Game 1 didn't exactly go well for the Cleveland Cavaliers. In losing to the Chicago Bulls, the Cavs found themselves down by double digits multiple times at various points at the game. On top of that, LeBron James played his worst game of the postseason, shootin 9-22 from the field in 41 minutes with some ugly turnovers - his jump pass stands out as particularly egregious - that killed a few Cleveland comeback attempts. The fact that the Cavs came back and a chance to win until the last two minutes or so was a minor miracle in itself, especially considering how hot the Bulls were from the field.
That, however, isn't likely to happen again. While the Bulls have Jimmy Butler - probably the best player not named Kawhi Leonard at defending LeBron James - the Bulls defense as a whole just isn't the vaunted Chicago defense from years past. Joakim Noah has looked slow and immobile, the Cavs can and will attack Pau Gasol repeatedly when he's in the middle and Kyrie Irving can score on Derrick Rose.
But if there is something from Game 1 the Cavs should be worried about, it's that certain lineups the Cavs have to use right now allow the Bulls to pack the paint and limit the effectiveness of LeBron and Irving's rim attacks. For the Cavs to have optimal spacing without Kevin Love at the four and, until he returns for Game 3, J.R. Smith at the two, the Cavs have to have to go small with both LeBron and Kyrie on the floor.
Playing Thompson and Mozgov together might work defensively against the Bulls' size, but it doesn't pull Noah, Gasol and Taj Gibson away from the rim and in space where they are most vulnerable. This is why the Cavs are going to use the Kyrie/Shump/Delly/LeBron/Thompson at the end of games. Thompson can rebound offensively and the Cavs can switch him onto other players if the Bulls run a pick and roll. Shump and Dellavedova are both sort of shooters - Shumpert is streaky and is hitting below his career 3-point percentage since being traded to Cleveland and Delly is at 40.7 percent with a really small sample size - so teams can't fully pack the paint when they are on the floor.
Irving, however, is the key here because of how good he is from deep, even as an off-the-ball shooter. At all times, the Bulls have to keep tabs of where he is as a shooter. He's also deadly from either corner - 44.7 percent from the right corner, 51.4 percent from the left - and that's a place LeBron has the ability to kick to with ease if the drives in isolation or runs a pick and roll with Thompson.
This really small lineup may have to be used too because playing Mike Miller - and James Jones, at least to extent - was problematic for a Cavs defense that already have enough problems. Miller hasn't played meaningful minutes in month and looked like he didn't know where to go on defense when he needed to rotate to a certain spot. Jones has played more than Miller, but still looked as if he was unsure as where he was supposed to be at times. As a result, playing the guys that have played a lot during the regular season may be the only option; being down by that much again would put the Cavs in a horrible spot and possibly down 2-0 headed to Chicago.
Fear The Sword's
It's hard to envision that LeBron, and Kyrie, struggle as much as they did in Game 1. Both are too good to struggle as much as they did - and Kyrie did turn it around - early on Monday. Still, the Cavs are still without Smith and might have to run with Kyrie/Shump/Delly/LeBron/Thompson again in order to create matchup issues for the Bulls, defensive/size issues with that lineup be damned.
I'll take the Cavs 101, Bulls 98. It's going to a close game, it's going to be tough, but the Cavs are still the Cavs in some regard. That should be enough.