From Distance: Witness…Game One Had 47 Other Minutes

four point play….

1. The downsides of living in Germany are laughably few. Still, one disadvantage has thankfully visited me every June for the last four years. Let us just say watching live NBA Finals games from 3am to 6am is not the best way to have a productive work day.

I was set to go all LeBron “zero dark thirty” and simply not watch the contest until the following afternoon, but I woke up exactly at 3 am, roughly five hours before my alarm was scheduled to wake me from my peaceful slumber.

Like James, my internal clock screamed at me, “it’s game time!”. My regular season viewing analytics went out the window.

I hilariously thought I would just go back to sleep. No way. Instead, I stayed up and witnessed one of the greatest performances, and tragedies of modern sports.

LeBron James. Just… I, er,.. Thanks, LeBron.

The referees. How could you possible mess up that consistently and horribly?

I shall leave both of those topics for other columns (If you haven’t yet checked out the Nate and Tom recap, do).  There are too many things to say on both to cram into this space.

Instead, why don’t we check out some of the other important, albeit less life altering events from Game One.

2. Lost in the ridiculousness of Game One is how obscenely well Kevin Love played defense against Kevin Durant and Steph Curry.

Over the last few years, Love has mostly been asked to trap and recover in order to get the ball out of Curry’s hands. Love’s iconic “Stop” against Curry to help win the 2016 Championship was performed more as a late game necessity than as a consistent rule.

Until Game One, the Cavs have customarily switched all actions not involving Love unless it was as a last resort. Not this time. From the tip, Ty Lue had his squad switching every screen action both on and off ball, Love included.

It makes sense. You want to have your best guys on the floor. If the matchups are going to force LeBron to guard Kevin Durant as the primary defender, it isn’t the worst idea to simply switch across the board.

Yes, it can weaken the defense at the point of attack, but it saves LeBron’s energy on the defensive end. As long as Kevin Love and George Hill can at least make Curry and Durant work for their one-on-one possessions, it can be a net positive.

People pick on Love’s defense but he has acquitted himself very well over the last few years against the Warriors.

In first quarter of Game One, the Dubs did a good job of dictating multiple on and off ball switches to ultimately force Tristan Thompson AND Love into being the two primary Pick and Roll defenders. It’s one thing to plan on being put into a switch mismatch. Guarding a 1-3 PnR with a PF and a C is another thing.

If the Cavs switch everything, it is only a matter of patience before the Dubs can get Love and TT matched up on Curry and Durant.

The Warriors were able to get a lot of traction with that action early in the game. Rather than stalling the post switch offense with Iso Ball, Kerr was able to get his best guys going two on two against the Cavs’ big men.

In the first stretch of play, the Cavs didn’t do a great job of early rotation on the back end. As Jeff Van Gundy pointed out, there were many times that a weakside defender should have been planted near the paint.

Fortunately for Cleveland, the moment the Cavs went to its bench, that Warrior action ceased and the Cavaliers’ defense at the point of attack improved.

Larry Nance’s activity had a lot to do with that. The Warriors also lost the focus necessary to search out the matchup and then run real action.

Back to Kevin. The Warriors assumed that Love would tire as the game went on, but instead he began to anticipate their offensive actions beautifully.

In the second half, Kevin switched hard and early with an angle that forced Curry to his left. Love’s early aggression on the initial screen eliminated any chance of an easy roll to the cup. Durant and Curry were forced left and out of easy play-making position. It was text book.

Sure, Love will get beaten at times. Unfortunately, one of those times led to Curry’s And-1. But mostly, Love played championship level defense. If he can get a few more shots of his own to drop from distance, he is in great shape.

3. The rebounding edge the Cavaliers enjoyed doesn’t look like a fluke. With the Cavs playing four out with either Nance or Thompson crashing hard to the glass, the Warriors aren’t putting themselves in a great position to board.

If not careful, a switching defense can present the same problems on the glass as a zone. Outside of Draymond Green, the Dubs don’t have a positional rebounder to prevent the Cavs crash.

Both Nance and TT are elite offensive rebounders. I don’t see how the Dubs can solve the disparity unless they turn to JaVale McGee or Zaza Pachulia.

I doubt Kerr wants to go that direction full time, but it’s got to be hard for him just to accept the the likelihood of giving up 10 plus offensive boards every game. It’s the principle reason McGee got the second half start. 

