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What The Monta Ellis Signing Means For The Indiana Pacers

Monta Ellis is going West to East as he joins the Indiana Pacers. (photo courtesy of www.bleacherreport.com)

Monta Ellis is going West to East as he joins the Indiana Pacers. (photo courtesy of http://www.bleacherreport.com)

The Indiana Pacers suffered some offensively last season without the offense of Paul George. The talented small forward, who was coming off his best season heading into the 2014-2015 season, suffered a horrific injury when he went crashing into the support under the basket during a scrimmage in Las Vegas for Team USA basketball. The result of the crash had George immediately in the hospital after suffering a gruesome leg injury. And even though he came back at the end of this past season, it was noticeable that he was not the same guy he once was just yet. While he was gone, guys like Rodney Stuckey picked up the slack for him. But even in doing that, there was just not enough consistent scoring with this team. And despite being able to defend, they were just not able to make it happen on the offensive end of the court. Well, the Pacers upper management paid attention to this need they had and began to search out the perfect guy to give them some offense. Monta Ellis was opting out of the final year of his deal with the Dallas Mavericks. He and the Mavericks were reportedly not on the same page anymore among other reasons as to why he was ready to leave. Ellis was taking a chance on himself. He knew he could get some money from some team, but he also wanted to see if he could get a competitive situation also. The Pacers presented that situation he needed and now both are reportedly joining forces. Indiana and Monta Ellis have reportedly agreed to a four year deal worth $44 million. The deal also includes an opt out clause for the final year of the deal. He steps right into a void for the Pacers and the Pacers satisfied him financially. But what does this pairing ultimately mean for the Pacers organization?

Monta Ellis has been a scorer for his entire career. Everywhere he has gone, he has produced on the offensive end. By getting him there, the pressure is off Paul George some heading into next season. George can now take his time building back up his game with a scorer to the level of Ellis in there. And the thing that is so amazing about this signing for the Pacers is that they have never really had a consistent secondary scorer alongside their lead scorers in the past few years. When Danny Granger was there, they had a crew of people that chipped in but were never consistent. And when Paul George broke out when Danny Granger was injured, Lance Stephenson was the guy that could make it happen most of the time, but he was not always consistent either. And with Roy Hibbert, who the Pacers are paying serious money to, he has not always played as big as he is at all times. The inconsistency offensively always ate at the Pacers and eventually cost them when it counted in the playoffs. Ellis solves that issue with the signing of his name on the dotted line. Now George has another option with him and maybe point guard George Hill can slide into the third scorer role for them. Another thing that would be good for the Pacers would be if Rodney Stuckey decided to stay. If he did, then you could bring in Stuckey as instant offense off the bench to keep the offensive continuity going.

Ellis brings a lot offensively with him to Indiana, but he unfortunately does not bring the same things on the defensive side of the court. For years people have talked about the defender that Ellis isn’t. He has always been that guy that is a small shooting guard or an average-sized point guard in different lineups. In Indiana, he will be the guy that is counted on to guard opposing shooting guards. Imagine him trying to guard a guy like Jimmy Butler from Chicago on a consistent basis (Chicago is in the Pacers’ division). Butler, standing at 6’7”, would take him in the post at will and shoot right over the top of him. And this is just one of the players at that position that could cause him issues. With George Hill as the starting point guard, he may be able to switch onto playing the opposing team’s point guard, but that will not help as much either because Ellis is not a solid defender. He is a gambler and when a gambler gets caught, he tends to get burned. Imagine him trying to gamble on Kyrie Irving, another player within Indiana’s division in the East. Kyrie would put him on skates almost routinely and there would be nothing Ellis could do about it. For as good as he is offensively, Ellis can be a liability defensively and that can lead to more points being given up than Indiana is used to.

Ellis and Indiana needed each other, but they may end up being at odds with each other in some instances as well. Ultimately, Ellis and his offense is needed and the Pacers will just have to figure out how to incorporate him in defensively so they can hide him a little bit. The more they are able to shade help his way and camouflage him on the defensive end, the more they can keep him out there. If not, then they will have to sit him more than they want due to the defensive issues. And more importantly, when the fourth quarter comes, they are going to need him out there on the court to score buckets with Paul George, bad defense or not. For better or worse, Ellis is a member of the Indiana Pacers and they are moving forward with some firepower that they sorely needed.

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The Kevin Love Sweepstakes Is About To Get Started

Kevin Love is officially a free agent. But where does he land next season? (photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Kevin Love is officially a free agent. But where does he land next season? (photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Decision time has come about for many in the NBA. There are some players that are have options on their contracts whether they would like to accept the contract they have or opt out in search of a better deal for themselves. LeBron James is one of the names that is opting out, but he is expected to re-sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers. But James isn’t the only star player that has this option in Cleveland. The Cleveland Cavaliers traded for Kevin Love last offseason and shipped the past two number one overall picks to Minnesota for him. The Cavs did this knowing that Love could potentially opt out of his deal after this season. But to many, they believed that Kevin Love and LeBron would be a good pairing based on their games. Well, it seems as if the pairing did not work as well as some thought, as Love had one of his worst scoring and rebounding seasons in the NBA. The pairing of Love with Kyrie Irving and LeBron James was not as good as some thought it would be. And as the season went on, it seemed the relationship between both James and Love was not the smoothest either. Of course Love is one of the hardest people to read in the NBA, so this talk about their relationship could be just rumors. But with all that talk and the play circulating in the media, Kevin Love made a decision to opt out of the last year of his contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He could still end up in Cleveland next season, but the great thing for the Cleveland Cavaliers in this decision is now it makes it a little easier on them as to what options they have this summer. If Love would have opted in, the Cavs would have been in a tough place when it came to Tristian Thompson, who is a restricted free agent this offseason. Now instead of wondering how Love and James would get along, the NBA and its fans will be waiting to see where Love turns up next.

Kevin Love is a stats guy. He has averaged double-figure points and rebounds for five of his seven seasons in the NBA. And for what it’s worth, he is one of the best outlet passers in the NBA. That could be great for a team that is starting the fast break. The perfect fit for Love would be a team that has some explosive wings but allows him to be a focal point of the offense. In that aspect, there are a few teams that may be able to comply with what he would like. The most obvious answer for a team craving Love is the Los Angeles Lakers. Many Lakers fans have thought that eventually Love would be coming home to the Lakers. And in this circumstance, he could make Los Angeles his home. The Lakers have at least $23 million in cap space this offseason. The Lakers recently selected D’Angelo Russell out of Ohio State with the 2nd pick in the draft, so the indication from Los Angeles is that Love will be one of two power forwards they look at this offseason (LaMarcus Aldridge is the other). But with the silence of Kevin Love, you don’t know whether or not he wants the extra year on his deal and that could potentially affect him coming to LA or not. The only way he gets that extra year on his deal to go to Los Angeles is if he is signed and traded to them. And in that case, the Lakers would have to give up something to get him. More than likely it would be future draft picks and also a player. If I was the Cavaliers, I would ask for Julius Randle in return for trading Love to the Lakers. That would allow for the Cavs to sign Tristian Thompson back and also get him a backup in Randle to solve their power forward position. But of course, the Lakers are not the only ones interested in Love this offseason and they may not even be interested in parting ways with Randle so soon.

