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Three things we learned from the Cavaliers Game 2 loss in the NBA Finals

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Can the Cavaliers survive another 2-0 deficit?

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

The Cavaliers have fallen down 0-2 the Warriors and could be facing a sweep if they’re not able to steal a game in Cleveland. Here’s what we learned from the loss.

1. Against the Warriors, sometimes it just doesn’t matter

After an early adjustment of slipping screens that left the Cavaliers flummoxed, creating a layup line for the Warriors, the Cavs hung tough. They found offense elsewhere in the starting lineup, and actually found some shot creation outside of LeBron James.

They stayed in contact with the Warriors almost the entirety of the game, but the 4th quarter just proved the incendiary nature of the most talented team in league history. Stephen Curry rained three after three to take the game out of reach for the Cavs even as they battled valiantly for much of the dreaded third quarter.

The Cavaliers had opportunities to answer Steph on these threes – they weren’t able to capitalize. That’s the way the world goes, sometimes. It’s not easy to go shot-for-shot with the greatest shooter in NBA history when he’s hot. The Cavaliers weren’t able to.

2. There’s no overstating how important it is to take advantage of openings the Warriors give you

It’s fair and probably healthy to stop hyperfocusing on the Cavaliers Game 1 gaffes and blown calls by the referees, but if the avalanche in Game 2 is to show us anything, it’s that you won’t get many winnable games against this Warriors team even if you do your job reasonably well.

The Cavaliers trying to win Game 2 after the devastation in Game 1 was like if the climactic battle in Independence Day had failed and humanity had to give it another go. The Cavaliers didn’t have the right energy and LeBron James specifically was clearly exhausted after all the energy he had expended in Game 1 despite a very strong stat line again.

We rightfully marvel at James’ stamina, but a keen observer can see cracks where he’s not able to summon the requisite explosion to make a play defensively or finish at the rim through contact. The Cavaliers need LeBron to be superhuman to win this series, they need to capitalize when he is.

3. LeBron James cannot continue to be the most reliable shooter on the Cavaliers outside of Kyle Korver

Want to see a dark picture? How about the Cavaliers three-point shooting over these playoffs?

The Cavs Can’t Shoot

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS IN 2017-18 PLAYOFFS 3-PT FG PCT 3PA/GM
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS IN 2017-18 PLAYOFFS 3-PT FG PCT 3PA/GM
Kyle Korver 44.1 5.1
J.R. Smith 36.2 5.3
LeBron James 35.5 5.3
Kevin Love 33 4.9
George Hill 31.1 2.6
Jeff Green 29.7 3.2
Jordan Clarkson 23.9 2.4

With the Warriors effectively deciding that a layup or a dunk is a preferable to an open Kyle Korver three-point shooter, the Cavaliers just aren’t making enough shots. The only player outside of LeBron who is shooting better from three in the Finals is George Hill, who’s admirably canned 2.5 per game on five attempts per game.

It’s a problem, and sure, it’s fair to criticize the Cavaliers for having players on the roster like Jeff Green who is a historically shaky three-point shooter, but Jeff Green isn’t the reason that the Cavaliers aren’t shooting well.

This goes back to the reality that comes with playing the Warriors. You really can’t even afford to have your role players play to their averages. They need to exceed their normal performance to even have a shot.

It’s fair to say that the Cavaliers have not done that, and it’s killed their chances to win in Oakland.