Posts Tagged ‘Stephen Curry’

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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

It is his desire.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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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.

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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…

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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

The Finals Live Blog — Game 4

THE LAND — Your move Splash Brothers!

LeBron James and his crew answered the call in Game 3 of this series, bouncing back from a 30-point tail dragging in Game 2 to deliver a 30-point whipping of their own Wednesday night.

Now it’s time to see if two-time KIA MVP Stephen Curry and All-Star shooting assassin Klay Thompson will finally get going in The Finals and remind us why we’ve been talking about them being the best shooting backcourt in NBA history. Doing it on the Cavaliers’ home floor tonight in Game 4 would only serve to heighten the drama in this series (not that it needs much more, see Kevin Love and the concussion protocol, Draymond Green insisting that the Warriors got “bullied, punked” in Game 3, etc.)

I don’t know that the Warriors can finish this series the way they want to without Curry and Thompson getting back into the groove they were in during most of their record-setting regular season.

Asking Green and the rest of the Warriors to carry them to victory in two more games, even with at least two more possibly on their home floor, is asking a bit too much.

We know what LeBron will bring tonight. No one knows the magnitude of the moment like does, playing in his sixth straight Finals with legacy on the line each and every time he hits the floor.

It's GAME DAY at the #NBAFinals!

A video posted by NBA (@nba) on

So it comes down to this, to Game 4, on the road in a hostile environment against an opponent that is wide awake now, the moment of truth, if you will, for the Splash Brothers.

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It was more than just a dunk, LeBron’s epic Game 3 smash …

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You do remember that free agency is just around the corner, right? That’s what friends are for Kevin Durant and James Harden

#JamesHarden#KevinDurant#atwork💯💯💯😙😚✌

A photo posted by @hilqueen23 on

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Happy Birthday Jeff Teague, keep it classy bro!

Join us in wishing Jeff Teague a happy birthday!

A photo posted by @nbatv on

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Where you at Klay T?

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Careful Swish, the is the sort of thing that got the Thunder in trouble in the conference finals. #Respek

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Team USA point guard ranks are thinning by the day!

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Ownership importing some human noisemakers for the Warriors.

Thanks to Joe Lacob & Peter Guber, Dubs employees are on their way to Cleveland for Game 4! #StrengthInNumbers

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

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Stuff Curry is ready!

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Something tells me getting beat by 30 is No. 1 …

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Uncle Drew is locked in and ready to go …

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Love appears to be ready to go. Still not sure if he is going to be in the starting lineup.

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You said this last time Steph!

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Hey man, we matter a little bit …

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Love is A-C-T-I-V-E!

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Gotta give it up to the fans here in Cleveland, the atmosphere around the arena is indeed off the charts.

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Klay is sleeved up and ready to go!

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David Aldridge gets a word or two with Steve Kerr

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Spike Lee representing the Greatest Of All Times! Muhammad Ali!

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This is just wrong!

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Keep your t-shirts!

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What Tommy said!

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Give the political stuff a rest for one night.

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Draymond drawing fouls like a modern day MJ … Jordan Rules?

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In addition to his shooting struggles, Steph got lost on D big time here:

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Who he play for?

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Where you been big fella?

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#SPLASH

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WARRIORS 29, CAVALIERS 28 after the first 12 minutes …

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Stop it. Please. Stop!

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Steph heating up tonight!

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Live by the 3 …

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Not sure what Steph is watching on D, but he keeps losing his man.

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Kyrie showing off his improved defensive prowess.

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The story of the game for the Warriors. Getting waxed on the boards.

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CAVALIERS 55, WARRIORS 50 at halftime … You wanted a close one, you got it!

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SPLASH BROTHERS are SPLASHING

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Not the kids!

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Andy V getting it from the former home crowd for …

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🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥

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

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WARRIORS 79, CAVALIERS 77 at the end 3 … NO COMPLAINTS ABOUT A BLOWOUT TONIGHT!

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Way too much. And the Warriors keep getting timely buckets (3s from all over). 93-84 Warriors with 5:56 to play. The crowd in here is nervous!

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Brilliant player making clutch plays all over the floor.

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Basically …

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Draymond kept his cool there, double fouls and no techs or Flagrants.

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This is what all the LeBron/Draymond fuss was about …

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Freaky moment. Guy had Trump Sucks written on his chest and stomach. Republican National Convention is a month away.

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Steph with a driving layup and dagger. No one questioning him right now.