The Boston Celtics are another team that is checking out the prospects of bringing Love in. Danny Ainge tried to work something out to get him to Boston before when Rajon Rondo was still their point guard to no avail. Well, the Celtics now have a stockpile of picks and interesting players available to make something happen this time. The Celtics, like the Lakers, could try and swing a free agent deal with Love and leave it at that. That would give them Love’s talents for four years and more than likely max money. But if the Celtics were to decide to do a sign and trade for Love, they have all the assets to make it happen. They have a gluttony of talent in their frontcourt that many would be interested in including forward Jared Sullinger and forward Kelly Olynyk (wouldn’t it be interesting if he was traded to the Cavs in this one). But in all honesty, Love would not make as big a difference as the main player on that team. The Celtics need one more piece to go along with Love should they sign him outright or trade for him. That piece is a frontline scorer. If Love is brought in on that team and asked to be the leading scorer for them, then that team would go nowhere fast. And with the picks the Celtics made in this most recent draft, you have to count on free agency for them to add some punch there. In the end, he is not a difference-maker for that team that takes them to the playoffs. Of course he would get more touches and make more things happen for that team. But it would be Minnesota all over again but on the East coast and Love wants to be the focus or secondary focus on a team and win basketball games.

A darkhorse candidate that may take a look at Love is the New York Knicks. They drafted big man Kristaps Porzingis 4th overall in the draft, who by all accounts will not be ready to make a big contribution anytime soon. The Knicks redeemed themselves a little bit with trading Tim Hardaway Jr to the Atlanta Hawks for talented point guard Jerian Grant, but there is still the matter of that hole in the frontcourt. As the Knicks stand right now, they have no big men that are going to be there. Carmelo would slide back to the power forward position again if no one is found, but that is not expected to happen. The Knicks are expected to make a run at big man Greg Monroe and there are rumors out there that David West could sign there after opting out of his player option in Indianapolis. But none of these guys is a given to sign at this point and time. And even if the Knicks were going to sign Monroe they would still be able to take Kevin Love. Of course the money dries up quick when you spend it, and the Knicks would overspend for Monroe and another piece as well as trying to get Love. If that is the case, he would be looking to play elsewhere as he is not the top priority there in New York. Plus there is also the issue of whether he and Carmelo could co-exist, which no one knows. Melo is different from LeBron in that he is more of a scorer than facilitator. And that mix may not be something that would fit Love’s game, let alone the bright lights of the city that he seems to not care for. We could speak of them trading something to Cleveland, but the Knicks have nothing to offer there due to trades in the past and their roster not being as talented.

Love is going to be sought after by a few teams this offseason and there may be some surprises out there that were not mentioned. But along with potentially re-signing in Cleveland (which is a longshot at best at this point), Love has some things to think about. After all, this contract could be the last big contract he signs in the NBA. In all honesty, all teams would need to take a look at what they are willing to sacrifice for a guy that is a defensive liability but can flatout fill it up on the offensive end along with battle on the offensive boards. The choice is not only his but the teams that are interested. And come July 1st, Love, like many others who opted out of deals, will be deciding whether the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.

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The Small Market Excuses In The NBA Need To End Right Now

Small market teams can compete and compete on a consistent basis. The fallacy that they cannot is something that needs to end. (photo courtesy of www.usatoday.com)

Small market teams can compete and compete on a consistent basis. The fallacy that they cannot is something that needs to end. (photo courtesy of http://www.usatoday.com)

The Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers met for a great clash in the NBA Finals. The best team in the NBA versus the best player in the NBA. In the end, the best team wore down the team with the best player and won the title in six games. Both teams played each other pretty tough for the first few games, but the last three games were lopsided in the favor of the Golden State Warriors. They just wore down the Cavs, who were playing short-handed due to the losses of All-Stars Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. And even though LeBron James had a great series from a numbers standpoint, he could not guard all the weapons the Warriors had nor could he score efficiently on most of them. The Warriors erased 40 years of futility with the win. And the even more interesting thing is a guy that was a starter-turned-sub for the Warriors in Andre Iguodala played well off the bench and starting in games 4-6 to earn NBA Finals MVP. But the game was just the background to all that has been going on in the NBA the past few years. And amazingly, no one wants to say much about it.

The Golden State versus Cleveland series had the best viewership on television since the days of Michael Jordan when he won his sixth championship almost 20 years ago. Pretty unbelievable that the ratings have not been as good since then being that we have had teams like the Lakers win the championship five times since then. But what this also speaks to is the power of the players here. If you just look at the markets both NBA Finals participants are in, there is a stark differnce. The Oakland/San Francisco market is considered one of the biggest markets out there in the NBA. But when you take a look at Cleveland, that market is one that is not very big at all. In fact, it is smaller than the Miami, where LeBron James left to go to when he exited Cleveland for four years. The idea has always been that in basketball, the big teams are the ones that will continue to show up and be in the championship year after year after year. When, in fact, that is not the case at all. Sure, Oakland/San Francisco is a big market, but San Antonio is not a big market and neither is Cleveland. The fact of the matter is big markets are needed in terms of exposure perhaps, but are not something that is needed to make the NBA exciting and watchable.

In the NBA, it is more about the teams that are on the floor than the markets they are in. As the NBA has grown, the market teams and players are in has matter less and less. Just a few years ago, it was something that small-level owners were worried about as if they could not build a good team in fear of losing a great player to a big market. When in all actuality, that was the supposed small-level owners giving the fans of that team something to let them off the hook. Time and time again the small-level owners have been crying they have been losing money in regards to trying to keep up with the bigger cities. And in all instances, the numbers have not ever been shown to prove that. But in basketball terms, there have been small-market teams that have competed. Look at the teams like the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Cleveland Cavaliers and others. They are there all the time because their owners actually spent money and put together a team that could make some things happen, not because they were big spenders in a big market. As the NBA has grown, the excuse gets more and more overdone by the minute. The fallacy of small-market teams not being able to compete only comes about when it comes to the Collective Bargaining Agreement. And in all reality, that is just a ploy for the owners to make more money while keeping the players and fans at bay. How else can it be explained that the Milwaukee Bucks being sold for $550 million despite being in one of the smallest NBA markets? That’s right folks. We have been blinded by some propaganda and a lot of us have fell victim to it without even knowing it. When a team is bad or has to make a tough decision, if it’s a small market team, they get the benefit of the doubt because of that. A perfect example of that is when James Harden was traded to the Houston Rockets because the team could not pay him what he wanted. Of course they could have paid him and it would have potentially locked up their cap space. But the main thing that many were saying was that a small market team could not afford paying him. And that is when the propaganda begins. The sympathy for a smaller market begins to roll in and owners began to trick you into thinking they are sympathetic figures. But the reality is the owner does not want to spend money to pay the luxury tax. They want to line their pockets with the monies in terms of profits and also want to fool you into thinking the teams are still as good as they were. They present all the information, but in the presentation they fool many.

