Cavs

Curry couldn’t score or assist on 27 straight points, because the Cavs have been defending him more aggressively than the Warriors have been defending James.

According to SportVU, Curry has passed the ball 61 percent of the time a teammate has set a ball screen for him in The Finals. James (47 percent) and Irving (42 percent) have passed the ball less often.

And when Curry has given up the ball, the Cavs have done a good job of filtering it to guys like Barnes (2-for-22 over the last two games) and Iguodala (5-for-16 from 3-point range over the last five games).

Here’s a (not all that aggressive) double-team of Curry…

20160618_curry_double_1

… that turns into a wide-open three for Barnes…

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The Cavs are probably happy to live with the results if Barnes takes another 10-12 shots in Game 7. And the Warriors should work on forcing more shots out of guys like Love and Shumpert. Getting the ball out of the hands of James would at least force the Cavs’ role players to make plays, something they haven’t been doing much of the last two games.

Game 6: Numbers to know

CLEVELAND — Some statistical notes from the Elias Sports Bureau and other sources regarding the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 115-101 victory in Game 6 of The Finals.

* Margin of Victory | Games | Year

This is the first time in Finals history that all six games of a Finals series have been decided by 10 or more points.

118 | 6 | 2016
105 | 5 | 1965
101 | 7 | 2005
101 | 7 | 1960
97 | 6 | 1982

* Fewest points, first quarter (shot clock era)

The Warriors managed just 11 points in the first quarter of Game 6, setting a record for fewest points scored in the first quarter of a Finals game in the shot-clock era.

13 — Ft. Wayne at Syracuse, April 2, 1955 & Milwaukee at Boston, May 3, 1974

* Largest lead at end of first quarter

The Cavs’ 31-11 lead after the first quarter tied for the second-largest lead after the first quarter in Finals history.

21 — L.A. Lakers vs. Boston, June 12, 2008 (led 35-14; lost 91-97)
20 — Cleveland vs. Golden State (led 31-21, won 115-101) & Los Angeles vs. New York, May 6, 1970 (led 36-16; won 135-113)

* LeBron does it again

LeBron James scored 40-plus points in consecutive games in a single Finals, but LeBron is the only one who did it in consecutive elimination games

* Home teams in Game 7s

In the history of The Finals, only three teams have won Game 7 on the road:

Bullets/Wizards vs. Sonics, 1978
Celtics vs. Bucks, 1974
Celtics vs. Lakes, 1969

* Even scoring in Finals so far

After six games in The Finals, the Warriors and Cavs have each scored 610 total points in the series.

This last happened in the 1993 Finals (Bulls vs. Suns) which ended in Game 6 with Chicago’s victory.

This is the first NBA Finals in history in which both teams scored the same amount of points entering Game 7.

 

Morning shootaround — June 17

NEWS OF THE MORNING

LeBron carves up Warriors’ top defenders | Porzingis a fan of Hornacek’s hiring | Cousins drops 20 pounds | Curry’s father-in-law threatened with arrest before Game 6

No. 1: Warriors’ top defenders can’t deliver in Game 6 — In the 2015 Finals, the Golden State Warriors emerged with the championship trophy after six games in large part because of the defense they could throw at Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James. Led by the talents of Andre Iguodala, the Warriors found a variety of ways to slow James down and, with the Cavs lacking in depth, the Warriors finished Cleveland off. That hasn’t been the case the last two games in these Finals, though, as James has scored 41 points each time and is having his way with the Warriors’ defense, writes Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle:

When the Warriors took the floor Thursday night in Cleveland, it appeared as though Draymond Green was back from suspension and Andre Iguodala was replacing Andrew Bogut in the starting lineup.

Within a couple of minutes of Game 6’s opening tip, however, it was clear that the Warriors didn’t truly have the services of any member of the trio.

It was known before the game that Bogut would miss the rest of the NBA Finals with two bone bruises in his left leg, but no one could have guessed that the Warriors’ other top two defenders would pull a no-show.

Iguodala dealt with lower back stiffness that turned him into a seemingly 70-year-old version of himself. He shuffled up and down the court, barely lifting his feet off the ground and trying to keep his back as straight as possible.

