Posts Tagged ‘Timofey Mozgov’

Shoulder strain puts ‘LeBron project’ Mozgov on ice for 10-14 days

Cleveland center Timofey Mozgov will be out 10-14 days, the Cavaliers announced Friday, due to the strained right deltoid shoulder muscle injury he suffered in the second quarter of their game against Milwaukee at Quicken Loans Arena Thursday. That will put on hold some of the extensive tutoring and intense expectations the 7-foot-1 Russian has faced from star teammate LeBron James.

Mozgov isn’t the only ailing Cavs player. Guard Mo Williams won’t play Saturday against the Atlanta Hawks at The Q (7:30 ET, League Pass), missing his second game with a sore right ankle. Williams is listed as doubtful to play Monday at home against Orlando, the team reported.

But Mozgov is the player who will be absent from the extra attention he’s been receiving – and not exactly in a coddling manner – from James. Cavs beat writer Dave McMenamin of looked at the “tough love” James has shown Mozgov so far this season as a way to prep him for the important clashes to come. What the big man has been giving them – 7.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 1.1 bpg in 20.8 mpg – is down significantly from last season (10.6, 6.9, 1.2, 25.0):

James will shout at Mozgov for a failed defensive assignment, criticize him when a play isn’t executed properly, implore the big man to make every part of his 7-foot-1, 275-pound frame felt by the opposition.

James and the Miami Heat often lashed out at Mario Chalmers during the Big Three era. Now Mozgov is getting guff from James in Cleveland.

Cavs associate head coach Tyronn Lue even made an example of Mozgov at practice after the big man was repeatedly scored on in the post by Philadelphia 76ers rookie Jahlil Okafor in the fourth game this season.

Lue showed Mozgov what he wanted — crouch low, lean his weight into the opposition, spring up straight — and then had Mozgov try. Over and over again, Lue stopped to correct Mozgov before hailing James over from an adjacent court to join in. Mozgov appeared anything but comfortable as nearly half the team gathered and watched him struggle.

“The spotlight is going to be on us like that as a team every game this season,” James told when asked about the scene. “He has to become comfortable with it.”

In James’ first stint in Cleveland, he pretty much wrote off J.J. Hickson, according to multiple sources. James was fed up with the big man’s shoddy work ethic. But James admits tough love might not be the best tactic with Mozgov.

“I think I may have to change my approach a little bit,” James said to “A lot of it is predicated on how much he means to our success, how big of an impact he made once he got here last year. And when you see that type of impact, you expect it. And you expect it every single night and you expect it consistently, but I may have to change my approach how I lead him. I think I’ll figure a way out. I’ll figure another method.”

It’s clear Mozgov is testing James’ patience. When Mozgov collided with Anderson Varejao during a drill after practice this week and fell to the floor, clutching his forehead, James could be heard loudly telling a teammate, “You can’t make this s— up,” gesturing to Mozgov laying down in the paint.

“I’m the leader of this team, whatever it takes,” James said Tuesday. “So if it’s laying into them, I’ll do that. I also lead other ways as well. Obviously that makes more headlines than others, but whatever this team needs I’m going to do. I’m going to hold everyone accountable, including myself. And I expect nothing less than greatness out of all of us and if we’re not able to do that, then I feel like I’m failing.”

One Team, One Stat: Not Top 10

VIDEO: Schuhmann’s Advanced Stats: Cleveland Cavaliers’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2015-16 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the Cleveland Cavaliers, who got by with some bad defense.

The stat


The context

20151027_cle_basicsHistory tells us that defense is a little more important than offense if you want to compete for and win a championship.

Of *the last 38 champs, six ranked outside the top 10 in offensive efficiency, while only three ranked outside the top 10 in defensive efficiency. And in **the last 13 years, when a better offensive team has faced a better defensive team in the playoffs, the better defensive team has won 66 (56 percent) of the 118 series.

* Since the league starting counting turnovers in 1977.
** Since the first round went to seven games

The numbers aren’t overwhelming, but they back up the idea that defense wins championships.

