The Warriors defense has been the mitigating factor in the NBA Finals. But there are so many other glamour subjects to talk about. What is up with LeBron James? What is up with the Splash Brothers being contained? What is up with the Cavs bench? And wasn’t Channing Frye supposed to be the Warriors elixir? The defense the Warriors are playing, the hustle, the grit, the toughness, the relentlessness, is so dry and boring as a subject matter that no one gives it much play because complaining about LeBron and his leagacy is a polaraizing subject, even as it is has been discussed ad infinitum for the past decade.
Newsflash: the NBA Finals is not just about LeBron James apathy or Ty Lue’s inexperience or Richard Jefferson being a savior means you are in big trouble.
The Warriors defense is creating chaos for the Cavaliers. It is suppressing everything the Cavs want to do. It is making them look like an 8th seed and not the team that blistered their way through the East and dominated the playoffs. They look stunned, shell shocked, and depressed. Reports are surfacing about dissension in the ranks which happens when you think you are one thing and a team tells you via their performance, fall back you ain’t that tight, you are so not on our level.
The Cavs are shooting 36% in the series. They are missing 73% of their three pointers. They have 32 turnovers. They are averaging 16 assists. Their bench has scored 40 points in two games. (The Warriors bench scored 40 points in game 2.)
In Sunday’s game, a must win for a split in the series and what the Cavs did last year, the Warriors defense was suffocating. LeBron James made 36% of shots that were contested. Kevin Love made 25.0% of shots that were contested. Tristan Thompson made 28% of shots that were contested. J.R. Smith made 25% of shots that were contested. Kyrie Irving made 37% of shots that were contested. The Warriors are guarding shooters. For Cleveland, that leaves a blueprint of relying totally on open shots. The Warriors defensive rotations and switching means rarely are shooters open. It has put the Cavs in a hole they can’t figure out how to get out of and a lot of the adjustments are on Ty Lue but this is the thing. A lot of the adjustments have to do with personnel Lue doesn’t want to play. The only option is to go big.
Andrew Bogut destroyed the Cavs confidence in the first five minutes of game 2 by blocking everything at the rim. It was the obvious game plan. Drive inside, get to the line. But Bogut being tough caused the Cavs to wilt. They stopped driving and relied on perimeter shooting which played right into the Warriors hands. That is one other thing no one talks about.
The Warriors cause teams to doubt themselves. They create negative energy and insecurity and slumped shoulders. Defeat starts in the mind. The Warriors as an offensive unit that is lethal and explosive and hyper-confident understand they can beat the Cavs mentally and then the game pretty much is over.
Is this series over?
We’ve seen too many dominating beat downs and then the geography changes and so the series changes. But the Warriors defense is better than it has been all year long. June is the right time to be dominant.
The Warriors defense is not an outlier. Every meeting with the Cavs is like this. Consider the last 5 sample sizes.
- June 16, 2015: 39%, 23%(3-pointers), 16 turnovers
- December 25, 2015: 41%, 16% (3-pointers), 11 turnovers
- January 18, 2016: 48%, 36% (3-pointers), 15 turnovers
- June 2, 2016: 35%, 21% (3-pointers), 17 turnovers
- June 5, 2016: 38%, 33% (3-pointers), 15 turnovers
The one game the Cavs shot a decent percentage from the field, January 18th, they lost by 34 points because the Warriors shot 54% and 47% from three.
This is the same movie being replayed over and over again, boring you unless you are an Oakland native.
The Warriors wing defenders, Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Shaun Livingston, are too quick for the Cavs to get off a good look. Someone is there, in their face. Always. When the Cavs try to drive, there is Green or Barnes or Iguodala or Thompson or Bogut. When the Cavs try to pass the ball, the Warriors are in the passing lane and create a turnover. When the Cavs move the ball for a three, J.R. Smith misses.
The Warriors cover too much ground too quickly and the Cavs can’t adjust to their speed. They aren’t going to wake up and be 24 years old with quick hands and sprinters stamina. And so this is the damage the Warriors are laying on the Cavs causing them to fight with one another, all because the Warriors are beating them up and they don’t know how to adjust to the Warriors defense that is stopping them.
Defense wins championships. The Warriors and their defense are halfway there. Two wins left. It’s something to talk about. But no one will.
photo via llananba