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SPLASH BROTHERS putting the game away at the line …

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WARRIORS 108, CAVALIERS 97 — SPLASH BROTHERS REVENGE!

Warriors head home with a 3-1 lead and a chance to close the Cavaliers out before the home crowd at Oracle Monday night to win their second straight Larry O’Brien trophy. Don’t guess anyone will waste time questioning Steph (38 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds) or Klay (25 and 4 rebounds) tonight.

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Dubs lead the series, 3-1. #StrengthInNumbers

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

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Morning shootaround — June 10

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: Love likely to play, be reserve in Game 4 | Thompson trying to snap out of funk | Report: Durant not considering Rockets | Terry plans to play 2 more seasons

No. 1: Report: Love likely to come off bench in Game 4 Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love practiced with the team yesterday as it prepares for Game 4 of The Finals tonight (9 ET, ABC). Love has not yet been cleared medically to play after the concussion he suffered in Game 2 ultimately kept him out of Game 3 on Wednesday night. According to Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal, Love is not only expected to play tonight but will do so in a reserve role:

Kevin Love is expected to play Friday and it’s likely he will come off the bench in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, league sources told the Beacon Journal.

Love still has another medical examination he must pass on Friday before he is cleared from the league’s concussion protocol, but he took part in some on-court shooting drills Thursday and the team is privately confident he will be available to play.

Coach Tyronn Lue would not discuss Love’s role on Thursday, insisting he hadn’t given it much thought. While one source stressed no final decision has been made yet, it’s likely at this point Love will be a reserve for the first time since April 14, 2010 – the final game of his second year in the league.

When asked generally about how he handles lineup changes, Lue said it’s important to be honest.

“They might not like it at the time, but I’ve always learned in this business if you tell the truth, guys understand and they know what the truth is,” Lue said. “They might be mad for a second, but they can always get back to understanding and realize that’s the right thing. And if you tell the truth, guys can respect that.”

The Cavs beat the Warriors 120-90 in Game 3 Wednesday for their first win in this series while Love sat. Lue inserted Richard Jefferson into the starting lineup, moved LeBron James to power forward and the Cavs flourished with their best game of the series.

The Cavs have privately been concerned for months how Love would match up defensively in a Finals rematch against the Warriors, with one team executive offering during the regular season that Love may have to become the Cavs’ version of David Lee – the high-priced, high-scoring forward who came off the bench last year to help spark the Warriors to a championship.

The Warriors shot 42 percent in Game 3 when both Klay Thompson and Steph Curry struggled to find a rhythm and James neutralized Draymond Green. The always outspoken Green said he didn’t see any difference with James at power forward instead of Love.

“There ain’t no Xs and Os adjustment they made (that) worked. They punked us. That was the gist of it,” Green said. “I continually try to figure out, what adjustment can they make? I didn’t think there was an adjustment they can make other than to play harder than us. And that’s what they did.”

Film Study: Ball pressure from the Cavs

CLEVELAND — On the Golden State Warriors’ second possession of Game 2 of The Finals, Andrew Bogut caught a pass about 10 feet above the 3-point line. His defender, Kevin Love, was standing at the foul line…

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Bogut had plenty of space to see the other nine guys on the floor and Love provided no pressure.

On the Warriors’ first possession of Game 3, Bogut again served as an initiator of the Warriors’ offense. But this time, Tristan Thompson forced him to catch the ball much further from the basket …

20160609_bogut_g3

When Bogut did catch it, Thompson was right there with him, forcing him to turn his back to the action elsewhere on the floor.

On Wednesday, the Cavs were more aggressive both offensively and defensively than they had been in Games 1 and 2. Offensively, Kyrie Irving and LeBron James were on the attack early and often. Irving didn’t hesitate to pull up for a jumper when the Warriors gave him space.

And space is what Cleveland didn’t give the Warriors. The two images above illustrate the difference between the Cavs’ defense in the first two games of this series and the Cavs’ defense in Game 3. Thompson met Bogut high on that first possession of the game and Cleveland sustained the pressure most of the night.

On that first possession, the Warriors’ first three catches were all at least 35 feet from the basket and Bogut’s eventual post-up took place 20 feet away. The result was a long 3-point attempt from Draymond Green.

A few minutes later, the Warriors looked to get an early look off of one of the two shots that Irving missed in the first quarter. But James met Klay Thompson at the 3-point line…

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Tristan Thompson again pressured Bogut above the arc…

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James denied a Stephen Curry looking to come off a pin-down screen from Green…

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Irving was there as Klay Thompson made a catch at the top of the key…

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And again in the corner four seconds later…

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Thompson rushed a contested, off-balance shot. It was one of 11 stops the Cavs earned on the Warriors’ first 13 possessions of the game.