Still, a top-10 ranking on both ends of the floor is a good qualifier for a team’s ability to contend for a championship. Last season’s Cavs were terrific on offense, but ranked in the top 10 in defensive efficiency in only one calendar month, the one that was broken up by the All-Star break.


For the season, the Cavs were below average in regard to defending shots, forcing turnovers, and keeping their opponents off the offensive glass.


Cleveland did improve defensively after trading for Timofey Mozgov and Iman Shumpert in January, but ranked only 12th from the time Shumpert returned from his shoulder injury.

The Cleveland defense improved again in the playoffs, but that was partly due to the injuries to Kevin Love (who played in just 3 1/2 of their 20 games) and Kyrie Irving (12 1/2). David Blatt had to lean on more defensive-minded personnel and his team had no choice but to play ugly.

In the regular season, the Cavs had the league’s best offense against top-5 defenses. They only lost two playoff games on their way to The Finals and don’t seem to have a legit challenger in the Eastern Conference again this year. The Cavs still have the best player in the world and the league’s GMs picked them to win the championship.

But we’ve yet to see this team play at an elite level on both ends of the floor at the same time. Even if they’re eventually healthy this season, there’s room for improvement, especially on the defensive end of the floor.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

Morning shootaround — Sept. 22


VIDEO: Relive LeBron James’ epic return season in Cleveland

Report: Love, Varejao, Mozgov, Irving will be ready for camp | Matthews, Parsons, McGee out for start of camp | Report: Ridnour will sit out 2015-16 season

No. 1: Report: Love, Varejao, Irving, Mozgov all expected to be ready for camp — Reports circulated a few weeks ago that LeBron James was summoning his Cavs teammates to Miami for workouts and judging by a photo that circulated on social media, there was a pretty good turnout for it. As we close in on official team training camps, though, there could be some good news for Cleveland once things get rolling. According to Chris Haynes of the Northwest Ohio Media Group, injured players Anderson Varejao, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving and Timofey Mozgov are all expected to participate in training camp:

The Cleveland Cavaliers anticipate that Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Timofey Mozgov and Anderson Varejao will be ready for the start of training camp Sept. 29, Northeast Ohio Media Group has learned.

All four players are recovering from surgery.

Irving (fractured knee cap) and Love (separated shoulder) will be active during camp, but on a limited basis. The Cavaliers will work the two in slowly and cautiously. The anticipation is that Love will be fully cleared with no limitations before Irving is given the green light, I’m told.

Love said on the “Late Night with Seth Meyers” talk show Sept. 11 that he was “a month and a half away” from returning.

Irving refused to give a timetable for his return in a recent interview with the Associated Press in Miami.

So far, Love’s workload on the court consists of non-contact drills; while Irving has been coy about what he has been doing.

NEOMG is also told Mozgov (knee scope) and Varejao (Achilles’ tendon tear) are not expected to be restricted once camp opens, but the team will closely monitor their involvement

*** (more…)

Morning Shootaround Sept. 12

VIDEO: New Orleans Pelicans point guard Jrue Holiday and his soccer star wife Lauren are a true two-sport super couple


Thompson will be absent from LeBron’s Miami workouts | Holiday, Pelicans taking cautious approach heading into camp| Stunned Canadians assess damage after upset

No. 1: Thompson will be absent from LeBron’s Miami workouts — Not all of the Cleveland Cavaliers will be taking their talents to South Beach for pre-training camp workouts organized by LeBron James. Restricted free agent power forward Tristan Thompson will not be attending the festivities, not without his future with the team solidified with a new contract. Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group has more:

With the 24-year-old in the midst of a lengthy contract stalemate with the club, he has elected not to appear.

The first day of the camp [was Friday].

James summoned his teammates to join him in South Florida to get a head start on the upcoming season. It will be a year in which the team is a betting favorite to win the NBA Finals.

NEOMG is told that Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Anderson Varejao, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, Joe Harris, Mo Williams, James Jones, Richard Jefferson and Sasha Kaun are expected to be on the scene in Miami.