There have been times that the Warriors have stolen some offensive rebounds because of the Cavs own switching. With Love and LeBron, it doesn’t happen often. They are too good on the defensive glass for GS unless Kerr is rolling McGee out there.

Cleveland also doesn’t leak out in transition as much as GS does. The Cavs contest and release only sparingly, perhaps too infrequently considering Love’s outlet passing skills.

It might also be the exact correct amount. Teams that contest and leak as a rule do get points in transition. They can also get torched on the glass against the wrong opponent. The Cavs are the wrong opponent for the Dubs.

If the Cavs can continue to box out hard on the defensive glass while letting Tristan, Larry, and Kev do their offensive thing, the advantage should stay in Cleveland’s favor.

4. As a frequent Lue critic, I feel I should give him a little credit for this game. The schematic choices were solid.

And yet, he continues to botch his primary duties: rotations and game management.

Whatever blame one wishes to place on J.R. Smith should be equally shared by Ty Lue. It is his responsibility to make sure his guys know time and situation. 

They needed to have a clear directive for all the potential outcomes of that free throw. It’s sad that J.R. will get killed for “losing” this game when his action didn’t actually lose anything, nor was it his alone.

Yes, it sounds like I have an anti-Lue, pro-Smith bias. I do because we know who these guys are. We know Smith can lose focus.

If I’m the coach of any team, let alone one with Smith and Jeff Green, I’m repeating the plan at every opportunity. Or didn’t Lue have a plan?

Lue didn’t seem to, and Smith squandered the possibility to take the lead.

Of course, the greater misery/mystery is the insanity that continues to be rotation minutes for Jordan Clarkson.

This horse is already beaten, dead, decomposed, and finding its molecular way into your cornflakes. Just. Stop. Playing. Him.

ENOUGH

Cedi Osman is built for this. Lue could infuse smart energy from a 6’8″ guy instead of dumb energy from a 6’4″ chucker. It’s not like Clarkson has been running the point. (Nor should he). I’m happy Jordan grabbed that one steal, but man was he a wreck otherwise.

This continues to be the most baffling error in judgement of Lue’s coaching career. He goes one-on-one talent over team skill-set. Shumpert over Delly, Clarkson over Cedi. It’s coaching malpractice.

Quickies:

Draymond holds guys to prevent the Cavs’ weakside defenders from rotating on every single possession. He has been doing it his whole career. It is a Dubs special. How the refs never see this is beyond me.

At least TT does some of that for the Cavs too. This is the lesson. If refs don’t see a foul, it’s not a foul. The Warriors have embraced this over the years by fouling on every play. It’s smart basketball. 

Except it is also garbage. I can’t ask the Cavs to do the same things when the refs clearly don’t call things evenly for both squads. If they are going to call Hill for clean strips, it is an uphill battle.

The Warriors are immature 13 year olds who tease when they have power and crack under pressure. They do things behind the teacher’s back and then try to charm their way out of the consequences. It’s time to dress Perk. He doesn’t need to play a minute, but having him in uniform couldn’t hurt.

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Right Down Euclid
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Right Down Euclid
2 months 13 days ago

Storylines the media would rather write tonight than anything Warriors-related:

1) JR redemption game
2) Rodney Hood redemption game
3) The trade deadline crew has more upside than we realize
4) Korver going down swinging in a year of pain
5) Have we ever seen a post season run as dominant as the one LeBron is having?

Right Down Euclid
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Right Down Euclid
2 months 13 days ago

I feel like we’re gonna have a Rodney Hood sighting tonight in place of some Clarkson minutes instead of Cedi.

topgun
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topgun
2 months 13 days ago

it’s do or die in game 2. we lose, no way we can win the series..

Klay is questionable but knowing him, he will probably play, even not 100%. we will be fired up initially but how long will that last? will 3rd quarter for GS be another boost or will Cavs come out and stay within 2-3 possessions at end of Q3?

even though we lost game 1, if we stay within 2-3 possessions in Q4, i like our chances given Bron’s playoff mode this year.

but if we are down 10+ at Q4, i don’t think these Cavs can pull it off.. just not enough firepower aside from Bron.

JR? who knows.. you never know… even if he has a good game, still someone who isn’t consistent .. can’t trust

Raoul
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Raoul
2 months 13 days ago

Cavs in five!