The presentation by the NBA shows us year after year that small market teams are really not at a disadvantage at all. Players will play where they can get a chance to compete and win. But it is up to the owners and the teams to create that marketability to make that happen. Marketing is not something that just happens when you go to a big city. With the internet as big as it is these days, you don’t have to be in a big market to even succeed. The biggest examples of that are Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Both have been in small markets and have thrived when it comes to off the court endorsements and things of that nature. So, when a team is losing or has to lose an impact player because of they don’t want to pay them, quit letting the small market teams off the hook because they don’t want to pay. When a team is not competing year after year, stop letting them off the hook because of the small market they may play in. Take the finger-pointing and aim it at the owners and the front office for making poor decisions to make the team competitive and for not wanting to pay. The decision falls on them and them only. They did not want to pay or build a good team. They did not want to satisfy their fans and instead wanted to line their pockets. The excuse of being in a small market is just that: an excuse. Cleveland just proved that it is an excuse, San Antonio has been proving that it is an excuse for small market teams for years.

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Draymond Green Is Hurting The Golden State Warriors In The NBA Finals

When will Draymond Green show up for the Golden State Warriors? (photo courtesy of www.uproxx.com)

When will Draymond Green show up for the Golden State Warriors? (photo courtesy of http://www.uproxx.com)

The Golden State Warriors were riding high after their Game 1 win. They did not play their best in Game 1, but they found a way to make it happen and survive a huge effort by LeBron James against them. But in the past two games, it seems like we have continued to see a Warriors team that has not played as well as they could. And in that time, we have seen a Cleveland Cavaliers team that has started to play better around James. Even with them losing the presence of point guard Kyrie Irving for the rest of the season, the Cavs still looked like the tougher and better team. The struggles of point guard Steph Curry have been well-documented over the last two game and he seemed to snap out of them when he caught fire in the fourth quarter versus Cleveland. But while Curry’s resurgence is catching headlines, there has been one player that has been scuffling for the entire NBA Finals. When the Warriors made the change before the season to add Draymond Green to the starting lineup, they figured it would strengthen their bench (moved David Lee to the bench) while adding some youth and better shooting to the starting lineup. They also made that move because Lee had a hamstring injury and Green was inserted into the starting lineup. The move worked well for the Warriors and they stuck with it through the regular season, as Green had his best seasons as a professional (11.7 points and 8.7 rebounds per game). And early in the postseason, Green was good for them. He was playing with passion and knocking down shots as well. But in the NBA Finals, it seems that he has been scuffling to gain some ground. Going into Game 4, the Warriors face a tough position. They will be in Cleveland going against the best player in the NBA while down one game. And to add to that, they will also be playing in front of a raucous crowd that will bring tons of energy to the building. They need Green to play well. But some are wondering what is going on with him in the first place.

Green has been a very versatile defender for the Warriors this season. He has guarded four positions with ease. He and Warriors center Andrew Bogut up one of the best power forward/center defensive combos in the NBA. But during this series, it seems like the versatility of Green has not shown up. Part of that reason is he has to stay with Cavaliers power forward Tristian Thompson. Coming into this series, the matchup between Green and Thompson was one to watch. Thompson is a bull on the offensive glass and Green, although undersized, is one of the tougher defenders and rebounders around. Through three games, it seems that Thompson has gotten the better of Green. Thompson may not be scoring as much as Green has, but he is giving the Cavaliers second chance opportunities with his offensive rebounding. And while Green is trying to box Thompson out, he is just not able to get the job done on a consistent level. The result is Green spending a ton of energy trying to find him on the boards. Green has not guarded LeBron James much this series. Some thought that Green against LeBron would be a good matchup. But anytime Green has guarded LeBron, he has been at a disadvantage. The Cavs have given James the ball either on the wing or in the middle when guarded by Green. And with one setup dribble or a jab step, he has gotten by Green with ease all the way to the basket. Now he has had his moments as a help defender in this series. Who can forget the block he had on LeBron James in the fourth quarter of Game 2? That was a great defensive play from him. But for most of the series, he has been struggling to keep Tristian Thompson off the glass. The fact of the matter is through three games, Green cannot hold him off the glass and Thompson’s activity and constant movement is causing him issues.

But Green is not only having issues on the defensive end, but the offensive end too. During the season, it was not uncommon to see him come down and hit the transition three-pointer as the trailer on the fast break. It was also usual to see him take a defensive rebound and push the basketball the other way each game. During the playoffs, he has done that a lot and actually hit some three’s that have been huge. But as the playoffs have gone on, the percentage that Green has shot from three-point range has gotten worse and worse. He started the playoffs shooting around 35% from three-point range. But now he has sunk all the way down to shooting around 13% from the deep. And in watching the games, it isn’t like Green is shooting these shots contested either. He has actually been wide-open on a lot of these three-point attempts and has just missed them. Green has also not been as efficient taking the basketball to the rim either. One thing that has been exposed about Green this series is his height. Green is listed at 6’7”, but he may be even shorter than that. Where his height has hurt him is when he has driven to the basket and tried to finish over Cavs center Timofey Mozgov. The 7’1” center from Russia has been a major deterrent at the rim for Green all series long. When Green has attacked him in the paint, Mozgov has gone straight up every time and not broken the plane of verticality. When he goes straight up and jumps, Green is essentially jumping into him and trying to finish. And a 6’7” man jumping into a 7’1” man with long arms has not worked out for Green. The result has been a missed finish at the rim every time for Green. And a lot of the time, Green makes it try to look like a foul, when it actually is not a foul at all. The main thing that Green may want to try is a pullup jumper because time and time again he tries to take the basketball at Mozgov and it has produced nothing for the Warriors at all.

Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are important because of what they bring this team, but Green has been a huge difference-maker all season long. And with their backs against the wall, he must produce for them. Green has been known more for his contesting of calls this series than he has for his actual play. In Game 4 he must show up with his play and not his talk for the Warriors to have a chance to win. If he does not show up, then the Warriors may need to make an adjustment and give some of his minutes to their former starting power forward, David Lee. We all saw what Lee brought to the team when he played in the fourth quarter of Game 3.