Irving, Love and Varejao will be limited as they recover from injuries that required surgery. Timofey Mozgov’s absence is due to being on the mend from a knee scope over the summer.

*** (more…)

Blogtable: Taking Mozgov or Thompson?

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

BLOGTABLE: New coach with toughest gig? | Best international player today? | Mozgov or Thompson?

VIDEOTimofey Mozgov’s game was sparked by a trade to Cleveland

> Timofey Mozgov or Tristan Thompson? Assuming the Cavs won’t sign both players to lucrative long-term deals, who’s the better choice for the money in Cleveland?

Steve Aschburner, Straight up, I’d prefer Tristan Thompson – five years younger, more vaunted upside, high-revving motor, great disposition, more versatility. But for this Cavaliers team, it’s Mozgov. Those four inches and 20 pounds or so he has over Thompson matter, even in today’s corner-3-crazy game. More than that, LeBron James “plays nice with” and really seems to value traditional big men, from Zydrunas Ilgauskas to Anderson Varejao to Mozgov. He banged the drum for TT as a “lifetime Cav” too, but that team took off after Mozgov’s arrival and James knows it.

Scott Howard-Cooper, It’s Thompson. In the conversation that Thompson will be back this season, Mozgov will cost less, and there is something to be said for that considering the money the Cavs have already pushed to the middle of the table. It will be slightly less if Thompson takes the qualifying offer or a lot less if Thompson and Cleveland do a new contract. Either way, Thompson is the better choice for the money. He has a longer future and more upside, along with the larger contribution now.

Shaun Powell, I’ll go with Timofey Mozgov if only because he’s a natural center, while Tristan Thompson must share the power forward position with a guy who just received a ton of money from the Cavs. Besides, Mozgov brings better offensive skills and a few extra inches in height.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comThompson is five years younger and has missed only six games in his four-year career, but he plays the same position as Kevin Love.  Mozgov, meanwhile, is the more important player right now, because he’s the better rim protector on a team that needs defense more than offense from its role players. If I could keep Mozgov at 2/3 the price of Thompson (giving me more flexibility to build around my core), it would be an easy choice.

Sekou Smith, I’m going with Tristan … until we see another half season, or more, of Mozgov playing the way he did in the playoffs (and specifically The Finals). They are both hugely important to Cleveland’s title chances going forward. And while Kevin Love could easily take those minutes Thompson played during last season’s run to The Finals, I still think the Cavaliers are at their best with Thompson controlling the paint with his rebounding and defense. It’s not an easy choice, but Thompson’s value on and off the floor wins out.

Ian Thomsen, Thompson is more versatile defensively – they can play small around him – and his departure would threaten a rift between the franchise and LeBron James. If they’re going to keep only one of them then it has to be Thompson, in spite of Mozgov’s effectiveness.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blogI thought Mozgov and Thompson were equally impactful in their own ways during the postseason for the Cavs. And while Mozgov has developed into a nice center, particularly when he’s playing alongside LeBron James, if I have to commit to one of these guys long term, I’m going with Tristan Thompson. Not only is Thompson five years younger than Mozgov, but it seems like last season, Thompson realized that hustle will get you everywhere, and he started playing with the pedal floored at all times. Thompson is not a great shooter, but he doesn’t have to be if he’s going to work the boards and take most of his shots from a few feet from the basket. The offensive skills can still be developed. But if he can sustain the hustle, that’s the guy I want on my team for the long haul.

Report: J.R. Smith opts out, wants back with Cavs

After his dreadful disappearing act when the Cavaliers needed him most during The Finals, most might consider the move redundant. But J.R. Smith has opted out of his $6 million contract for next season, likely in hopes of getting a new deal and more money in the long term, according to Shams Charnaria of Real GM.

Smith arrived in Cleveland at the trade deadline along with Iman Shumpert from New York and that pair along with the acquired Timofey Mozgov provided the Cavs with the depth they needed to turn around their shaky start and make it all the way to The Finals. However, Smith shot just 31.2 percent from the field in the six-game series loss to the Warriors, often looking unwilling as well as unable to shoulder more of the offensive load once All-Star Kyrie Irving went down with a fractured kneecap.

