Game 1 of the NBA Finals is complete, and it was a game of dominance from the Golden State Warriors. They were in the drivers seat all game, led by outstanding performances from MVPs Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry. With the Cleveland Cavaliers now down 0-1 in the series, there are adjustments that must be made if they want to make this a series.
Cleveland Cavaliers Adjustments for Game 2
Contribution from the Others
Kyrie Irving and LeBron James were the only players to step up for the Cavs in Game 1, and even they did not have the greatest of games. James had eight turnovers and Irving was 10-22 from the field. The only other Cavs player who was in double digits was Kevin Love, but he went 4-13 from the field.
Two of the starters, J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson, combined for three points and four rebounds. The three points came from Smith on the first score of the game. There is no way that Thompson should be held scoreless and only have four rebounds. Both JaVale McGee and Zaza Pachulia outplayed him, which are match-ups that Thompson should take advantage of. He has to be better on the boards; the Warriors finished the game with 14 offensive rebounds. For Smith, he has to do a better job of being more involved. If his jumper is not falling, he can still contribute by defending either Curry or Klay Thompson. He will need to have one of those going well for him to be a factor. The Cavs’ offense looks better when he is knocking down the three ball, which is something they will need from Smith in Game 2.
More Offense from the Bench
The second unit basically gave no contribution for the Cavs. They only had 21 bench points and it came from three players. Dahntay Jones had seven of the points, which came in garbage time. The Cavs’ bench is known for their three-point shooting, yet they went 2-13. Kyle Korver had a lot of good looks, but could not find a rhythm during the game. He had a chance to cut the Cavs’ deficit to five before the half, but missed and gave a momentum shift to the Warriors. If the bench is not contributing, there is almost no chance for the Cavs to win this series.
Making the Most of Possessions
The Cavs did not do a good job of taking care of the ball. They had 20 turnovers while the Warriors only had four, which was an NBA record. The Warriors were able to score 17 points off of their 11 steals. Turning the ball over frequently against the Warriors is a recipe for disaster. They are at their best in transition, and they were able to get out in transition for easy buckets.
The Cavs cannot make these games a track meet. They need to be the ones controlling the pace of the game. Keeping the Warriors to a half-court offense will make things easier for the Cavs. It gives them a chance to set up their defense. The Warriors are still a good half-court offensive team, but it is a lot better than letting them get out in transition.
The Cavs need to do a better job of moving the ball. They only had 15 assists compared to the Warriors’ 31. While Irving and James are both great isolation scorers, that is not going to work. Moving the ball keeps everyone else moving and will keep the Warriors on their heels. Better ball movement will lead to better shots as well.
The Defensive End
In Game 1, we saw the Cavs return to their defensive habits from the regular season, which are not good. Part of the reason Durant was able to have a big game is because the paint was left open for him, leading to an easy dunk. He was getting past James every time and there was no help behind him. It was basically a dunk contest for the entire Warriors team. There was no communication and the Warriors were picking them apart in the pick and roll, leading to mismatches.
The Cavs also were not making the hustle plays. The Warriors were able to get a lot of loose balls, leading to easy buckets. Those plays are what make the difference in games, especially in the Finals.
The Cavs have a lot of adjustments that need to be made before Game 2. The Warriors did not even play the greatest game. Draymond Green and Thompson were a combined 6-28 from the field and the Warriors still won by 22. The Cavs cannot afford to go down 0-2 in this series. Adjustments need to made if they want to make this a long series. It will be interesting to see what changes are made in Game 2.
Main Photo OAKLAND, CA – JUNE 13: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers reacts during the first half against the Golden State Warriors in Game 5 of the 2016 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 13, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)