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The NBA Finals Have Been A Game Of Adjustments Between Steve Kerr And David Blatt

David Blatt and Steve Kerr have added to this series with their adjustments and lack of them as well. (photo courtesy of the AP)

David Blatt and Steve Kerr have added to this series with their adjustments and lack of them as well. (photo courtesy of the AP)

When the Cleveland Cavaliers versus Golden State Warriors NBA Finals started, plenty looked at the matchups and how they would pan out. The thinking were the Warriors were the deeper team and they could wear down the Cavs with their limited depth. But one thing that some talked about could be the difference is the coaching. Both coaches were first-year coaches in the NBA. Former player Steve Kerr took over for Mark Jackson in Golden State. And although some thought it was a bad hire over Jackson, it proved to be the best move they could have made. Meanwhile in Cleveland, the Cavs hired longtime international coach David Blatt as their new head coach. And then after that, the surprise that LeBron James was coming home made his new job even better. The Cavs with LeBron James were expected to be the best team in the East. And although it started off rough, a few trades and some team comradery made them a force to be reckoned with in the East when the playoffs started. Out West, Steve Kerr opened up the Golden State offense all year long while maintaining the tough defensive mentality that Mark Jackson installed in the Warriors team. Kerr ended up leading the Warriors to the best record in the West improbably. And the funny thing about these two Finals coaches: Blatt was almost a member of Kerr’s staff in Golden State. Blatt had actually agreed to become the assistant head coach for the Golden State Warriors under Kerr last offseason. But when Cleveland called, Blatt took that job and that allowed Alvin Gentry to step in as the assistant coach. These two coaches are connected in more ways than one as coaches, but in this series, both have made some moves that have made you scratch your head and made you give them praise.

In the first game of this series, Golden State was single-covering LeBron James the entire game. They switched defenders on him almost the entire game but kept the integrity of their defense. This move allowed for the Warriors to make LeBron only a scorer and not the playmaker that he usually is each and every game. In response to the things the Warriors were doing, you would expect Blatt would make some effort to make some adjustments to the things they were doing. But instead of doing so, Blatt continued to lead LeBron in the post, basically letting the Warriors know where he would be at all times. The result was a floor that was cut in half or a third due to LeBron being placed in one place of the floor. LeBron had only six assists in Game 1 and that helped limit the involvement of his teammates on the floor, mainly JR Smith and Iman Shumpert, who were basically just there to watch the game. Another adjustment that Blatt failed to make was the minutes on Kyrie Irving. Honestly, there was no way to predict that injury was going to happen, but Blatt could have recognized that he was coming off an injury and could have tailored his minutes more. And if he was not comfortable going with Matthew Dellavedova more minutes in Game 1, he could have made it happen with James at point guard with Shumpert and Smith flanking him. But instead, he plays Kyrie more minutes than he was physically prepared to do. Injuries happen and cannot be predicted, but even if he still is playing in this series, he may not have been the same with the minutes that he played in Game 1. But not to be left out, Kerr had one more adjustment that he had to make in Game 1. Kerr saw that Cleveland was going big with their lineup and felt the team needed more traction going down the stretch. His adjustment: he went to the smaller lineup that had Draymond Green playing the center position. The result: the Warriors came back and won tied the game along with outscoring the Cavaliers 10-2 in overtime. The Cavs never made that adjustment to what he was doing and that proved to be the difference in their Game 1 win. But in Game 2, it seemed like the coaching brilliance seemed to switch sides.

Coming into Game 2, the Cleveland Cavaliers were desperate for a win. Even though many had counted them out due to the loss of Kyrie Irving with a knee injury, the Cavs were confident in their team and what they had to work with against the Golden State Warriors. One of the main reasons they must have been confident was because of the gameplan that was laid out for them. The first adjustment they made this game, besides having Dellavedova to start in place of Irving, was to move LeBron James around. In Game 1, LeBron could be found on the left for most of the game. And as a result, it allowed the Warriors defense to single-cover him all game long and hug the shooters. In the second game, Blatt had LeBron in different spots to start the game. He started with him on the block some, but then he had him bringing the ball up the floor with a pick waiting from big man Timofey Mozgov or Tristian Thompson and that is when the Warriors defense began to feel the pressure applied by LeBron James. The screen in the middle of the floor meant the Warriors had to help more than they had to in the first game. And as the game went on, it allowed James to get others involved and get them open shots. The person who seemed to benefit from the screens in the middle of the floor and the Cavs moving LeBron around the most early was Timofey Mozgov. He was owning the Warriors big men. And with LeBron on the move, Mozgov got to the right spots for the finish around the basket. The rest of the game, the Warriors defense was running to help on LeBron James and that allowed him to get more assists and be the playmaker he is. But that was not the only adjustment that Blatt made. On the defensive end, Blatt made one defensive switch that messed with the Warriors offense a little bit. Andre Iguodala had one of his best games of the postseason in Game 1 versus the Cavs. He was going to the basket and hitting some shots on his way to 15 points off the bench. Well, in Game 2 the Cavs had something for him that threw him off rhythm. The Cavs made a switch to put Timofey Mozgov on him and he laid off of him when Iggy would catch the ball outside the three-point line. As a result, that defense and Mozgov sagging off of him allowed Iggy to shoot the open three, which is not a shot that he consistently knocks down nor comfortably feels good shooting. The results were an uncomfortable Andre Iguodala and it seemed like that subtle switch that Cleveland did for a small segment of time threw him off his rhythm and he was not the same. He had seven points off the bench, but he was hesitant to shoot the basketball for most of the game and that kind of defensive switch seemed to play with his mind a little. And finally, the last adjustment that David Blatt made was an excellent one. Blatt began to put Steph Curry in pick-and-roll situations some in the later stages of the game and overtime. He was the guy getting screened in a couple of those situations and that allowed for Matthew Dellavedova to get a couple floaters off in the paint for four points in the fourth quarter. And when Dellavedova was used as the screener, he was screening LeBron’s man and putting Curry in a compromising situation defensively. One time Curry lost Dellavedova and the result was a wide-open three for him. And in other situations, LeBron ended up on Curry and forced the Warriors to send help. The result: open shots for other Cavs players. That adjustment alone accounted for at least ten Cleveland points right then and there. Honestly, it seemed like Kerr did not make many adjustments at all in Game 2. The one adjustment he did make was not understandable. The Cavs were down one more player and had a short bench in Game 2. The one thing that was expected from the Warriors was for them to use their excellent depth against the Cavs. Well, someone forgot to tell Kerr to use that depth to wear on the Cavaliers over the course of the game. It seemed like he used his bench an even shorter amount of time than he did in the first game of this series. You would think he would have used his bench even more to tire out the Cavs, but he went the opposite way and that could have potentially helped his team be fresher down the stretch of Game 2.