Smith said following The Finals that he wanted to return to Cleveland next season and the Cavs expressed mutual interest. Unless another team comes out of the weeds with a big offer, it’s likely that Smith will re-sign for less than the $6 million he was due, but for two or three years that would net him more money over the long run.

Smith wouldn’t be the first Cavalier to opt-out, following suit after Kevin Love reportedly chose to do the same.

Overtime: 24-second thoughts

VIDEO: All-Access: 2015 NBA Finals

What?  No Game 7?

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

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

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

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

And durability is a talent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blogtable: Future for 7-footers?

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

BLOGTABLE: Future for 7-footers? | Going defense-first? | Cavs or Warriors in 2016?

VIDEODebating the merits of playing small vs. big

> After watching the “small ball” Finals, what does the future look like for a 7-footer in the NBA?

Steve Aschburner, Frankly, the NBA better hope that its 7-footers, however rare, aren’t eradicated from the scene. Last I checked, no one was goosing the TV ratings to watch a 6-foot-5-and-under league. Part of the appeal of pro basketball always has been its big men and, in my view, the NBA’s Competition Committee needs to dial back some of the things that favor the shorties. My suggestion: Widen the court and extend the 3-point line an extra foot or two all around. The game has gotten too 3-heavy, diminishing the mid-range game, which always showcased some of the most creative and athletic shot-making. More mid-range ultimately means greater roles for the bigs.

Fran Blinebury, There will always be a place for skilled big men in the NBA — emphasis on skilled. Going forward, there should be emphasis on developing an all-around game that includes passing and shooting as a way to spread the floor on offense and ability to come away from the low post to defend.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comCan the 7-footer shoot and move? It’s not the size, it’s the skill set. I would have thought Andrew Bogut plays no matter what because he can be a facilitator on offense as well as defend, not some plodding center who can only impact within arm’s reach of the basket. So if he spends a lot of The Finals riding pine, all bets are off. Be mobile or be increasingly worried.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comThe future looks like Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor and the next potentially great center coming from the Draft. I don’t buy the idea that the big man is obsolete. Mediocre big men are obsolete. Crummy big men are obsolete. But the next Hakeem Olajuwon won’t be sitting on the bench in The Finals, trust me.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comThere’s space for seven-footers, and there will be a few — Marc Gasol, DeAndre Jordan, Brook and Robin Lopez — that will get big contracts this summer. You need to be mobile and bring some skills to the table, preferably on both ends of the floor. But there’s room in today’s pick-and-roll, spread-the-floor offenses for a big guy  (Tyson Chandler is a good example) who just has to be able to set a good screen, roll hard to the basket, catch the ball and finish. Layups are still more valuable than 3-pointers, and a good roll man opens things up for good shooters.

Sekou Smith, It depends on what kind of 7-footer you are. The days of big man battleship basketball in the NBA have ended. They went away when Shaquille O’Neal cleared out the big man division. Any dominant big man since then either has been a hybrid/stretch four or a some variation. The skilled 7-footer will always have a place in basketball. So much will depend on the training young bigs get on the way up. If they are schooled in all facets of the game, we’ll see some new hybrids enter into the mix. Work on your free throws and face-up game, young bigs, and you will be fine. I did enjoy the small-ball portion of these Finals, though, and wonder how many more teams will be forced to embrace that approach?

Ian Thomsen, It depends where he is playing. If the Cavaliers had entered The Finals at full health then we might now be discussing the renewal of the 7-footer – we may even be talking about it this time next year, based on Cleveland’s potential to go big with LeBron James, Kevin Love, Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov. Small-ball succeeded, but that doesn’t mean the death of traditional lineups. Depending on the size and speed of your team, and the strengths and weaknesses of your stars, there are all kinds of ways of winning the championship – and Mike D’Antoni’s system is now officially among the options.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog: I’d say it looks brighter than ever. It took David Blatt a game, but once he figured out how to deploy Timofey Mozgov against that vortex of 6-foot-7 players, Mozgov had a pretty big impact on Game 6. Small lineups are the easiest to deploy, mostly because small players are the easiest thing to find. But uncover a seven-footer who can get up and down the court and he can destroy versus a small lineup. One of the oldest maxims in the NBA is height doesn’t grow on trees. And it still doesn’t.

