Posts Tagged ‘Tristan Thompson’

France completes Olympic field

HANG TIME, N.J. — Both Canada and France blew chances at Olympic berths last summer. Canada led Venezuela by seven with three minutes to go in the FIBA Americas semifinals, but lost in the final second. France, meanwhile, led Spain by nine with six minutes to go in the Eurobasket semifinals, but lost in overtime.

Only one of the two would be able to make up for their 2015 collapse, as both Canada and France were placed in the same Olympic qualifying tournament and faced off in the final on Sunday.

And it was France that earned the final ticket to Rio, beating Canada 83-74 in Manila. The Spurs’ Tony Parker led the way with 26 points, scoring 15 of them in the fourth quarter. His step-back 3-pointer that gave France a seven-point lead with 2:13 left was the biggest shot of the day. Former Spur and Raptor Nando De Colo added 22 points and was named tournament MVP.

The Raptors’ Cory Joseph led Canada with 20 points and six assists, but also had seven of his team’s 21 turnovers. The Cavs’ Tristan Thompson dealt with foul trouble in the first half and finished with just eight points and seven rebounds. Canada was without several of its other NBA players, including Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Olynyk.

Serbia and Croatia earned trips to Rio by winning their qualifying tournaments on Saturday. Denver Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic and Philadelphia 76ers draftee Dario Saric were named their respective tournament MVPs.

After France’s win, France and Serbia were placed in Group A of the Olympic field with Australia, China, the United States and Venezuela. Croatia was placed in Group B with Argentina, Brazil, Lithuania, Nigeria and Spain. The Olympic basketball competition tips off on Saturday, Aug. 6.

The United States’ roster is headlined by Kevin Durant and will be looking to earn its fifth straight gold medal in major international competitions. France, Serbia and Spain should also be competing for medals.

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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.

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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…

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… 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…

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… 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.

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

A photo posted by @nbatv on

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Thompson thrives as Finals starter, Cavaliers’ ‘heart and soul’

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio – In this year’s balloting for the Kia Sixth Man of the Year Award, Tristan Thompson finished 10th. Which suggests that on a team comprised entirely of Sixth Men, Thompson might have trouble getting off the bench at all.

And yet here he is in his second consecutive Finals, and not just as a reserve or even a super-sub but starting. Eight of the players who finished ahead of Thompson in the Sixth Man voting are done, prepping for next season already, while Andre Iguodala (the runner-up for the award) and Thompson still are battling for the jewelry that will commemorate this one.

Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue was a little surprised when Thompson received such little consideration for the Sixth Man, but Lue likely dissuaded some voters when — days before the regular season ended — he announced to the world that Thompson would start the rest of the way and through the playoffs for the Cavaliers.

The way they were playing by then — quicker, with pace and a focus on the 3-point line — stripped value from Timofey Mozgov, the Cavs’ traditional big man. So Lue instead went with Thompson, whose work when pressed into a starting job last postseason earned him a five-year, $82 million contract and the backing of LeBron James.

This time, Thompson’s work might help earn him and his teammates rings, along with a special status in NBA history: the first team to win The Finals after falling behind 3-1.

“He’s been a beast for us all year,” James said after Cleveland’s shootaround Thursday before tonight’s Game 6 (9 ET, ABC). “He gives us extra opportunities. He gives us a paint presence and we need it from him.”

While Golden State has been adjusting to personnel changes in the middle — pocket big Draymond Green was suspended from Game 5 and now starting center Andrew Bogut will miss Games 6 and (if necessary) Game 7 with a knee injury — Thompson has been a constant for the Cavs. He has posted double-doubles in the past four games and grabbed at least 10 boards in nine of his 11 career Finals games.

His increased role has led to bigger stats — 9.8 points and 11.8 rebounds in 36.2 minutes in two Finals series so far — without any change in job description. Lue called Thompson “the heart and soul” of the Cavaliers after Game 3, lauding his aggressiveness and energy in chasing down offensive rebounds.

“It’s a big-time compliment. I definitely appreciate that, Coach Lue,” Thompson said. “But for me, [it’s] just do my job in a new starting role. Having a high motor, being active, just bringing that energy and this spark every night.”

Thompson drew some chuckles from reporters when he shared his typical pregame routine. While James has been talking about his game-day viewings of ‘The Godfather” movies, Thomspon is an HGTV junkie.

“It’s relaxing for the brain,” Thompson said of the network, known for real estate-and-renovation shows. He added, though, that he would give an “all-out shout-out” until HGTV does a segment on his house.

As far as not shrinking in a big moment, considering how few big moments Thompson and the Cavs had before James came back to Cleveland in July 2014, the 6-foot-9 native of Toronto said: ” Go out there and play and — who gives a crap? — just go out there and play.”

Film Study: Warriors’ centers can’t contain Cavs

CLEVELAND — Some nights, Kyrie Irving has it going like he did on Monday. Some nights, he doesn’t.

Every night though, the Cleveland Cavaliers try to get him going early with the same action, a screen set by Tristan Thompson along the sideline. We saw it on the Cavs’ first two possessions of Game 1 of The Finals, as well as on the first two possessions of Game 2. It’s a play that, especially in transition, can get Irving going downhill and put the defense on its heels.

