Cavaliers must be better defensively to have a chance against the Warriors


The Cleveland Cavaliers were plagued by multiple misfortunes on both sides of the ball in their 110-77 lopsided loss to the Golden State Warriors in Game 2 of the NBA Finals, with things such as LeBron James coughing up the ball 7 times and Kevin Love being limited to virtually no second half action due to dizziness stemming from an inadvertent elbow he received from Harrison Barnes during the second quarter, sending them into a tailspin.

But to me, the most glaring deficiency for the Cavs in their 33-point spanking was how they fared on the defensive end. One quick glance at the box score would indicate not well, as Golden State shot 54% from the field and 45.5% from downtown, and there’s plenty of miffing footage that corroborates the notion that Cleveland as a whole were resemblant of a turnstile during the contest.

Clip #1:

The culprit in this clip is Kyrie Irving, who was slotted on the sharpshooting MVP Stephen Curry. You see Golden State initiate this action with Shaun Livingston bringing the ball up the court and pitching it to Andre Iguodala, who tosses it right back to the hero of Game 1.

Meanwhile Curry is hanging out in the weak-side corner, awaiting to be freed by a lumbering down-screen from Draymond Green. Green easily discards of Irving with the pick giving arguably the greatest shooter of all-time a glimmer of daylight, which happens to be all he needs.

Although Curry didn’t score during this episode, Festus Ezeli caught Tristan Thompson resting on his rebounding laurels and was able to corral the offensive board and hammer home a putback slam. Still, Iriving getting that lost on a set as simplistic as this one is concerning.


Clip #2:

Kevin Love clanks on a corner three-point attempt, and Richard Jefferson takes himself out of position to fend off the Warriors’ transition attack by trying to fight with Livingston for the rebound.

After corralling, Livingston tosses to Green, who then zips the ball to Curry who eyes Thompson trotting to the three-point line undetected. You know what happens next.

If Cleveland is serious about upending the Warriors, lapses like these are not acceptable. When playing the Warriors it’s imperative you track both Curry and Thompson at all times, but especially in transition where Golden State feasts on teams from behind the arc.

Not to pick on Irving, but I can’t help but to be disgusted at the way he’s trotting back on defense. James and Smith communicate as the former motioned towards Curry and the latter bodying up Iguodala to prevent some transition terror. 

Irving is in the same vicinity as Green, and you could make a case that he was covering him, but this is a case of knowing the other team’s personnel. Now granted, Green had it going in Game 2, but why would you fixate yourself to him in lieu of the second-best shooter in the world?

Kevin Love in no-mans land also kills me. Wandering aimlessly in transition with no purpose. Maybe he really was woozy. 

The Dubs tout the most prolific shooting backcourt in the Association’s history, and these guys love to get threes in transition and off of offensive rebounds. Giving up too many of those looks to the Warriors, and you’re trekking down a path of doom. 

Klay would get Cleveland’s attention, and it would pay off…

Clip #3:

When your team is headlined by two of the deadliest marksmen the game has ever seen, you’d be wise to use them as a decoy every once in awhile to generate solid looks for others. If you want to know why the Warriors were able to shoot such a hearty percentage in this game, it’s due to easy baskets such as this one.

After being burnt by Thompson earlier in the night, Cleveland made it a point to locate him when he flared out behind the arc when the Warriors pushed in the open. Iguodala pushes in semi-transition, and Thompson begins to sprint downtown at Iggy’s direction.

Jefferson tells Shumpert to take Green, and J.R. Smith, who is guarding Leandro Barbosa, turns his head to see Thompson retreating to the corner. The heady Barbosa slips into the paint unmolested for an easy layup as Smith and Jefferson fail to communicate on the switch. 

This is an underrated aspect of having great shooters on your roster. Their gravitational pull can open up creaks in the defense that would necessarily be available with a different army of players. 

The Cavaliers’ stock has plummeted in a frightening way, but despite the two spankings they’ve been issued in Games 1 and 2, they can find solace in the fact that they have two games to play at home. Golden State is beaming with confidence, but being away from rowdy confines of Oracle Arena should bode well for Irving and Smith, as both have had a wayward series thus far. 

But the fact remains this: Cleveland can muster up as much offense as they want, but if they want to change the trajectory of this series, their defense needs some serious beefing up.

Tyronn Lue looked lost at times with his lineups in Game 2, rolling out one that featured LeBron at center (intriguing, but left Cleveland vulnerable at the rim) and then a unit in garbage minutes time that included a Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson frontcourt. He’s trying to find anything to combat the merciless force that is the Golden State Warriors, and I’m not sure there is a solution that will stick. 

Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron James
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What Cleveland can do is adhere to the defensive game plan and exert maximum energy and effort. This is the NBA Finals. There is no time to be complacent when the value of every possession is enormous.

If the Cavs seize any control in this series, if even for a brief moment, it’ll most likely be accredited to one of two things: a legendary LeBron performance and/or the mending of their defense. It’ll be interesting to see which one of those comes to fruition and how quickly it can, because if it doesn’t happen in Game 3, The Land will still be quenching for a championship all summer long. 


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