Blogtable: Cavs or Warriors in 2016?

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

BLOGTABLE: Future for 7-footers? | Going defense-first? | Cavs or Warriors in 2016?

VIDEOThe Starters reflect on The Finals of 2015

> Which team is more likely to reach The Finals in 2016: Warriors or Cavaliers?

Steve Aschburner, Easy. Cleveland. Because the East.

Fran Blinebury, With the Western Conference being a much tougher neighborhood, there will be more challenges to the Warriors. The other question is can they expect/hope to get through another entire season and playoffs virtually injury-free?  The Cavs will still have the best player in the game in LeBron James, an All-Star in Kyrie Irving and we assume, for now, Kevin Love. GM David Griffin is likely to upgrade the talent on the rest of the roster, and I’m expecting a Cleveland with a bit more good health and good luck to be back knocking on the door next June.

Scott Howard-Cooper, I would not be surprised to see either or both make it back. The Warriors are the safer bet, though, because the core will be returning. It’s more difficult to project the Cavaliers’ roster until we know if Kevin Love returns, and the specifics of the new lineup if he does not. How is Anderson Varejao’s health? Where is Irving’s rehab? There are a lot more unknowns. But as long as there is also LeBron James, and if the medical situations have positive outcomes, Cleveland is a contender.

Shaun Powell, This is easy: Cavaliers. The have LeBron. They’ll be healthy (assuming). And here’s the biggest advantage: They play in the East. The Warriors, meanwhile, must deal with an irritated Kevin Durant and ornery Russell Westbrook, and perhaps the Los Angeles Clippers.

John Schuhmann, Cleveland is the answer, because they have LeBron James and they’re in the Eastern Conference. But the Warriors were the much better and more complete team. We know that they have what it takes to be an elite squad on both ends of the floor. The Cavs improved defensively in the playoffs, but they still have to prove that they can play top-10 defense over the course of 82 games with a couple of offense-first stars like Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

Sekou Smith, I’ll take a rematch with everybody healthy. Lock it in right now and I’m buying. That said, I think the Cavaliers (provided they are healthy) have the more realistic path back to The Finals. The Warriors will have to grind through the more rugged Western Conference again next season. The Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies and several other teams not on the radar will be there to give chase. Cleveland won’t have nearly as many legitimate threats to their Eastern Conference crown. Again, I’d be all in for a Warriors-Cavs healthy rematch, if only to see what might have been this time around with a healthy Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love to go along with LeBron James.

Ian Thomsen, The Cavaliers, health willing: They’re in the easier conference, and they figure to be the NBA’s hungriest team next year.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blogI could honestly answer either team right now and feel pretty confident in that answer. Right now, in the afterglow of The Finals, both teams seem like they’re set to make multiple Finals runs over the next half-decade, a rematch the ratings suggest people would like to see. But if I’m picking a team to make it back soonest, I’ll go Cleveland. They’ve shown they can make it to the Finals using a lineup basically composed of LeBron James and four guys from the YMCA, and the landscape in the East remains easier than the gauntlet out West.

Right & Wrong: Warriors win Game 6 and First Finals in 40 years

VIDEO: Andre Iguodala grabs an unlikely Finals MVP award

CLEVELAND — The Golden State Warriors wobbled, but in the end they wouldn’t fall down. After trailing 2-1 early in the NBA Finals, the Warriors went small and ran away with the series, rallying to take three in a row over the Cleveland Cavaliers, including a 105-97 win in Game 6. The Warriors followed the same recipe that led to wins in Games 4 and 5, going with a shorter lineup and trying to push the tempo throughout the night.

Here’s a look at what went right and wrong in Game 6.