Both coaches have had their moments in the first two games of this series. And of course there will be more adjustments to be made as more film is watched. The series is now split at one game apiece due to the play of the players and also the adjustments of the coaches that seem to be rarely talked about. Some may put more stock in what the players are doing on the court and they obviously decide the games. But the subtle adjustments that have been made from game to game have been paramount in the success of each team. And going forward, it should be interesting to see what wrinkles can cause the game to swing in which direction. Blatt and Kerr may be first-year coaches in the NBA, but both have made some adjustments that have made the other team uncomfortable. In the end, the coach that makes the better adjustments before and through the game will help his team hoist the trophy. The only question remains is if Kerr will be the one to make the better adjustments or will Blatt use his international coaching experience to outsmart Kerr.

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The Disappearance Of Steph Curry In Game Two Of The NBA Finals

Steph Curry looks frustrated as things don't go his way (photo courtesy of home.suddenlink.net)

Steph Curry looks frustrated as things don’t go his way (photo courtesy of home.suddenlink.net)

Steph Curry is considered by many the best shooter in the game. The shots that many would consider improbable are the ones that he seems to hit with ease. He has hit big shots time after time all season long on his way to winning the regular season MVP award. He definitely earned it. And playing on the best team in the NBA has its perks as well. And as the playoffs have gone forward, he has been hitting big shot after big shot whether a defender was there or not. And on the biggest stage in the NBA, many expected him to announce his presence and light up the Cleveland Cavaliers. In the Game 1 win, Curry made it happen with 26 points while shooting 50% from the field. When it was announced that Kyrie Irving was out for the rest of the series with a fractured kneecap, many expected him to light up Matthew Dellavedova going into Game 2 as he subbed for Irving. Well, many were dead wrong in that assessment. Curry went 5/23 from the field on his way to one of his worst shooting nights of his career. And now the Golden State Warriors head to Cleveland all tied up at one game apiece. But what can be made of this performance of Curry?

In one of the biggest games of his career, he failed to show up. He totally disappeared in this game. If it were not for the performance of his Splash Brother Klay Thompson (34 points), then the Warriors would have been beaten even worse than they were. Steph has to accept a lot of the blame for this loss. He was shooting his normal shots, but he also has to realize when things are not working and change it up. It seemed like all game long, he was hanging out at the three-point line. Of his 23 shots, 15 of them were three-pointers. Just think on that for a minute everyone. Steph Curry, who puts defenders on their heels each and every game he plays, shot 15 threes, hit two of them and only shot eight shots inside the three-point line. We know how well Steph can shoot and the things he can make happen from outside the arc, but this it totally unacceptable. When you are the MVP, this type of performance is something that does not happen. And when it does happen, the player in question is called out for it. For example, when LeBron James was playing for Miami in his 1st year, he led the Miami Heat to the NBA Finals. Even though he did not win the MVP that year, it was expected that he would lead Miami to a title versus the Dallas Mavericks. But during that series, he disappeared when it mattered the most. And as a result, the Heat lost the series to the Mavericks and LeBron had plenty of things unleashed on him via social media. He was even called out by analysts on television. Eventually he got over the hump and won a title, but at that point and time, he was hearing it unmercifully from everyone. Of course, LeBron gave people unlimited motivation to do what they did and that did not help it, but he was called out everytime a performance he had was not up to par in the eyes of fans and media. Curry should get some scrutiny for this one as should any great player when they come up short in a big game.

For the next game, Curry should take this performance and all the talk about Dellavedova to heart. The first thing he should do next game is attack the basket more. Dellavedova played a heck of a game defensively, but Steph helped him out as well. All the difficult shots that he usually hits he missed tonight. Those shots look great when they are going in, but in reality those are not good shots. Curry may want to try and decrease his level of difficulty by taking more high-percentage shots. High-quality shots will help make the Warriors offense more efficient and put more pressure on the defense of the Cavaliers. If he is able to do that, then it helps get other players like Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala open shots. If anyone has noticed, the Cavs have been keying on Steph and Klay Thompson all series long so far. And when those two draw attention and make the smart play, it seems the Cavs are at their mercy. And when the Cavs are on their heels and the Splash Brothers are being aggressive and smart with the basketball, Golden State cannot and will not be beat. If Curry can do that for three games that the Warriors win, then they could be bringing the first title back to Oakland since 1975. One thing that has to be concerning about Steph’s mindset offensively going forward has to be what he said after the game. He said that he did not feel comfortable shooting the basketball in the first half of the game in his meeting with the press. If you are the best shooter in the game, this type of statements should never ever come out of your mouth and that has to be a little bit alarming. What if he comes out next game with these type of thoughts? He probably will not have these type of thoughts, but this does have to make you wonder.

But Steph’s bad play was not limited only to the offensive end. Steph was non-existent defensively when he first came into the NBA. Many wondered if he would ever be able to defend his position. But under the tutelage of former head coach Mark Jackson, Curry improved on that end of the court. And going into this season, he was a way better defender than he had been to start his career. In this series, you would not have expected him to be the one the Cavaliers would pick on defensively. Well, the Cavs devised a little bit of offense to target him on defense. Down the stretch of the game, the Cavaliers were running a pick-and=roll involving Curry’s man, Matthew Dellavedova. The result was two floaters and one big three pointer by Delly and those eight points coast the Warriors as well. If it was not for a late dash to tie the game, the Warriors would have been put out of their misery at that point. It may have not been a huge sample size, but it was something the Cavaliers will definitely come back to. In the first game, Irving was making it happen against Curry and that was to be expected. But for Dellavedova to get eight points in the fourth and make plays when Curry was guarding him is not good. It may have been the design of their defense, but Curry has to accept the blame for the coverage because many times he looked like he was in no man’s land on the pick-and-roll.

The good thing about this game is that Curry can file it in the back of his mind and forget about it. And the even better thing is that Curry has a Game on Tuesday that can help make up for what happened Sunday night. Curry, as much as he may not say, will be thinking about atonement when he touches the court in Cleveland. He will be looking to give Matthew Dellavedova the business and lead Golden State to the victory. And many Golden State fans will also be watching with anticipation to see how their MVP bounces back in Game 3.