Sim
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Sim
2 months 13 days ago

Big thing cavs did was no matter who was taking him we basically didn’t let him to penetrate , and also didn’t allow him to get the ball in the post too close to the basket , that was great and we got to continue that in this game, and we must duplicate the o rebounds , the only way to win gs is if we take full force on their weaknesses

Joeyb
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Joeyb
2 months 13 days ago

We are so gonna win. Or lose by 30.

Jack
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Jack
2 months 13 days ago
The way I see it, is that the coaching staff seems to have a game plan that can keep the series close if Lebron continues to dominate or the shooters come alive, and even win this thing if there is a confluence of both in 2-3 games. Things could get really interesting if Iguadola and Klay are either sitting or not at full strength. Their rebounding advantage is real. But they have to find ways to exploit other advantages with their big men on the floor. For one, I’d like to see them hit Nance more on the short roll/cut. They had a nice sequence where he made the easy read to Jeff Green in the corner when Livingston helped down, and then Green hit Lebron on the looping cut for a dunk. And later, Love was posting on the block and he hit Nance at the free throw line on a cut, Nance kicked to Jeff Green on the wing and then Green swung it to Hill for a corner 3. Hit Nance on that roll when Love is in the corner or Korver, and that’s an easy dunk also. Another defensive action GSW is running they can take… Read more »
Sim
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Sim
2 months 13 days ago

Ya true let’s see some more nance especially if he’s holding his own defensively on the switch , offensively he’s a great roll man , If jr isn’t hitting shots than cut a lot of his minutes for cedi , And maybe we should try hood instead of Clarkson for a game , I don’t see how U can be much worse than jc these days

believeLAND
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believeLAND
2 months 13 days ago

And let’s just be honest, full disclosure. The media has their heads so far up their a**es, MJ’s not even top 5 in the list of greatest players of all time.

Anonymous
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Anonymous
2 months 13 days ago

That’s a really really silly thing to say. It doesn’t really hold up in any way shape or form.

believeLAND
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believeLAND
2 months 13 days ago

Kareem, Lebron, Russell, Wilt, Magic- there’s your top five.

Right Down Euclid
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Right Down Euclid
2 months 13 days ago

Huh?

JRL
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JRL
2 months 13 days ago

Drunk typing?

believeLAND
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believeLAND
2 months 13 days ago

I hate the warriors. So much. I’ve never hated any team in sports really. But I hate them. And as much as I hate draymond, I hate Curry even more. Can’t stand him- to the possible surprise of the whole world, as “he can do no wrong”. I hate him more than anyone in sports.

Anonymous
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Anonymous
2 months 12 days ago

That’s because he keeps torching your team and it frustrates you.

CLF
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CLF
2 months 13 days ago

Great observation about KLOVE’s defense on Durant and Curry. KLOVE knows Curry goes 3 hunting on bigs and plays the shot. He knows Durant tries to take him off the dribble and so KLOVE uses his size to cut off driving lanes…. he’s moving his feet beautifully.

As for Draymond’s constant holding… easy way to solve that problem…. start chopping at his arms like an NFL defensive end against an offensive tackle. Not sure if anybody has it built in them to be more physical, but it would be a really easy way to get under Draymond’s skin by bruising him up that way.

Phil Hubbard
Member
Phil Hubbard
2 months 13 days ago

Also might force the refs to make some calls on him…

Scotch
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Scotch
2 months 13 days ago

Yeah that’s absolutely the right move.

Scotch
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Scotch
2 months 13 days ago

Hoping the livethread photo for tomorrow night is curly blocking moe’s attempt to poke him in the eyes. Cuz draymond’s antics have become that ridiculous: he is a stooge.

MT
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MT
2 months 14 days ago

Great post. Nice analogy with the dubs as 13 year old jerks. Hope your next 3 am viewing ends more happily

JRL
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JRL
2 months 14 days ago

Great article!

I’m still infuriated by the officiating and by the foolishness that was the last 10 seconds. I now feel bad for JR as opposed to angry. I hope he puts that stupid play behind him and comes back full force tomorrow.

I only wish Lue would play Cedi over Clarkson.

Crazy that my phone automatically goes to Cedi after I type in “play”. Ha.

Jack
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Jack
2 months 13 days ago

I feel so bad for Cedi. Lebron is probably his favorite player ever and it could be the only chance he ever gets to play with him, he’s earned playing time, and Lue just won’t give it to him. And all so that we can watch Hood and Clarkson shrink in the moment when you know Cedi would be playing his heart out. It’s just sad.