“I wanted to make sure it wasn’t anything that was going to get worse,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said. “His back was tight, but we tried to limit his minutes as much as we could. He wanted to play, and this is probably the first time I’ve been happy that we have two days before the next game in the series.”

Green, who has finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting in consecutive seasons, wasn’t that man in Game 6. He was seemingly lost in the fog of flagrant-foul points and technical fouls that have haunted him in the past two series and finally got him suspended for Game 5.

“They’ve got to feel us from the jump,” Green said. “We’ve got to come out with an edge and impose our will on the game from the beginning.”

Instead, Green felt the Cavaliers. He was tackled once by Tristan Thompson and got up without saying a word. Green has had a beef with Dahntay Jones for 15 months, but he walked away from two potential altercations with the Cavaliers’ end-of-the-bench player.

Without the intensity that allows him to overcome his 6-foot-6 frame while playing center, Green was dominated by Thompson. The Cavs’ center had 15 points on 6-for-6 shooting, to go with 16 rebounds and a team-leading plus-32.

Green had eight points, 10 rebounds, six assists, and the Warriors were outscored by 12 during his team-high 41 minutes. The Warriors got outscored 42-30 in the paint and got outrebounded 45-35.

The Finals Live Blog — Game 6

CLEVELAND — The energy is different for do-or-die games.

The blood pumps harder than usual. The senses are heightened. Paying attention to every little detail, all of the minutiae, is paramount.

Lose your focus for a moment, a two or three minute stretch, and that’s the game.

The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors will be locked in that pressure-packed chamber for at least 48 minutes here tonight at Quicken Loans Arena. Game 6 of The Finals, the same game it all ended a year ago between these two, with the Warriors turning the visitor’s locker room into the “Champagne Room.”

Draymond Green would love to see his return (from a one-game suspension) bring that feeling back for the Warriors, who despite a doomsday narrative since their Game 5 loss at home, still lead this series 3-2.

So what if the Cavaliers pushed for a two-game suspension for Draymond for his Game 4 swipe at LeBron James. And so what if all of Draymond’s Flagrant fouls in this postseason came after review from the league office instead of by the game officials. These things happen.

Again, the minutiae is what matters. The details.

Who scrambles for loose balls and wins?

Who does the basics, putting a body on a body when a ball goes up for the best box out position?

Whose will is stronger?

It's GAME DAY!

A video posted by NBA (@nba) on

LeBron has been great in these situations, historically speaking. He’s been known to rise to the magnitude of the moment, the way he and Kyrie Irving did in Game 5, becoming the first pair of teammates to score 40-plus in the same game in The Finals.

Historically speaking, of course, applies to basically everything these Warriors have done this season. The 24-0 start, the 73-9 record, the 402 makes from deep from Stephen Curry and on and on …

The fear that this could very well be the final game of this NBA season cranks the anxiety level up to code red for all involved. That’s why having the great Craig Sager working the sideline on the ESPN broadcast makes this night even sweeter.

#SagerStrong

We are very excited to have Craig Sager joining our broadcast team for Game 6 of the #NBAFinals.

A photo posted by NBA on ESPN (@nbaonespn) on

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Whose stars will shine brightest tonight?

Draymond already said there is no need for him to try to be “He-Man” out there. And LeBron and Kyrie have already done their Batman and Robin routine.

The unanimous KIA MVP is certainly capable of donning his cape tonight and you can be sure Klay Thompson will have his cannon loaded. And might we even get a Kevin Love sighting?

But I think back to this time a year ago, when Draymond finished with a triple-double in the clinching game and wonder, does he have another one in him tonight?

Oh, the energy and anxiety in do-or-die games … I can’t wait!

Dubs at work. #NBAFinals

A photo posted by Golden State Warriors (@warriors) on

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Anything is possible tonight! Watch Game 6 pregame w/ me @imisiahthomas @realgranthill @matt_winer. @NBATV @ 7p!

A photo posted by Steve Smith (@steve21smith) on

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The clowning has already started with #Game6WardrobeWatch! #BeetleDraymond

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SchoolBoy Steph!