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Matthew Dellavedova Brought The Grit As The Cleveland Cavaliers Win Game 2

LeBron James and Matthew Dellavedova celebrate after a win. (photo credit Gus Chan of The Cleveland Plain Dealer)

LeBron James and Matthew Dellavedova celebrate after a win. (photo credit Gus Chan of The Cleveland Plain Dealer)

The Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors went at it again at Oracle Arena for Game 2. The task was monumental for LeBron and the Cavs, as they were playing without their star guard, Kyrie Irving. The Cavs came out inspired and they were up by 11 late in the game, but the Warriors roared back behind big shots by Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala. But in overtime, the one guy that many viewed as a liability for Cleveland in Game 1 came through in the clutch. Matthew Dellavedova was an afterthought in Game 1. He played only 10 minutes in the first game and he was so forgotten that the Cavaliers team bus actually left him at the arena. But in Game 2 when it really mattered, he played hard, fought for everything and was arguably the second-most important man on the court for the Cavs. His stats were not overly impressive this game (9 points on 3/13 shooting, 5 rebounds and 1 assist), but it was the little things that made him one of the stars of the game.

Everyone remembers the plays that were made by Kyrie Irving against Steph Curry during Game 1. Curry had two of his shots rejected while going to the basket against Irving, including the potential game-winning layup at the end of Game 1. But being that Irving was injured for Game 2 and the rest of the series, not many gave Matthew Dellavedova, affectionately called Delly by Cleveland fans, a chance at all. Many expected Curry to take it to him offensively. After all, Curry was giving him fits when he was guarding Dellavedova defensively and Curry was having his way against him when he got his shot offensively. But going into Game 2, it seemed that Dellavedova took it to Curry just a little bit more. The thing he did the most against Curry was take away his air space. Usually Curry has some room to operate and run off screens when he gives up the ball offensively. This game, Curry felt Delly everywhere he went on the court. Curry was not fouled by Delly, but the defense was enough to make Curry uncomfortable. Delly not only played physical with Curry but he moved his feet defensively better than some thought. Delly was able to stay in front of Curry for most of the game, minus one open court layup where Curry gave him the business. That seemed to frustrate Curry and also made Curry take some tough shots where he had his momentum leaning away from the basket. Of course Curry usually hits some of these tough shots and he hit a big shot down the stretch from three-point range, but they were not falling tonight and most of that credit has to go to Cleveland’s underdog point guard. Curry did not hit one shot against him all night.

Delly was clicking defensively, but earlier in the game he was giving the Cavaliers nothing offensively. In the first half, Dellavedova was just turning the basketball over. He was trying to throw the lob to some of the Cleveland big men, but it was not working like it had in previous series. He also was jacking up shots way too quickly with a lot of time left on the game clock. He kept on doing some of the same unexplainable things in the second half. At one point, there had to be some question as to what else he could give on the offensive end and how could they hide him. But when the fourth quarter came around, it seemed like Delly saw the bright lights and felt it was time to make things happen. The Warriors dared him to shoot the basketball off a pick-and-roll at the top of the screen twice and Delly obliged them. But what he did smart was counted on the floater that he was missing earlier in the game. He hit two straight floaters in the fourth quarter and then hit a big three off the assist of LeBron James. That was thought to be enough if it were not for the huge collapse the Cavaliers had in the fourth quarter. But in overtime, just like in the fourth quarter, Delly made a huge play when it counted. The Cavs were down one point with the ball when James Jones missed a three-pointer with 10 seconds left. One guy the Cavaliers were expecting to be in the paint fighting for the ball was rebound machine Tristian Thompson. But he was not by himself in that battle because there was small, gritty Dellavedova fighting and clawing on the boards. He was fouled by Harrison Barnes and he hit two free throws to put the Cavaliers up one point. And that was a lead the Cavaliers would not relinquish. Besides the play of LeBron during the game, his effort on that one play alone was the play of the game. His grittiness definitely helped Cleveland pull out this victory.

Going forward, Dellavedova can be key in how Cleveland does. He is a gritty defender and can cause havoc and muck up the game. For Cleveland to win, he has to play this way and so does the entire team. James is definitely the straw that stirs the drink for the Cavs, but Dellavedova was definitely the spark plug to the Cavs mentality change going into this game. For Cleveland fans, they hope Delly shows up like this again in Game 3 minus the turnovers and bad shot selection at time. The Cavs probably will not see Steph Curry have another shooting night like he had in Game 2, but in this game, Delly had the upper hand. And going into Game 3, it will be interesting to see how Curry counteracts the physical defense Dellavedova played on Curry.

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LeBron James: Heavy Is The Head That Wears The Crown

In Game 2, LeBron James is staring pressure in the face(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

In Game 2, LeBron James is staring pressure in the face(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Cleveland Cavaliers were riding an emotional high heading into the NBA Finals. They had just swept the Atlanta Hawks and it seemed like everything was coming together. Point guard Kyrie Irving showed up in Game 4 after missing the previous two games with knee tendinitis and foot issues and played well. JR Smith and Iman Shumpert were hitting open jumpshots with regularity when LeBron drew the coverage as well. And most importantly, Cleveland was owning the boards behind the presence of glasseater Tristian Thompson. Some who followed the Cavaliers thought that they were peaking at the right time and had a very good shot to beat the Western Conference Champion Golden State Warriors. But after Game 1, that picture has changed just a little bit. Both Iman Shumpert and JR Smith could not hit the broad side of a barn as they combined to go 5/19 for 15 points. Tristian Thompson and the Cavaliers were outrebounded by 3 total rebounds despite starting out crushing the Warriors on the boards. And most importantly and more damaging, Kyrie Irving went down awkwardly when trying to make a move with the basketball in overtime. The result was him limping to the locker room and not returning. The final score ended up being 108-100, but the Warriors were in complete control of the overtime and held the Cavaliers to one garbage time layup by LeBron James during that period. The look of joy turned into the look of consternation and frustration as we all saw over Kyrie’s face when asked about his injuries by media after the game. He looked like he did not have a good feeling about his injury and that was just the case, as he has a fractured kneecap and will be out for 3-4 months. First it was power forward Kevin Love and now it was Kyrie Irving that went down with a season-ending injury. The results are now on LeBron James while he is staring at a Warriors team that ended up winning despite not playing their best game. But this type of pressure is nothing new for LeBron.

James has been facing pressure ever since he landed in the NBA out of Akron, Ohio. The high school phenom was a great blend of size and speed and many thought he could transcend the game. Well, the jury is still out on if he transcended the game, but he sure has been a great player over his NBA career. James has climbed numerous lists in terms of assists, points, and rebounds for both the regular season and the postseason. And over time, he has gone from just making the playoffs to becoming a guy that is supposed to be in the NBA Finals every year. This year marks the fifth time in a row that he has been in the NBA Finals and this time he is up against a team that has been the best in the NBA all season long. The Golden State Warriors are solid from top to bottom and the good thing for them is they have not suffered any injuries to their players. But for LeBron, he has lost two of the team’s top three players during their run to the title. This team, as it stands, reminds some of Cleveland team of 2007. At that point and time, he took the Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA Finals on his back. Looking at that team compared to this one is not a fair comparison because the talent gap is so huge between that 2007 team and this current team. However, James is expected to make it to the come through better than he did in the 2007 version of the Cavaliers. He will be expected to come out guns blazing trying to scratch and claw his team to the victory. If he is to fall short, then there will be unlimited amounts of memes made and put all over social media coming for him. And if he is to win and do the improbably, then there would be many that would go overboard with the praise and others that will downplay it like LeBron isn’t a special player. Many are thinking this series is over with the absence of Irving on the court, but when a great player is on the other side, things can happen that could upset that prediction.