In Game 5, we first saw the Irving/Thompson sideline screen with the Cavs in a 9-3 hole…

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Thompson’s defender, Andrew Bogut, met Irving above the foul line…

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… and got beat to the basket.

On the very next possession, the Cavs ran the same action on the other side of the floor. Bogut didn’t come out so high…

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… and didn’t get beat to the basket. (Irving, instead, passed to LeBron James, who hit his first of eight buckets from outside the paint.)

Bogut made a quick adjustment and got a better result … if we’re talking about the shot and not the points scored on the play (three instead of two). The Warriors are generally happy with James shooting from the outside. In previous games, they’ve been content to have Bogut sag down to the low block and have Irving pull up for a mid-range jumper off that sideline screen.

Of course, James made twice as many shots from outside the paint in Game 5 as he did in any other playoff game this year and Irving’s shot-making was twice as ridiculous. Those guys would have had big games no matter who was on the floor for the other team, because there were too many moments where great offense beat great defense. (more…)

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!

 

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.

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 …

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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.

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

The Finals Live Blog — Game 2

👊🏾 @shaq pays tribute to Muhammad Ali! #NBAFinals

A photo posted by NBA (@nba) on

OAKLAND — “Hammer, Hammer, I am, Hammer!”

The stars always come out for The Finals. But few cities offer local royalty like the Golden State Warriors, who can serve up a list that includes HT faves MC Hammer, E-40 and the fabulous Carlos Santana (who’s handling anthem duties tonight for Game 2).

The fact that there was a 40-year title drought in the Bay Area did little to diminish the fervor of Warriors fans throughout the years. I remember coming here a decade ago to cover games, when these Warriors weren’t even a pipe dream, and the crowds here at Oracle were off the charts.

Folks didn’t show up early back then to witness Stephen Curry‘s pregame routine.

But they do now. And if Steph and fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson get back on track after combining for just 20 points in the Warriors’ Game 1 win, this place will be off the charts well into the night.

Guys like Santana and E-40 and Hammer (below) will have plenty to be fired up about as their Dubs!

Diesel's Dunks: @shaq gives us his Top 10 dunks from the #NBAPlayoffs…

A video posted by @nbatv on

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Starting lineups for the Cavaliers … J.R. Smith is still in the first five. Let’s see if he can bounce back from that Game 1 no-shsow.

 

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A little pregame chat with Cavs coach Tyronn Lue by Kristen Ledlow

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Who knew the Splash Brothers-Plus-1 had moves like this?

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My main man David Aldridge gets a chuckle out of Steve Kerr before tip.

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John Schuhmann’s obligatory low-angle pregame money shot for the gram!

Klay Thompson, pre-game shooting.

A photo posted by John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) on

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Nothing wrong with some team bonding this late in the season, especially before the biggest game (to date) of the season.

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Iman Shumpert going with the new ‘do for Game 2. The superstitious crowd will blame or praise his change, depending on the outcome.

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Shumpert got a perm and Steph is rocking new kicks. #changeyoucanbelievein

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A moment of silence for the G.O.A.T. Muhammad Ali. R.I.P.

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Something has gone terribly wrong for J.R. Smith. The flamethrower from the EC playoffs has not shown up yet.

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The painted area around the basket currently belongs to Andrew Bogut, at least on Cleveland’s end of the floor.

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Standing O for Bogut as he exits with game tied at 13 and 3:50 to play in the first quarter.

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Did I mention that Santana tore it up on the anthem?

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Smile, you’re on candid camera!

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Still waiting on that LeBron James Game 2 takeover

Not a particularly spectacular first quarter for either side.

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These blows down under are becoming a serious problem for Iggy!

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Trading blows, dunks both ways, this is starting to get interesting. 28-27 Cavs after a Klay 3 and a Livingston dunk with 9:36 to play before halftime.

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Looking like a Draymond Green Day out here right now.

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Standing 8 for Kevin Love after a Harrison Barnes ‘bow to the head.

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Love is fine!

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A better look at the ‘bow Love took.

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Splash Brothers with back-to-back 3-pointers for a 48-35 lead with 2:40 left.

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WARRIORS 52, CAVALIERS 44 at the half.

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Doin' @money23green stuff.

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

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MVP on MVP

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Use that term carefully …

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Halftime Trivia …

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Math skills often help.

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#FollowTheHair

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Keeping giving him the 3 and he’ll keep taking the 3!

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Truth hurts.

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Warriors up 67-53 with 5:58 to play and Steph on the bench in foul trouble. They’ve got one free throw (1) on their home floor in The Finals and are up 14. #strangedays

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Don’t even …

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Delayed impact for KLove? He has not returned.

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#SHADE

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Like I said earlier, it’s Day Day’s Day. Green with another 3! 74-57 Warriors.

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A dagger from Klay to end the third. WARRIORS 82, CAVALIERS 62.

This is a clinic!

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The Blur is straight ballin in this series. #perfection

Actually, he missed on a 3 from half court as the clock expired … but we get the point!

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Beep Beep! 🇧🇷

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

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#SHADE PART II

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Oh, the curl is going to get it every second until Game 3.

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The end!

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You don’t want to know. Trust me.

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Fair point.

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WARRIORS 110, CAVALIERS 77 … the destruction is over. On to Cleveland for Games 3 and 4.

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