Jake
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Jake
2 months 14 days ago
Hey guys Not sure if anyone has had this opinion but I keep reading how crazy the jr play was and didn’t think that was the case. Not to say I’m a fan of jr but rather not a fan of lue or the fact that Lebron holds everyone by the balls not just the players but also the organization. I’m not at all saying he isn’t the greatest , I think he is but to win consistently there has to be authority in place. When jr got the ball kd was around him, he had already had 4 blocks. So jr ran it out hoping lue would have the brains to call timeout to give the ball to lbj to take the last shot. I don’t think that’s so crazy of the guy. Also we have to understand that since Lebron is everything on the team, running the plays, telling guys what to do etc. and there is no coach on our team which has a systematic offense where everyone has a job or knows their place, jr didn’t feel confident in taking that shot opting to call a timeout to give the keys to Lebron. This same problem… Read more »
Kevin
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Kevin
2 months 14 days ago

It’s not worth the defamation. It’s a distraction from the fact the NBA’s officials ruined a great game. The NBA is very pleased that this series has everyone’s attention when going into it the narrative was, “Yawn, Cavs and Warriors again.” They don’t care about anything but eyeballs.

Ryan Hollins said something today I thought was tremendously insightful: LeBron purposefully started crap with Curry at the end of OT to refocus the squad on the actual enemy instead of their own teammate. LeBron has EVERYONE by the balls. I think this is the year he stakes his claim as GOAT.

Leo
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Leo
2 months 14 days ago

Believe the minutes breakdown had nearly every Warriors starer between 43-47 minutes outside Looney and Lebron and JR were only ones over 40 min. Kerr really tightening rotation and not sure how long that wil last, just think games will get more physical moving forward…not sure if Lue will ever play Cedi unless foul trouble warrants it, I still think Clarkson will play some minutes unless Lebron decides he’s had enough. Really Calderon should take the spot to run an offense even if defense is liability, at least stick Calderon on Draymond or Jordan Bell or someone who’s not a threat. Clarkson did have 3 steals last game, but missing wide open shots can’t happen again.

Kevin
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Kevin
2 months 14 days ago

I can’t imagine Clarkson plays again. I mean, Lue finally took Hood out of the rotation after many opportunities. He’s got to do the right thing again …

Scotch
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Scotch
2 months 14 days ago

except that clarkson’s time on the court turned out to be against the dubs worst lineup, so clarkson looked playable. Fools gold might honestly be the perfect title of the 2018 Cavs season.

except we have Lebron…actual gold. And we are winning this in 6 games.

Tom Pestak
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Tom Pestak
2 months 14 days ago

The Warriors holding to prevent help rotations and also to keep picked defenders from being able to release has been a staple for 4 years of these finals. I thought a key turning point in 2016 was when J.R. decided to do the same thing and used brute force to free up space for the Cavs offense to operate. This is playoff basketball – a lot more contact is allowed. Cavs young guys gotta learn how to deal with this.

And yes, Release Perk.

Danz
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Danz
2 months 14 days ago

Yeah the Cavs need to switch their mentality a bit and make anyone driving the lane or holding them regret it. The refs are going to call it whether you breath on them or deliver a hard foul so it might as well be a hard foul. If they want to complain, I would just repeat Kerr’s words back to him about traditions a whatnot.

I am also wondering if they should just mirror Draymond’s antics. Everytime a foul is called on the Warriors just walk over and start clapping in their faces, make the refs see how ludicrous it is.

Nate Smith
Admin
2 months 14 days ago

This game should be officiated pretty tightly, which I’m not sure helps the Cavs or not.

Raffy22
Guest
Raffy22
2 months 14 days ago

While I think the coaching staff did a good job in game 1, I think they’ll need to be great in this series. And by “great”, that means coming to the realization that you need to play someone like Cedi over Clarkson. Unfortunately, this won’t happen, which is what separates a coach like Lue from the truly great ones.

Kevin
Guest
Kevin
2 months 14 days ago

If the refs don’t see the hold, the Cavs should elbow him in the ribs on the hold. Playing physical is the only way to overcome it. I’m getting fed up with sportsmanship when the league’s darlings offer up none of it — and do so with a big wide smile all the way.

MikeO
Guest
MikeO
2 months 14 days ago

Liked your ‘quickies’, Ben. I think there is a greater chance that Cedi plays a minute of non garbage time in the Finals than Perk dressing for a game, though.

Nate Smith
Admin
2 months 14 days ago

So good, Ben.

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