As we saw in Game 1, LeBron went for 44 points against the Warriors. It was a great scoring game from him, his best in his NBA Finals history. But along with the loss, there were other things that were not ideal for him in this game. LeBron only had six assists and he shot the basketball 38 times to get his 44 points. Not exactly what you would expect from LeBron. With Kyrie out for the rest of the series, the focus will be on LeBron to initiate the offense as well as score. In the last game, it seemed as if the Warriors were comfortable putting one defender on LeBron and letting him have at it in the post. Well, that also helped him negate getting his teammates involved in the game. For example, Cavaliers forward Tristian Thompson scored two points in the first quarter. He never even scored again the entire game. He is just one of the players that did not get enough touches in positions to make some things happen. In Game 2, LeBron has to find that happy balance of assisting and scoring for his team. When LeBron attacks the rim, the Warriors have no choice but to help his way. And when they do that, LeBron needs to spot guys like JR Smith and Iman Shumpert spotting up to knock down shots. A suggestion for Cleveland head coach David Blatt on what he could do that would help LeBron see the floor would be to put him in the middle of the floor for pick-and-rolls a few more times. This will allow LeBron much better vision of where his teammates are and it also allows for him to be more of who he wants to be. LeBron can be lethal when he has it going scoring, but he is the most lethal when he can get his teammates consistently good looks from the attention he draws. And getting his teammates involved is the only way he can win in this series. Ideally, for LeBron and the Cavs to have a shot to win, the line LeBron needs to average or come close to averaging is at least 28 points, 10 assists, 4 hockey assists and 10 rebounds. And as far as how he scores, he needs to score in a more efficient manner. If he is not efficient and incorporating his supporting cast, then this game could get ugly quickly and the series will be done rather quickly as well. Golden State is definitely playing at a high level and the stats and injuries seem to be stacked against him, but great players can be the deodorant that covers up weaknesses of a team.

LeBron James is expected to carry this team going forward and some think he will carry an undermanned Cleveland team to the NBA title. If he is able to do that, then this feat will be by far his best one. But if he isn’t able to bring it home, the extreme frustration and hate will probably flood social media and there will be questions about his greatness surrounding us once again. But LeBron is used to this and more from and everyone that has viewed, prodded, poked and overexamined his career in the NBA. The focus is on how the Cavs will respond to all this adversity and more importantly, how LeBron will lead them through this adversity.

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The Golden State Warriors Executed Their LeBron James Defensive Gameplan To Perfection In Game One

The Warriors let LeBron cook all the way to a win in Game 1(photo courtesy of Nathaniel Butler)

The Warriors let LeBron cook all the way to a win in Game 1(photo courtesy of Nathaniel Butler)

The long-awaited NBA Finals series has finally started. From the NBA’s Eastern Conference you have the Cleveland Cavaliers led by superstar forward LeBron James. The King has carried them so far in the playoffs, averaging 28 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists a game. He has made it happen whenever the team needed something to happen on their way to making the NBA Finals. But not to be outdone, the Golden State Warriors carried their regular season momentum over to the postseason. And despite having a momentary glitch in the matrix against the Memphis Grizzlies, the Warriors put it all back together and continued to roll on their way to the NBA Finals. Golden State was led there by the NBA MVP, Steph Curry. The Chef was cooking in the playoff as he put up 29.6 points per game and hit timely shots each and every series. The components in this one had everything to make it a classic. And Game 1 was not a letdown at all. Both teams slugged it out and we even got some an extra five minutes with overtime. But in the end, the Warriors showed their strength in numbers as they outlasted the Cleveland Cavaliers 108-100, outscoring them 10-2 in the overtime period. The Warriors also debuted their gameplan to stop the Cavs and LeBron James.

All postseason long, LeBron James has been a man on a mission. In the Conference Finals, James averaged 30 points, 11 rebounds and 9 assists. The man was pretty much unstoppable against the Atlanta Hawks. The Golden State Warriors were apparently watching the series and did their homework. The Warriors coaches saw the domination he exhibited in that series and knew that it was impossible to stop LeBron from putting up points. But the main thing the Warriors committed to in Game 1 was playing him in single-coverage. Early on in the game, Golden State was getting torched by LeBron. He was going in the post and scoring on anyone they put in front of him. He ended up getting 44 points. But the big number was not the amount of points he achieved, but the number of assists he got. James only had 6 assists for the game. LeBron can be a dominant scorer if he wants to be, but he is even more dangerous when he can get his teammates involved in the game. When guys like JR Smith and Iman Shumpert are hitting shots, then the floor gets even more wide-open and that can make things even more treacherous for an opponent of the Cavaliers. But by guarding LeBron honestly and not giving any help towards LeBron, it made the rest of the Cavs innocent bystanders in the carnage LeBron left on the court. And it also made LeBron a scorer and not a playmaker. When LeBron gets roughly 8-10 assists, the Cavs are moving the ball better and teams are at their mercy. But when he is scoring and shooting the ball as many times as he did (38 shots), the offense becomes stagnant and that is basically putting it in the hands of LeBron James to beat an entire team. And in the end, James ran out of gas. His teammates were less engaged in the offense because of the isolation basketball that happened over the course of the game. And finally, the gameplan of the Warriors took effect and allowed them to cruise to a win in overtime.

But not only was the gameplan to single-cover LeBron, but it was to also rotate bodies on him all game long. The moniker of the Warriors was “Strength In Numbers” and it certainly was the thing that wore down LeBron the entire game. Instead of the Warriors having one player on LeBron James all game, they used a combination of Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes to guard the best player in the NBA. And over time, the combinations wore on him. The Warriors players may have been getting lit up for a while by LeBron, but they made him work hard for every basket. Pretty much all of his baskets were contested the entire game. LeBron was hitting those shots with regularity at the beginning of the game as he went in the post and would also drive to the basket and hit some floaters. But as the game went on, the gas in his tank was waning down. The shots that he was hitting earlier in the game began to fall short and the layups he was getting at times began to turn into tough jump shots that were wide left, wide right and coming up short. LeBron just looked like the gas meter was on empty as he went to work in overtime. His lift seemed to not be the same on any of his shots and he just could not get it going for whatever reason. And with Kyrie out of the game in the overtime period, there was not another player that could make anything happen out there. The Cavs were sunk and there was not anything Cleveland could do to fight that ending they were about to be a part of. The strength of the numbers weighed heavy on the crown of The King.