The Cavs’ defense deserves a good deal of the credit for the struggles of Curry, who has rushed several shots himself, forcing others because he hasn’t been able to get many clean looks in rhythm.

In Game 2, the Warriors were able to leverage the Cavs’ fear of their 3-point shooting to get layups. In Game 3, the Cavs were able to take a lot of those away with better pressure on the ball, keeping the Warriors’ passers from seeing and executing those passes to screeners slipping to the basket. Golden State had just 19 shots in the restricted area on Wednesday, down from 28 in Game 1 and 27 in Game 2.

“Everyone extended their defense a little bit more,” James said about his team’s Game 3 defense on Thursday. “They’re such a great 3-point shooting team that you have to extend your defense to start off with. More than that, they move the ball so, so well. And Draymond being one of those guys, one of their playmakers along with Steph, along with [Shaun] Livingston, along with [Andre] Iguodala that makes so many great passes well beyond the 3-point line. So, you’ve got to do a good job of trying to help the back-line defense by putting a little ball pressure on them.”

It’s not something the Warriors haven’t seen before or that they haven’t been able to handle in the past. But on Wednesday, they couldn’t handle it. Beyond the rushed shots were 18 turnovers, six of them from Curry.

“I just try to pick up Steph as high as possible,” Irving said after the game, “and our bigs do a great job getting up to touch.”

“I think we were a little too relaxed coming in,” Iguodala said on Thursday. “For us, loose plays to our advantage. But when you’re too loose sometimes and you got a team that’s desperate and they punch you in the mouth, you’re next step would be to slow down, be more fundamentally sound, and rely on five guys being on the same page. But sometimes we get in panic mode a little bit and we try to get it all back at once. That’s just compounding problems and mistakes.

“I feel like they hit us first last night and it took us a while to throw a blow back or initiate the contact.”

SportVU player tracking has what’s called an “influence score” that measure’s ball pressure on a scale of 1-100. The Cavs’ influence score in Game 3 from 20 feet and out was 85.9, not too much higher than it was in Game 2 (85.4).

But if you isolate just the first quarter, there’s a more significant jump, from 85.5 in Game 2 to 87.3 in Game 3. It dropped after that, but the Cavs set the tone early.

It’s probably not a coincidence that they were able to bring more pressure and not suffer consequences on the back end of their defense in the game that Love missed with a concussion. Replacing Love with Richard Jefferson in the starting lineup gave Cleveland more collective quickness and fewer matchup worries in transition. And moving James to power forward allowed him to switch onto Curry on pick-and-rolls where Green was the screener.

Four of Curry’s six turnovers were live-ball turnovers after James or Tristan Thompson switched onto the MVP. The Cavs don’t have rim protection with Timofey Mozgov mostly out of the rotation, but a frontline of James and Thompson is certainly mobile enough to defend Curry out beyond the 3-point line. Love and Channing Frye don’t have nearly the same kind of mobility.

Of course, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue isn’t about to tell us that Love’s absence was a good thing for the Cavs.

“We competed, we played harder, and we were able to get matchups in transition,” Lue said about Game 3. “It didn’t have anything to do with Kevin being on the floor. It’s just the way we approached the game.”

The energy and focus was certainly better in Game 3 than it was in Games 1 or 2. The question is if the lineup change influenced the energy. Is it easier to pressure the ball when you know you have the right defenders behind you?

Maybe we’ll get the answer in Game 4.

Morning shootaround — June 9

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Will Love play in Game 4? | Thompson calls Mozgov’s foul ‘kind of dirty’ | Calipari: Murray should go No. 1

No. 1: In wake of Game 3 win, Cavs have Love issues to discuss Due to his failure to pass the NBA’s concussion protocol, Kevin Love was not cleared to play in last night’s Game 3 of The NBA Finals. Despite his absence, though (and thanks to monstrous games from Kyrie Irving and LeBron James), the Cavaliers romped past Golden State , 120-90, to trim the Warriors’ series lead to 2-1. After Cavs coach Tyronn Lue was coy about whether or not Love will play in Game 4 on Friday (9 p.m. ET, ABC), The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski has a story on how Love’s status is part of a bigger question for the Cavs at large:

Asked about how he plans – if at all – to reincorporate Love back into these Finals on Friday night, Lue told The Vertical: “I haven’t thought about it.”

