In Game 1 the team decided to try and run with the Golden State Warriors to disastrous results. Despite outrebounding the Warriors, the Cavs still allowed the Warriors to take 20 more field goal attempts as a result of turnovers. Combine that with 27 fastbreak points allowed and it’s remarkable that the team only lost by 22.
The question now becomes, will the Cavs show up for Game 2? Will they be able to control the feel of the game and play a style that’s worked for them in the past? Or will they once again fall into the Warriors trap and let this become a shoot-out?
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (0-1) at Golden State Warriors (1-0)
When: 8:00 PM
Where: Oracle Arena, Oakland, California
Where on my eyeballs: ABC
The first thing that obviously needs to change heading into Game 2 is the turnovers. While LeBron James was the primary culprit for turnovers, both he and Kyrie Irving need to do a better job being patient with the offense. There were too many possessions in the third quarter where the Cavs would quickly launch up lazy attempts, leading to fastbreak chances the other way. Both of the Cavs initiators must do a better job with their decision making. The Warriors shot just 42.5 percent from the floor in Game 2. If the Cavs can stop giving up so many easy opportunities, those struggles may continue.
Secondly, the Cavs need to slow down the pace of the game. While this will make the Warriors defense tougher to score on, the benefit to the Cavs defense is too great to pass up. Keeping the Warriors out of transition will limit the effectiveness of their offense. It also helps prevent the Cavs from wearing down, as their core players must already shoulder a considerable load in order to win.
In addition to all this, the supporting cast needs to be considerably better. Both J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson were awful in Game 1 and failed to be positive difference-makers. Kyle Korver and Deron Williams both played like it was their first ever Finals game, with poor decision making and a combined 0-5 shooting. Both players need to make a positive impact on the game if the team is going to have any hope of winning the minutes where the Warriors stagger.
While Kevin Love did a good job competing despite his shot not falling, he needs to be much better in Game 2. There were too many mental lapses and moments where he just didn’t seem focused. He wasn’t ready for the ball at times and wasn’t assertive. His box score stats were impressive, but overall his game lacked the impact that the Cavs need from him. He needs to be more dynamic offensively and force the Warriors defense to react to him. He can’t just be an afterthought.
The Cavs are a better team than we saw in Game 1. Over the last two years we have seen them dictate the pace and the feel of games against the Warriors, as well as get blown out when they get baited into playing the Warriors style. We knew there would be a blowout or two in these Finals, the question will be how big of a hole will the Cavs be in by the time they figure things out. Despite the bad loss in Game 1, the Cavs could still be in a fantastic position with a Game 2 win and completely flip the narrative of this series.
Whether the Cavs can balance taking care of the ball and getting out and running offensively with keeping the Warriors out of transition will be important. If a quality shot isn’t there early, the Cavs can’t get baited into forcing up a bad shot. They must trust that if things breakdown, they have two of the best isolation scorers in the league to get them a quality shot.
Unfortunately the list of things for Cleveland to improve in Game 2 is long. They absolutely can leave Oakland with homecourt advantage, but it will take a massive performance from the teams’ stars.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
Cavs figure things out throughout the game, but lose a close one 108-104.