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Where is the Love?

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Pregame coach speak from Tyronn Lue

.. and Steve Kerr

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J.R. Smith‘s daughter didn’t hold back when talking about her pops …

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2008 Finals MVP Paul Pierce showing off that bling!

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Stager’s suit game on blast, as always!

Craig Sager will work his first #NBAFinals game tonight! #SagerStrong

A photo posted by NBA (@nba) on

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Point guard show game for Game 6 …

Craig Sager will work his first #NBAFinals game tonight! #SagerStrong

A photo posted by NBA (@nba) on

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Andre Iguodala gets the starting nod tonight for the Warriors, Lineup of Death on deck …

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Good question ???

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They are ready up in here! Quicken Loans Arena …

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Save some for the game LeBron!

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Get in formation!

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Harrison Barnes is being left open on purpose and he’s not making the Cavaliers pay for it. 6-0 Cavs start.

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It’s a continuation of Game 5 early on, Cavaliers up 13-5 thanks to stuff like this …

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And this …

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Cleveland is rolling up 26-9 …

 

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It’s already that kind of night, and we’re not through the first quarter yet.

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END FIRST Q: CAVALIERS 31, WARRIORS 11 … the end?

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Finals MVP … just playing with you. But he’s in BEAST MODE!

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Warriors fans have to be really worried now.

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Of this we are all certain!

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Warriors finally settle down and start making shots and they are still down 39-24 with 8:54 to play.

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Warriors, unbelievably, are back in this thing. Down 46-38 with 4:40 to play. Crowd has quieted down.

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Warriors need look no further for the source of their struggles ….

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This debate never ends!

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T. Lue pushing all the right buttons so far …

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HALFTIME CAVALIERS 59, WARRIORS 43 … crazy first half, to say the least.

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Well, that didn’t go as planned Steve Kerr.

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🛫🛫🛫

A video posted by NBA (@nba) on

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So it’s not just on Steph tonight, huh?

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Grand Rapids stand up! #GRDrive

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That’s one way to settle this thing … hmm!

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More Barnes and Love Tom Foolery …

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A motliest of crews. T-Mac, Mike Miller and the great Bill Russell?

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Lost mojo, lost bodies (Iguodala is in the bak getting looked at right now), lost everything at the moment!

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The Cavaliers don’t look anything like the team we saw in Games 1 and 2 of this series. #SWAG

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Iguodala update!

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END OF THIRD CAVALIERS 80, WARRIORS 71 … this thing is far from over. DO NOT GO TO BED JUST YET!

Warriors ended the quarter on a Klay Thompson powered 10-run and once again this crowd is nervous.

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Steph with the hoop and the harm on ABC. #NBAFinals #StrengthInNumbers #DubNation

A video posted by Golden State Warriors (@warriors) on

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My man Ronnie2K dropping dimes on Lil’ Kev … cold!

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Steph picks up his fifth for after a clean pick of Kyrie with 9:46 to play. Tough call. Bad call?

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Game 6 down to the wire, thanks to this guy.

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LeBron saving the bacon right now for the Cavaliers. Possession by possession.

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Folks do need appreciate his rare combination of size and skill and the fact that he’s met or exceeded all of the expectations that have dogged him since he was what, 14?

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Turtles is watching, too.

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Just so we’re clear on what’s going on here.

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4:22 to play and Steph’s night ends with his sixth foul and a tech and a tossed mouthpiece and a long walk to the tunnel and the, well, you get the point.

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Cavaliers not only stave off elimination for the second straight game, but do it in dominating fashion. They are physically whipping the smaller Warriors at every turn. Oh and LeBron is cooking, just for good measure …

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All he did was drop 41 points in 42 minutes on 16-for-27 shooting, 3-for-6 from deep, 11 assists, 8 rebounds and a whole lot of flexing. Game 7 it is.

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GAME 7!!!!!!

There will be a Game 7. #NBAFinals

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The Finals Live Blog — Game 5

Two words [Game] #READY WATCH Me in B [READY] featuring @e40

A video posted by Draymond Green (@money23green) on

OAKLAND — I feel your pain Draymond Green.

