The long layoff before the NBA Finals has been brutal. Absence makes the heart grow fonder in most cases, but the Cleveland Cavaliers impending matchup with the Golden State Warriors feels more like a big presentation in college. You can only prepare so much, but the rest of the time is spent worrying and wondering about every possible outcome.
If you haven't had a chance to watch a lot of Golden State this year, you've missed out on some pretty fun basketball. But here's a quick summary of what they look like:
Yup, they are pretty awesome.
Luckily for the Cavs, they are also a very good team. These things tend to happen when teams make it this far in the playoffs. While the Cavaliers have plenty of options on offense to make the Warriors' league best defense work, stopping their dynamic offense will likely be the most important part of pulling of a Finals upset.
There simply no easy way to shut down the Warriors offense, but if I were to inflate my ego, improve my suit game and step into the shoes of David Blatt, here's what my game plan would be going into game one.
Step one: Guard Stephen Curry with Kyrie Irving.
Now, before you start sending me angry emails/ tweets/ pigeon carriers, hear me out. Stephen Curry is an unstoppable force on offense. He can get off a shot at will from anywhere on the floor. He can get to the rim and create for himself and others. A lot of talk going into the Finals has been where the Cavs will hide Irving. His injuries have reduced his abilities as an on ball defender and odds are Curry will likely be able to get by Irving with relative ease unless he recovers more than anticipated during the time off.
But with Irving covering Curry, it puts the Cavaliers in a favorable position defensively on the rest of the floor. Iman Shumpert has been phenomenal on defense throughout the playoffs. His quick hands would be an asset in covering someone that isn't quite an elite dribbler in Klay Thompson and has the speed and length to make him work. LeBron James shouldn't have much trouble defending Harrison Barnes and Andre Iguodala and would be able to save the bulk of his energy on the offensive end. Tristan Thompson has a considerable advantage in size and strength compared to Draymond Green and could frustrate him in multiple ways on the court. Finally, Timofey Mozgov will likely shadow Andrew Bogut and work to neutralize any impact he has on the offensive end of the floor while providing rim protection/ support for the wings.
While Curry may be able to blow by Irving by using his ball handling, it's still not as dangerous as him behind the three point line. With rim protectors in place, Curry will likely be forced to settle for pull ups and floaters (of which he is likely to make the bulk of). Of course he's still going to take and make plenty of shots from three, but the temptation to get by Irving may cause him to start attacking more than he normally would.
With Curry in attack mode, he's likely to put up some gaudy numbers in this series. But if you can live with that, you can also try and get the rest of the team disengaged if you cover them properly. By keeping effective defenders on their other options, they are not as likely to be in rhythm when they are called upon as they would be if Curry was in his usual routine of creating for himself and others. When players aren't getting their touches on offense, they usually tend to not be as focused on offense. While "let the NBA MVP beat you" isn't the easiest strategy to stomach, it might be the Cavs best chance against the starting lineup. Of course, the game plan isn't just that.
Step two: Try to take the ball out of Curry's hands.
When the Warriors try to run the Curry-Green pick and roll, I'd try to trap with Thompson and basically abandon Green at the three point line. If Green beats you from there, you live with it. But by trying to make Curry uncomfortable and possibly force a turnover should be a priority if you are going to accept the fact that he's going to be able to get his in isolation.
Step three: Pray.
You gotta have a little bit of luck to be successful, especially when you're shorthanded and outgunned.
While this might not work. It's the best I can come up with to give the Cavs a shot to come away with the title. Think I'm wrong? Have a better idea? Let me know in the comments below.