Right: The substitution that perhaps saved the Warriors season came before Game 4, when Steve Kerr swapped out starting center Andrew Bogut in favor of small forward Andre Iguodala. Though Iguodala hadn’t started a game all season, he slid seamlessly into the front five, averaging 20.3 ppg in his three starts. Iguodala also did a terrific job pestering LeBron James on the defensive end. In Game 6, early on the Cavs seemed content to give Iguodala perimeter jumpers, and he stepped up to the challenge, finishing with 25 points and putting a lock on the NBA Finals MVP award. “My mind was working so many ways,” said Iguodala. “Like, what’s going to happen if you win? What’s going to happen if you lose? How do you approach the game starting? Do you come out firing? Do you let it just come to you? So for me, it was just playing my game. If you’re feeling it, shoot it. If you feel like you can make a play for somebody else, just make a play for somebody else.”

Wrong: I’m putting LeBron James in the “wrong” category only because he was on the losing team. Yes, he’s now 2-for-6 in the NBA Finals, but the truth is, LeBron didn’t really do much wrong this entire series. Even in Game 6, when he was clearly tired and struggling to knock down jumpers, James finished with a monster stat-line: 32 points, 18 rebounds and 9 assists. For the Finals, James averaged 45.8 minutes per game, and in that time averaged 35.8 ppg, 13.3 rpg and 8.8 apg. Considering the injuries afflicting the Cavs and the struggles of some of James’ teammates, it was about as impressive a performance in a losing effort as you’ll ever see.

Right: An often-overlooked part of the Warriors going to their small lineup and using Iguodala as a starter was 6-foot-7 Draymond Green logging time at center. There were times when Cleveland struggled to take advantage of a size advantage — like in Game 5 when they tried to match small lineups with the Warriors — but the Cavs went big in Game 6, playing the seven-footer Timofey Mozgov for 32 minutes. Despite being outsized, Green more than held his own in Game 6, finishing with 16 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists, the first triple-double by a Warrior in Finals history. Not a bad way at all to finish out his season, as the player overlooked coming into the NBA heads toward free agency this summer. “I won the National Player of the Year Award in college, consensus All-American,” Green said. “I made every, every single First Team All-American that you could possibly make, and I was a second round pick, and a lot of people said I could never play in this league: ‘Too slow, too small, can’t shoot well enough, can’t defend nobody. What does he do well? He doesn’t have a skill.’ I’ve got heart, and that’s what stands out.”

Wrong: In this close-out game, with possessions at a premium in the postseason, the Cavaliers just couldn’t take care of the ball. Even though the Cavs got to the free-throw line 39 times, they finished Game 6 with a whopping 19 turnovers, including 6 from James and 3 from Mozgov. While Cleveland was able to control the tempo early on — the score was tied at 8 after 6 minutes – they couldn’t capitalize on the deliberate pace, as they had 5 turnovers during that span, including a couple of 24-second violations.

Right: The other way the Warriors were able to successfully deviate from their “small” lineup was by using Festus Ezeli, who spent most of the season as a hard-playing reserve. In 11 minutes in Game 6, Ezeli scored 10 points, including a wicked put-back dunk with a few minutes to go in the third. Still just 25 years old, Ezeli looks to be a vibrant part of Golden State’s future.

Wrong: Let’s take a second and recognize that the Cavaliers were essentially transformed into the Cadavers in the NBA Finals, a wounded shell of the team that started the season, as they were missing Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and Anderson Varejao. Injuries are a part of sports, sure, but they’re also a “wrong” part of sports. “I’ve been watching basketball for a long time,” said James. “I’m an historian of the game. I don’t know any other team that’s gotten to The Finals without two All Stars. I cannot remember thinking of it. I don’t even know if it’s ever happened, for a team to lose two All Stars and still be able to make it to The Finals. Even what [Varejao] brings to our team as well, that’s another double double guy. We had three play-makers in suits this round and even throughout the playoffs. You’ve got to have all the play-makers. You’ve got to be healthy. You’ve got to be at full strength to win it. We weren’t.”