For a player who serves as the vocal and emotional leader for the reigning and defending NBA champions to have to sit out a Game 5 of The Finals at home, with a chance to clinch back-to-back titles, it has to tear your heart out.

Sure, plenty of folks insist that you did this to yourself, that you knew one more Flagrant foul point would result in a one-game suspension.

It’s true, we all knew. Kiki Vandeweghe, the NBA’s VP of Basketball Operations, was left with no choice but to discipline Green, what with all of the hoopla surrounding his kicking and swinging exploits during this postseason.

But I still didn’t think his response to being stepped over by LeBron James late in the Warriors’ Game 4 win deserved anything more than the double fouls the officials usually call in an instance where players exchange tough words but don’t dive into any sort of physical exchange.

If the Warriors take care of their business while you watch next door from the A’s stadium (according to NBA rules Green cannot be in the building from two hours prior to tip off until after the game has ended), you won’t have far to go to join in on the championship celebration.

The fact that you won’t be able to participate in what serves as potentially the biggest game in the Warriors’ historic season is what stinks.

As much as this season has been about two-time KIA MVP Stephen Curry and fellow All-Star and Splash Brother Klay Thompson and their otherworldly shooting exploits, as much as it’s been about the Warriors’ Strength In Numbers mantra and campaign, it’s also been about the continued evolution of the game of Green, a hybrid point/power forward capable of performing at another level on both ends of the floor.

This game without any of the principal figures — James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love included — for whatever reason, is something of a letdown. You always want to see the best of the best, at full strength, go at it with everything on the line.

But not this time.

The game must go on …

And something tells me one of these guys will have to play a significant role tonight for the Warriors to win

2 hours… #StrengthInNumbers

A photo posted by Golden State Warriors (@warriors) on

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Welp, the “high road” …

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Spoken by a man who knows …

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As important as Draymond is to the Warrior, and no one is disputing that, this guy might be more important!

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On this date in history: MJ went 5-for-5 in The Finals .. just saying!

OTD in 1997 Michael Jordan won his 5th @NBA Championship and #NBAFinals  MVP.

A photo posted by @nbatv on

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Game 5!!!

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Love them or hate them, these are two real ones.

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Kyrie going with the grunge look tonight?

#Cavshion presentation 💯 | #ALLin216

A video posted by Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) on

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Who plays Steve Kerr tonight for his team?

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A moment of silence for all those affected by the terror in Orlando over the weekend.

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Cavs will probably need each and every single point he can provide tonight.

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It’s gonna be a wild night!

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Desperate times call for desperate measures … sleeves?

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Dre Day after all?

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No reason to wait …

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Steph with a 3 and Kyrie tries to get some “get back” and, of course, turns it over …

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It’s early, but he’s right. No flow on offense.

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You knew that wouldn’t take long. #FreeDraymond

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Again, it’s early …

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Mighty clever. #SPLASH

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Speechless. Just speechless.

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Just a good ol’ fashioned playoff foul!

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Cavs battling the elements, the crowd, the nerves and the Warriors  and hanging tough.

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Where’s Draymond? Follow the sign …

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They can’t stop, won’t stop …

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LOL

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Where is Draymond? With Beast Mode!

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WARRIORS 32, CAVALIERS 29 at end of 1st quarter. LeBron is clicking (4-for-7 for 12 points, 2-for-2 from deep), Kyrie and JR, too (17 between them) and the Cavs are still down. Warriors are 5-for-13 from deep, Curry has 10 and Klay 8). Iguodala with 8 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and the early lead for Finals MVP.

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Strength In Numbers?

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Cavs showing their mettle. Quick burst for a 36-32 lead with 10:46 to play before halftime. They re not rattled by the moment.

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Kerr has to be a master tonight, managing minutes and controlling the pace and tempo.

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Draymond eating good at the A’s game.

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Livingston goes boom!

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Kyrie and Klay playing 1-on-1 for Game 5 …

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Klay Thompson is not trying to go back to Cleveland anytime soon.

BEST NICKNAME EVER?

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No resemblance. None!