In other words: no endorsement for the embattled power forward. In the hour after the Cleveland Cavaliers had come back to life in these NBA Finals – a 120-90 victory over the Golden State Warriors in Game 3 on Wednesday night – Lue did nothing to diffuse the drama.

This has been the story of Love’s jagged Cavaliers career, two years of stops and starts, major and mild injuries, disconnection and dissatisfaction. Sometimes, Love’s been rolling. Sometimes, Love’s been less than embraced.

Here had been a complete, crushing victory at the Q, the kind of commanding performance needed to end a seven-game losing streak to the defending champions. Richard Jefferson had substituted for Love in the lineup and delivered an inspired, inventive performance: nine points, eight rebounds, two assists and two steals. He defended deftly, delivered the perfect complement to LeBron James (32 points), Kyrie Irving (30) and J.R. Smith (20).

“I gave the game ball to R.J.,” James said.

Just what Love needed. There was no longing for Love – which there seldom is with James. To a man, the Cavaliers gushed over Jefferson, and something you didn’t hear out of them: The assumption that Love takes back the job on Friday night. If Love’s deemed cleared of his concussion, Lue didn’t rush to proclaim that Jefferson’s terrific Game 3 performance would land him back on the bench.

Perhaps the Cavaliers are pushing to something the Golden State Warriors ultimately decided three summers ago: They were better trying to win a championship without Kevin Love than with him. The Warriors passed on a Klay Thompson-Love deal with Minnesota, understanding now that it would’ve been the death knell for the Warriors’ championship aspirations.

Now, Love is 27 years old and in the first year of a five-year, $110 million contract extension. When Love agreed to the deal over the summer, some close to him insisted: He had little, if any, expectation that he would complete that contract in Cleveland. When it was time to find the next scapegoat, post-David Blatt, Love had been conditioned to believe it would be him.

Perhaps that’ll come this summer, but for now there’s the concussion protocol, Game 4 and a chance for redemption. Kevin Love was livid with the doctors telling him he couldn’t play on Wednesday, but no one messes with the brain. Nevertheless, a looming question hangs over Game 4: With or without Kevin Love? On his way out of The Q on Wednesday, I had to ask Ty Lue one more time: “No thought at all about Love, huh?”

“No, sir,” Lue said with a sly smile, and he started walking away, walking toward Game 4 and Friday night, toward one of the biggest choices of his young coaching life.

The Finals Stat: Game 3

CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Cavaliers got their first win against the Golden State Warriors since Game 3 of last year’s Finals, ending a seven-game losing streak to the defending champs with an easy win on Wednesday. The Finals are definitely going back to Oakland for Game 5 next week and the Cavs will have a chance to even the series in Game 4 on Friday. They’re now 8-0 at home in these playoffs.

One stat stood out from the rest in the Cavs’ 120-90 victory in Game 3.

The stat

+17 – The plus-minus of the Cavs’ starting lineup in Game 3.

The context

20160608_basicsWith Kevin Love out with a concussion, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue used a starting lineup that had never played more than four minutes together (and was a minus-7 in less than 15 total minutes over the regular season and playoffs). Richard Jefferson got the start at small forward, moving LeBron James to power forward. The Cavs got off to a 9-0 start and were up 21-8 when Jefferson went to the bench with 4:18 left to go in the first quarter.

After a big second quarter, the Warriors were back within eight points at the half, but the new Cleveland starting lineup had another strong start to the third quarter, outscoring Golden State 13-3 over the first five minutes in the period. In total, the new starting lineup outscored the Warriors, 53-35, in less than 22 minutes of time together on Wednesday. It was the best basketball, on both ends of the floor, that we’ve seen from the Cavs in this series.

The lineup change had James defending Warriors power forward Draymond Green and switching onto MVP Stephen Curry when Green set a screen for him. Curry had a brutal start to the game, missing his first four shots and turning the ball over three times in the first half. The quick starts propelled the Cavs to 71 points on just 47 possessions (1.51 per possession) in the first and third quarters.

The Cavs were sharper on defense and more aggressive on offense, with Kyrie Irving scoring 16 points on 7-for-9 shooting in that first quarter. Tristan Thompson also gave his team multiple second opportunities, finishing with seven offensive rebounds.

Whether or not Love passes the league’s concussion protocol and is able to play on Friday, the lineup that hadn’t played much together before Game 3 will probably see more time in Game 4.

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