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Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors Game 2 preview

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Will the Cavs bounce back from their Game 1 heartbreak?

2018 NBA Finals - Game One Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Cavs had their shot in Game 1 and had it dribbled away at the end of regulation. Will they get a chance at a win in Game 2?

Who: Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors, Game 2

When: Sunday, June 3, 8 p.m.

Where: Oracle Arena — Oakland, California

Enemy Blog: Golden State of Mind

TV: ABC

Online: WatchESPN

Cavs injuries: None

Warriors injuries: Andre Iguodala (DOUBTFUL - leg contusion), Klay Thompson (EXPECTED TO PLAY - high ankle sprain)

Three keys to the game

  • Things the Cavs can control (aka not the refs) that cost them Game 1: knowing the score of the game at all times, making free throws and making three-point shots. The first is very much aimed at J.R. Smith, the second aimed at George Hill and the last is at every other Cavalier not in a No. 23 jersey. In Game 1, LeBron James was 3-7 on three-pointers, Kevin Love was 1-8, Hill was 2-4, Smith was 2-6, Jeff Green was 1-6 and Kyle Korver was 1-3. And these weren’t bad looks, although Green taking six threes was not ideal. By comparison, the Warriors finished 13-36 from three.
  • With Cleveland switching everything in Game 1, and that strategy likely to continue into Game 2, it’ll be key for the Cavs keep up the same level of defensive effort they did in Game 1. There were a few botched pick-and-roll coverages, particularly when the Cavs (understandably) overreacted to Stephen Curry and let a big roll cleanly to the rim:

But the Cavs were largely good on defense in Game 1, or at least disciplined enough to hang. That has to continue if the Cavs have any shot of winning Game 2. If the Warriors hit full rhythm, it could get ugly.

  • It’ll be hard of the Cavaliers to have the same 19-4 offensive rebounding advantage they did in Game 1. But if they can still hold some kind of advantage, and create more possessions and some easy shots at the rim in the process, it’ll help. The two players key to that effort will be Larry Nance Jr., who had four offensive rebounds in Game 1, and Tristan Thompson, who pulled down two.

Nance shined in Game 1. In two stints on the floor, he was active and energized in the same way he was in Game 6 against the Celtics. Look here as he made an effort to box out Klay Thompson the moment he saw that LeBron was going to shoot:

For Tristan Thompson, it’ll be about relying on motor to crash the boards like he did here when Klay Thompson didn’t mark him and he forced his way into position:

It’d help if Love could get involved on the offensive glass as well, but it’s tough for him to do so when he’s often hanging out beyond the three-point line and has to be ready to sprint back on defense if the Warriors get the rebound and push.

Key Matchup

Kevin Durant shot 8-22 in Game 1, even as he got the type of shots he’s comfortable with and the Warriors look for him to get. In particular, Golden State tried to counter Cleveland’s switches by getting Durant looks in isolation against either Hill or Love. Golden State looked to hunt those particular matchups more and more as the game wore on:

The Cavs did counter this to some degree, moving Smith around to have him switched onto Durant. And when Jeff Green was on the floor, the Cavs didn’t switch when Durant was involved in action, instead having the defender being screened (say, Kyle Korver) try to impede Durant’s path to give Green enough time to recover:

Durant is Durant — he’s going to score because that’s what he does. But the Cavs can make it hard for him to do so and prepare knowing what’s coming and matchups the Warriors will look to hunt. They also have to be okay with Durant shooting in these spots, as his looks in isolation — particular in the mid-post area — are some what out of place within the rest of Golden State’s offense.

Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction

It’s really hard to gauge how Game 2 will play out, as so much of the Cavs’ success will depend on them matching their Game 1 victories. Maybe the Warriors will simply be better in Game 2. And can the Cavs win if LeBron James doesn’t play at the same level he did in Game 1?

Warriors 104, Cavs 99.