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Kyrie has 18 of his own and the Cavs are up 54-50 with 3:45 to play before halftime. This is the kind of game you wish we had every night in The Finals. Two heavyweights throwing blows.

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You wonder who is going to blink first?

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This is one of LeBron’s finest performances, given the magnitude of the moment.

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Great first half both ways. Tied at 61 and yes, things are mighty different for both sides without Draymond out there.

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B | B | Z Bronny, Bryce & Zhuri. #ThisIsWhyWePlay

A photo posted by Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) on

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Meet me at the rim! #NBAFinals

A photo posted by Golden State Warriors (@warriors) on

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Everybody hates Kevin …

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More #SHADE for Love …

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Get your popcorn ready for this second half!

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Hugs all around.

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Solid observation …

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Right on Ricky!

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Bogut with a sweet block and a nasty knee injury on the same play. Huge loss for the Warriors at 10:07 of the third. They are without their two best rim protectors (Bogut and Green) for the remainder of this game.

No replays necessary!

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Heavyweight slugfest!

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Positionless basketball.

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A little love for Tyronn Lue?

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LeBron’s haters are silent tonight. He’s flat out ballin in this building tonight.

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Pressure mounting on the home team. Warriors look a bit spent. No Draymond is crushing right now.

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Cavs must continue to attack the rim if they want to hold on to this lead. Warriors have no resistance at the rim.

Meanhwhike across the way …

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LeBron is in another world tonight. Step-back game and everything working like clockwork.

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Cavs are making them work like crazy for even a decent look.

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CAVS 93, WARRIORS 84 after 3. LeBron is refusing to go quietly into the offseason right now. Suffocating defensive effort from his team. And clutch shot-making from he and Kyrie. Warriors look fatigued and missing Draymond’s presence on both ends something terrible.

Great drama!

Warriors will have to rally to try and win this thing here at Oracle. And without Bogut or Draymond it’s looking tight. Hold on for what should be an unreal fourth quarter.

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Cruel and unusual comparison.

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Keep an eye on this stuff …

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But he keeps hitting buckets, 34 and counting for Uncle Drew’s nephew, who is killing it tonight.

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Just so we’re clear about what kind of night LeBron is having …

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Me and my partner rollin’ like Batman and Robin …

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Kyrie!

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The Closer!

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You don’t have to be a fan. If you have eyes and understand the goal is to put the ball in the hole …

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Masterful performance indeed.

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Identical twin uglies?

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On the flip side …

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I cannot say enough about the way LeBron and Kyrie approached this game. Total calm. Understood what was at stake and played like assassins. Unreal performance by two guys. Barely needed any scoring help from the rest of the Cavaliers.

That’s why I always pack for 7!

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GAME SLEEVES, CAVS 112, WARRIORS 97 to stave off elimination and we shall see what both teams can muster in time for Thursday’s game in Cleveland.

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He grabbed 3 …

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See you Thursday night for Game 6!

 

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.”

Is one the loneliest number for Green?

VIDEO: LeBron James and Draymond Green gets testy in Game 4

What if you held a victory party and nobody came? What is the proper etiquette for spraying champagne on yourself?

Those and a few others are questions that could be answered on Monday night when Draymond Green won’t be in the building when his Warriors teammates try to close out their back-to-back championships.

Because the Golden State forward has been suspended for Game 5 due to his fourth flagrant foul point that resulted from what was ruled a retaliatory swipe at the groin of LeBron James in the waning minutes of Game 4 Friday night, NBA rules say that Green is not permitted to be inside Oracle Arena.

That means that while Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and the rest of the Warriors, who hold a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, will likely dedicate their effort to closing out the Cavaliers to their firebrand emotional leader, it could present the odd scenario of Green not being on hand to celebrate if they get the job done.

If you’re Green, would there be a part of you secretly hoping that the series returns to Cleveland for Game 6 so that you can help with the clinching join in the fun? Or do you simply reserve a table at the swankiest restaurant in town, put on a tuxedo and have a bucket of bubbly on ice?

Which brings up one last question: If a champagne cork comes out of a bottle and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a “pop”?

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.”

***

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?

***

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.