Going forward, expect the Warriors to continue to stand pat with the single-coverage on LeBron. If he gets his points taking it at them, then the Warriors are willing to live with that. But like any game in a series, it takes on its own identity and pattern. The Warriors flexed their depth on the Cavs and Cleveland could not stand up to it. There will be adjustments made but the depth and single-coverage on LeBron James will be something to continue to monitor as the series wears on. And the biggest thing to keep up with come Sunday will be the adjustments made for Cleveland to get LeBron James not only on point scoring but in the playmaker department as well.

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Golden State Versus Cleveland: Strength In Numbers Meets Believeland

Steph Curry versus Kyrie Irving will be something to keep an eye on, especially with the health of Irving. (photo courtesy of www.cleveland.com)

Steph Curry versus Kyrie Irving will be something to keep an eye on, especially with the health of Irving. (photo courtesy of http://www.cleveland.com)

The NBA Finals are finally upon us. From the Eastern Conference, we have the Cleveland Cavaliers, led by NBA superstar LeBron James. And from the Western Conference, we have the Golden State Warriors, who won 67 games this year and were the class of the NBA this season. Both teams have had some things happen to them along the way that have made them stronger teams. But only one team will be at full strength coming into the NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors. The Cavs are playing without power forward Kevin Love and have a gimpy Kyrie Irving scheduled to play in Game 1. But with that being said, the Cavs have found a way to make it happen and persevere. The Warriors, in the meantime, had a couple bumps and bruises to their Splash Brothers, Klay Thompson and Steph Curry. Both looked to have concussions but only Klay was determined to have one as a result of an inadvertent knee to the head from Rockets guard Trevor Ariza in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. The series starts on Thursday and there will be plenty things to talk about, but what it may ultimately come down to is a couple different things for each team.

We all know that LeBron James is the best player on the planet right now. But we also know that it is almost impossible to stop him from get where he wants to go on the court. With that being said, the only thing the Warriors can hope to do is slow him down. In doing that, the Warriors have an advantage because of their depth. LeBron will probably get his numbers, but if the Warriors want to win, they have to take advantage of their depth and wear on LeBron. A rotation of Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and possibly Andre Iguodala will more than likely be the main competition guarding James. Draymond Green has his hands full in keeping Tristian Thompson off the boards and that could limit the time he has to guard LeBron. But as for Thompson and Iguodala, they have the size to deal with LeBron along with the defensive prowess. Both of these two along with Green could make it harder on LeBron to get to the basket and put pressure on defensives. And when the defense collapses, that is when LeBron is even more dangerous. At that point, LeBron will then starting picking through the defense to make pinpoint passes to his teammates. And when the supporting cast is contributing and hitting shots that could be serious trouble. The best bet of the Warriors would be to force James to make perimeter shots and offer just a little bit of a show regarding defensive help. The more he has to score and go at it with his teammates less involved, the more he will have to feel he has got to win the game by himself.

Another big thing for the Warriors versus the Cavs is rebounding. The Cavaliers absolutely killed the Atlanta Hawks on the boards last series and this series they have potentially an advantage with Tristian Thompson on their team. With Thompson, the Cavaliers are posting the third-best offensive rebounding differential in the NBA playoffs (+2.2) along with the best rebounding differential in the playoffs with +6.5. Thompson has been a bull in a china shop with his relentless pursuit of the basketball reminds some of Dennis Rodman and his rebounding wizardry. He, along with Timofey Mozgov, can cause some problems with the Warriors inside. Golden State has depth, but they would rather stay out of foul trouble when it comes to the likes of Thompson and Mozgov. With the Warriors, they must use Draymond Green to match up with Thompson. These two are both versatile players and they are also both barometers for their team’s success beyond the usual suspects. And Green has the great ability to defend taller players no matter what size. And in the case of Mozgov, it will be interesting to see how the matchup between Mozgov and Andrew Bogut swings. Bogut was and still is a great defender after making 2nd team All-Defense, so he will more than likely hold his own down there. And the best thing about Green and Bogut is they don’t have to do it all by themselves. The Warriors also have center Festus Ezeli, power forward David Lee and others that will be there reinforcements to help.

For the Cavaliers, they have to have their team slow down the basketball game. The best way for the Cavs to do that is to slow down the basketball game just a little bit. The Cavs are more of an isolation team at times, so doing this could be a problem. But it also could be a problem if they play a little bit too fast and get hammered by the Warriors in transition. The best way to slow them down and keep them out of transition is to make baskets. Players like Kyrie Irving, JR Smith and Iman Shumpert will need to stay hot when shooting the threes and jump shots. When you shoot well against Golden State, the tempo is right there in your hands and you control the pace of the game. The more your team controls the tempo, the more Golden State has to run halfcourt offense. The Warriors are more than capable of running halfcourt offense, but they are also more prone to turning the ball over because of getting too flashy or just not valuing the basketball. And the other main thing that slowing the game down does for Cleveland is makes it easier for them to set their defense. The Cavaliers have been very good defensively in the playoffs, only giving up 92.6 points per game. The more they are able to get back and defend the Warriors, the better the Cavaliers choices are in defending the Warriors.

Another thing the Cavs must do to win is keep the Warriors out of the paint. You would not think a team that is perceived as a jump-shooting team would need to be kept out of the paint, but the Warriors do it in an unusual way. They use movement and penetration to make things easier to get to the basket. For Cleveland, the trade for Mozgov game them a rim protector and someone that could deter guards from coming inside at times. He will have to be big for the Cavs this entire series for them to win. But not only he will have to be big, but so will the rest of the Cavaliers defense. One guy that could defend Draymond Green this series could be James Jones. The veteran wing player has been playing some power forward this season and he could help deter Green from shooting that three he tends to shoot off penetration and in transition because of his length and his ability to guard on the perimeter. Now he will be at a disadvantage on the block and rebounding, but he will have help there as well in Mozgov and Thompson perhaps as well. And speaking of defending the three, the Cavaliers would like to force the Warriors to shoot them more because they are only giving up the three at a 28.1% clip. That is by far the best of the teams that were in the NBA postseason.

The Cavs and the Warriors is a battle that many wanted to see in this postseason. The case of the former MVP in LeBron James versus the reigning MVP in Steph Curry. Both will have impacts on this series along with the usual players, but in regards to how this series will go, these points along with the depth of the Warriors and lack of depth of the Cavs will have an impact. In the end, the depth of the Warriors will prove too much for the Cavs and LeBron James. The Warriors win this series in six games and will prove there truly is strength in numbers.

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