After a nervous start from both sides, this turned into quite the fun game. I’m not going to tell you what happened, but want to see what we learned from the game and what implications it has for the series.
Of course, none of this is possible without knowing the status of Kyrie Irving’s knee. It was tough to see him go down with what appeared to be limited contact – those are often the worst type of knee injuries. But he did walk off. I’m hoping for a DeMarre Carroll-type recovery for Cleveland’s exciting point guard – he’s good enough to take over one of these games by himself. So before we begin, big prayer for Uncle Drew.
Both teams started off running good sets. Cleveland’s offense has devolved into one long LeBron isolation, but there creative ways to give him the ball and creative ways to move pieces around him once he gets it. The Cavs are actively cutting and screening on offense, which can prevent the Dubs from helping effectively. But the Dubs defense is just an amoeba. It’s incredible to see them shift with the help, pointing out cutters, neutralizing threats and recovering. The communication is superb.
The Dubs are having problems with offensive rebounding though. Tristan Thompson is a unique style. Nudging his way under the basket early would make it too easy for his man to double, mucking up both LeBron’s path to the rim and his passing lanes. So Tristan instead hangs out 18 feet from the rim, waits for the help to move off him, and then crashes in for the rebound. His instincts for the ball are fantastic. And he’s so dang fast – several times, Bogut just can’t get into proper box-out position quick enough. I‘ll admit to being a bit surprised when the stats showed equal shot counts for both teams – I thought for sure that Tristan’s offensive rebounding would have given the Cavs an edge.
The Warriors were rushing shots in the early moments. In a sense, that’s what they do, but they also have to realize that, as good a floor spacer as Draymond Green is, he should not be shooting 3s in transition. I would much rather see him drive and take a contested layup than an open three.
The Warriors just could not take the lid off the basket for much of the quarter. They got several isolation shots, layups, the kind of shots they were looking for, and just missed. Credit the Cavs defense – the shot blocking across the lineup was effective. But Golden State was missing good shots. Look out for when those shots start to fall.
LeBron’s jumper is back. It looks like he said “screw it” to proper shooting form and is going to just guide the ball in. He was hot this game, but when you shoot bullets like he did, the misses can be bad (and he had a couple). Interesting to see if this is sustainable over the series. But credit to him – he is in beast mode.
Mo Speights saved the Warriors in this quarter. Credit to Steve Kerr for knowing when his guy was ready and how to use him. He needed to buy some minutes, stop the bleeding, and Mo delivered. They threw him into isolation and he hit a couple soft jumpers that helped the Warriors cut into the lead. The Cavs’ second unit is a disaster.
This quarter belonged to Klay and LeBron. First, LeBron. He is straight beasting. Iguodala did a great job on him as the stats will show. But LeBron just wasn’t to be stopped; he got to wherever he wanted on the floor and finished. As for Klay – he can seem like a worse shooter than he is because he has a green light to try high difficulty shots. When they fall, lookout.
One note for Cleveland – why so much James Jones? He’s a great shooter, but everyone knows that. It seems that, with Delly unable to get any quality time, they could use another ball handler and shooter. But it’s highly possible that Miller can no longer play defense.
What a quarter. The Warriors tried to turn on the jets but the Cavs kept going to LeBron and Kyrie and it kept working. But what it really did was slow the game down as the Warriors tried to up the pace. Kyrie made some great plays against tough defense from Klay. On the other end, Steph was straight juking guys out of their shoes. The Cavs just don’t have an answer for him. The stats say that Kyrie did well against him, and he did have those two monster blocks. But the stats also don’t tell how many times Kyrie got roasted on screens and a big was switched onto Curry (aka death from downtown). Or that Steph as a screener action got Cleveland’s other guards all mixed up on coverages, allowing for easy layups. That was a huge difference in the game. Golden State just got more easy shots.
As for the last play for LeBron – I’m surprised they didn't given him more time. I know they didn’t want to give up a shot the other way but they are the better rebounding team. And when it got down to 5-6 seconds, Andre was just sitting on the jumper.
Cleveland’s offense stagnation finally stopped working as Kerr’s amoeba-like smaller lineup flooded the passing lanes. On the other end, the Dubs just had too much ball movement. The shooting with that lineup is important but they just swing the ball so quickly. Great game.