Cleveland Cavaliers have been strolling through the Playoffs, but the Eastern Conference Champions were mauled 104-89 in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Will there be more of the same, or will the Cavs regain their mojo?
That question will be answered in Game 2 but not necessarily by the outcome. In other words, the answer will not be found in whether the Cavs win or lose, but by how they play that game. Last season, it was Lebron James against the Warriors all by himself. This season, he has help in Tristan Thompson, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, but the parameters have changed: the Cavs are ‘Four’, but the Warriors are ‘Eight’. The refrain has changed from “one man can’t beat five” to “Four men can’t beat eight”. The Cavs bench need to step up. They were outscored 45-10 and out rebounded 16-6!
Cavaliers need to get rid of isolation plays. And fast too. The Warriors are so good defensively, and are so disciplined, that isolations will only lead to missed shots (from defender interference) as we saw again and again in Game 1, and Turn Overs from shot-clock violations. Basketball is a team game, Cavs need to show up as a team.
The defending Champions are arguably the best transition team in the League. Their 73 wins is no fluke. This means Cavaliers have to be more disciplined in defence and help each other on the weak side. The speed of the Warriors also mean they create mismatches, Cavs must find a way to either match their speed, or find a way to slow them down, just as Ty Lue promised before the Series tipped off.
Cavaliers struggled in all areas on the court, but the Warriors were not excellent either: they both shot 33% from three point range, and Cavs out rebounded Warriors 47-41 (15-9 offensive). But while the Warriors made shots at critical moments, the Cavs didn't: Cavs must ensure they make the shots when the Warriors defence sleeps.
It's not over yet, but it will be if the Cavaliers don't adjust fast!