Film Study: Smaller screens for Curry

OAKLAND — You would think that having Kevin Love or Tristan Thompson guarding Stephen Curry after a pick-and-roll switch would be a distinct advantage for the Golden State Warriors.

But through the first three games of The Finals, that wasn’t really the case. Curry had taken more shots against the Cleveland Cavaliers’ bigs than he did against their guards and wings, but he had shot almost twice as effectively against the smaller guys.

20160612_curry_1-3

Getting bigs switched onto Curry hadn’t allowed Curry to get going offensively. Thompson and LeBron James had proved adept at containing the MVP (and even forcing some turnovers) after a switch. Curry hadn’t shot poorly through the first three games, but he had yet to bust out and score in bunches.

In the regular season, the Warriors set 19.5 ball screens per game for Curry, according to SportVU. And through the first three rounds of the playoffs, they set 20.4 ball screens per game for him.

But through the first three games of The Finals, that number was just 15.7 per game. And the Warriors had scored a paltry 0.67 points per possession when running Curry off a ball screen.

In Game 4 on Friday, things changed. The Warriors set 32 ball screens for Curry, they scored 1.39 points per possession when they did, and he scored 38 points, the most he’s had in regulation in this year’s playoffs (or in the 10 Finals games he’s played).

It wasn’t just the number of screens for Curry that changed. It was also the size of the teammates who were setting them. Through the first three games, 38 of the 47 ball screens for Curry were set by the Warriors’ bigs (Draymond Green or their centers). But in Game 4, 19 of the 32 were set by guards and wings (including combo forward Harrison Barnes).

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Curry got off to a slow start scoring-wise on Friday. Through the first eight minutes, he had three assists, but was 0-for-2 from the field.

Then, with just under four minutes to go in the first quarter, Curry got a screen from Shaun Livingston on the right side of the floor. It wasn’t a called play, but rather a random action in transition. The result was an isolation on Richard Jefferson, who switched onto Curry.

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Curry stepped back and launched a shot over Jefferson, his first made three of the night.

Livingston set another screen for Curry on the very next possession. And more screens from other guards and wings would follow. Curry’s second three was on a play where he rejected a screen from James Michael McAdoo and chose to go one-on-one with Iman Shumpert rather than attack Love.

20160612_curry_reject

Curry actually shot better against Cleveland’s bigs (6-for-11, 5-for-7 from 3-point range) than he did against the Cavs’ guards and wings (5-for-14, 2-for-6) on Friday. But the Warriors were clearly taking a different tack in Game 4 in an effort to get the MVP going. Maybe those early looks against smaller defenders did just that.

And when the Warriors ran a couple of pick-and-rolls with Curry and Klay Thompson, the Cavs really struggled to defend them.

Midway through the third quarter, when Thompson set a screen for Curry…

20160612_curry_thompson_1-1

J.R. Smith switched, Kyrie Irving didn’t, and Jefferson was slow to recognize the need for help from the weak side, leaving Thompson all alone for a catch-and-shoot three…

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That was clearly a called play, as it was the Warriors’ first offensive possession after a timeout (before which Thompson had hit another three). On the next possession, they ran a similar play, with Draymond Green setting an initial screen for Thompson…

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That detached Smith from Thompson and had him trailing the play. So even though Thompson didn’t set a real screen on Irving…

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Irving switched…

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And because Smith couldn’t hit the breaks fast enough, Curry had a wide-open pull-up three.

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He missed, but it was one of the best looks he’s had all series.

The Green screen was little wrinkle that threw off the Cavs. When you have the skill and versatility that the Warriors have up and down their roster, you can do a lot of different things within the course of a game or series.

Attacking the Cleveland bigs on pick-and-rolls seemed like the best path to success for Golden State. But when that didn’t work, they had another way to help Curry break out and get within one game of their second straight championship.

The Finals Stat: Game 4

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

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

The stat

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

The context

20160610_basicsSmall ball continues to take over.

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

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

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

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

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

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
EFG% = (FGM + (0.5 * 3PM)) / FGA
OREB% = Percentage of available offensive rebounds obtained
TO Ratio = Turnovers per 100 possessions
FTA Rate = FTA / FGA